So, ladies? If I told you a funny joke while we were out for a drink, would you wet your pants a little? Do you feel a sneeze coming on—and you cross your legs? What if I told you that it wasn’t normal? Yes. I know. It’s part of what we have all come to accept as normal after having a vaginal birth, right? What if it’s not normal? Let’s talk about pelvic floor health, shall we?
My hubs and I have three kids. And about a year after that third baby’s birth? I began to have pain. Not vaginal pain. Weird, radiating pain across my abdomen and only—and this is the worst part—during an orgasm. Awesome. I finally got my body back. I wasfinally out of that crazy infant year. We could enjoy some stuff together because I was not fall-over tired. And then? It hurt. I mean really hurt. It took a while to pinpoint why. And I had to push to get answers. I saw several doctors and had lots of things checked out.
Finally, my primary doc suggested two things: strengthen my core or go to the Women’s Institute for Sexual Health (W.I.S.H. Clinic) to get checked out. I opted for core muscles. I did crossfit for six months. And while my body got much stronger, things were not going well with the lady bits (or anything else down there). In fact, with all that heavy lifting, it was a bit worse. And by then, I was more than a year into this pain.
So I gave in. I went to the W.I.S.H. clinic. And in doing so, I found out a lot about my body.
Let’s get (semi) clinical for a moment and imagine a side view of the inside of you: colon, vagina, and urinary tract. Muscles in your body hold these three areas apart. Those muscles are covered by fascia, a thin sheath of tissue that encases the muscle. That fascia can get stretched during childbirth. Once stretched, it’s never going back. You can kegel your life away, and it won’t repair the fascia—or tighten it. The colon can bulge in, the bladder can sag in, the uterus can start to fall out. The whole thing can become a mess. All of those muscles are not as enervated as you might think for being so sensitive. (That’s a mercy during childbirth!) But that pain can translate elsewhere in the body.
In my case, I had a few things wrong. My pelvic floor? Stretched, stressed, and literally shaking with exertion. But I couldn’t feel it—except for a strange quiver in my pelvis from time to time. The muscle connections were causing the most pain. Rather than one muscle, a network of crisscrossing muscles make up the pelvic floor. Those muscles clench up beautifully during orgasm. And where they connect, they were pulling against each other. Thus the pain. I also had (and will forever have) a stage 1-2 (of 4) rectal prolapse. (Where my big headed baby did some damage on his rapid entry into the outside world.) What is that, you may ask? Simply this: my colon is attempting to push through the weakened fascia into my vagina. Good times. Childbirth is my favorite.
After an evaluation at the W.I.S.H. Clinic (which is actually part of a Urologist’s practice), they sent me to physical therapy. And yes, physical therapy for the pelvic floor is every bit as awkward as you might imagine. My PT sometimes involved releasing pressure points inside my vagina. (Meanwhile, my therapist chatted about her vacation with her boyfriend.) Weird? Yes. But let’s be honest, ladies. At this point in our childbearing years, we have had some people up in our junk, right? (And by that, I mean a LOT of medical professionals.)
My physical therapist gave me lots of exercises and instruments. One instrument was called a dilator. (Go ahead. Ask me how crazy my Amazon suggestions got after ordering that thing!) The dilator helped to relieve pain with my own pressure point therapy and to reset my muscles. Also? I was prescribed a vaginal Valium to relax my tense pelvic floor. That part was kinda awesome.
All in all, it was an educational—if somewhat awkward—experience. An experience which ended in much better pelvic floor health. It’s been more than a year now, and I have been pain free for most of that. I do have some permanent restrictions on my body—about what I can lift and do—but I am not in pain anymore. And I’m really glad for that part.
I would encourage ANY mama to get her pelvic floor checked out. Find out what you need to maintain things down below. Do it for your sex life. Do it for all the jogging, zumba, and trampolines you might currently avoid in order to save face (and laundry). Or do it for your old lady self who would come back from the future if she could to beg you to fix this—so as to avoid future Adult Incontinence Diapers. Heck! Do it for me since I just told the whole interwebs about my rectal prolapse so you might regain bladder control!
No shame, ladies. No shame. I hope my story helps you make changes you need to feel better.
Ariana was born to commune-living, Jesus-loving, hippie parents in Athens, Greece, raised in Texas (yeehaw!), and came to Tennessee in 2000 to pursue songwriting. Many twists and turns later, she lives in East Nashville, married to her hubs of 13 years (Matt), and is on the tail end of being a stay at home mom to their three children (Cora -8, Judah-6 and Peter -4). She is a Renaissance woman who requests power tools for her birthday, paints, writes, is a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, knits, builds tree houses, writes websites, takes photos, teaches swimming lessons, enjoys light plumbing, and once de-greased her own engine.