My pelvic organ prolapse story
Thanks for stopping by my blog.!!!
I’m Sarah Smith and this is my website/business.
I started this business 4 years ago after completing my masters in science.
I had been studying sustainable agriculture and soil science, which I LOVED, but with two little kids and a growing family business, it didn’t seem possible for me to work in the agricultural science world at that time.
Because I enjoy working and creating and needed outlet outside of my mom duties and helping my hubs with our pest business, I decided to return to my roots and begin to coach women.
I had been an athletic coach in my 20’s for several years and loved it, so I figured, “Why not do that again?”
Only THIS TIME I would coach WOMEN in health and fitness, online.
TOTALLY different from what I had been doing before, but I like a challenge and I LOVE learning about health and fitness, so it seemed like a logical plan.
My Pelvic Organ Prolapse De.railed My Personal and Career-Based Fitness Goals
About one year into building my fitness business, I was diagnosed with pelvic organ prolapse and told by my PT, “No more exercise.”
I was DEVASTATED. On a personal level, WHAT THE HECK WOULD I DO WITHOUT EXERCISE?
And on a professional level, I had LITERALLY JUST started my business and NOW I can’t TRAIN? I’m going to be a fraud!
People were looking to me as someone that had figured out how to balance the self-care of training with being a busy stay-at-home mom, and now it all felt like a lie.
Because while YES I was exercising, I was also broken.
I felt damaged, defeated.
I also felt deceived and confused.
Why had NO ONE TOLD me to look out for this??!!
Three “healthy” pregnancies and relatively uncomplicated births with no intervention and here I was, Grade 2 cystocoel (bladder prolapse), bulging pressure in my vagina and no idea how to fix it.
My PT assigned me exercises and after three months of PT with no improvement, I quit.
The worst part of this experience was that I was TOO ASHAMED to tell anyone about it.
I tried to allude this it and use various made up euphemisms to my sister, best friend and husband to explain that something was off, but I had no language for it.
I was afraid that they would think I was broken, weird for talking about it, just a typical mom whose vagina was all wonky after birth, so I dealt with it all myself.
Every day when I would move and feel pressure I was so frustrated.
I was afraid to pick up my son.
I hid my weights so that I wouldn't see them and feel sadness about not being able to use them anymore.
I watched my muscles and fitness disappear as my life became more and more sedentary.
I wondered if my husband could tell any difference?
I had VERY LITTLE desired for intimacy because not only did I feel un-sexy, I was afraid he would eventually notice that something was wrong and think differently of me.
Here was this man that had known me as this energetic, active, youthful woman and now I felt defective and fragile.
All the while, not being able to exercise like I was used to was creating tension, anxiety and antsiness.
Movement was how I had learned to cope with the challenges of motherhood and the stress of a family-owned business and now most movement made me feel symptoms, which reminded me of how broken I was, which filled me with regret and frustration.
On top of it all, I felt like I need to be more vigilant about what I ate.
When I was training and exercising, I needed to fuel my body with food and didn’t think twice about how much I ate, but now I wasn’t doing much of anything and suddenly I had to pay attention to portions and food-related decisions and it really bummed me out.
One night the weight of all the anxiety and frustration was just too heavy for me to sleep, so I got up and yet again started “Googling” information about prolapse (NOT A GOOD IDEA, by the way!).
I somehow ended up on some forum where I saw a woman talking about how she too has prolapse and that she just shoves sea sponges up in her vagina so she can go to Crossfit.
I was BLOWN AWAY.
This woman had prolapse and was doing BOX JUMPS???!!!!!
We can exercise even if we have prolapse???!!!!!
To this day, I feel so thankful because I know that God knew this was exactly what I needed to see/hear and he used this one little post on a forum to forever change how I viewed my body, exercise, life AND to help ME eventually help OTHER WOMEN!
While I knew enough about my body to know that her particularly solution was probably not going to work for me, I had renewed vigor and a little spunk. I did end up trying the sea sponges, didn’t work for me, BTW.
I decided then and there that I was going to find a way through this.
I was going to fix my prolapse, or at the very least improve it and learn to move and exercise with it.
And so I did.
I spent two years rehabbing it and NOT ONLY did I get it to where it was undetectable, I succeed in training for not one but TWO very physically demanding (RKC1 and 2) kettlebell certifications, something that anyone WITHOUT prolapse would find very challenging.
And I did it WITH prolapse.
And I did damn good job too.
What I did:
This is a question that I get asked ALL OF THE TIME, “What did you do to heal your prolapse?”
I wish I could tell you that I came up with a streamlined plan and program for myself that led me in a straight line to where I am now, but it was actually a really messy learning process.
This has made me a better coach and trainer for women struggling WITH pelvic floor struggles because I now have a LOT of experience in and around pelvic floor rehabilitation across the spectrum.
From over-active, to under-active.
I know what popular strategies can be HELPFUL and which ones can cause harm and for whom they will be problematic..
I can tell you when you’re moving in the wrong direction with your rehab, because I did that a lot myself.
I can also give you the shorter, more streamlined approach, which I had to piece together from books, papers, articles and trial-by-error.
I have also seen how seemingly simple changes to our daily life style, like our clothing, can have a tremendous effects on our movement and body mechanics.
After deciding that I wasn’t going to let prolapse beat me (I still have to make that decision on many days…),
I read EVERYTHING I could find about pelvic health, prolapse, alignment, breathing mechanics, movement and I began to re-train my body.
I trained alignment, breathing, lifting, walking, moving, bending over, YOU NAME IT!
I learned a TON about risk factors
I realized that my risk factors for developing prolapse were the following:
persistent gut health challenges leading up to and continuing through my pregnancy
tailbone tucking and flaring my ribs
pregnancy and postpartum changes in the body
heeled shoes, furniture and movement mechanics that promoted rounded shoulder posture and non-neutral pelvic positions
shallow chest breathing-not breathing using my diapghragm
a complete disconnect with my pelvic floor and transversus abdominus
suboptimal movement mechanics in exercise
returning to exercise after birth before re-training my pelvic floor and core
bearing down on my pelvic floor during pregnancy and postpartum to lift and do hard things
And each of these risk factors required that I do some work on MANY different parts of my body AND my lifestyle.
I ALSO learned that while isolated movements like “kegels” can have a place in our healing process IF AND WHEN we lose our pelvic floor connection and activation abilities, we can use bands, kettlebells, barbells, bodyweight exercise and SO MANY OTHER TOOLS to rehab our pelvic floors.
In fact, MUCH of my recovery took place using kettlebells, loaded carries and primal movements-playing in the woods with my kids.
So when people DM to me and say, “WHAT EXERCISES DID YOU DO TO HEAL YOUR PROLAPSE?”, my knee-jerk reaction, immature as it is, is sometimes quite frankly annoyanc
I’m annoyed that the messaging is such that women think fixing prolapse is about learning a couple exercises.
I’m annoyed that I invested two years (and continue to invest) in understanding and rehabbing my prolapse and someone thinks that I could reduce this knowledge and experience to three tips that I share to them in a DM.
I’m annoyed that in health and fitness we aren’t discussing the SPECTRUM of pelvic floor disorders and acting like people just one day get prolapse and either need surgery or kegels to fix it and move on with their life and the MANY different ways we rehabilitate prolapse.
You see, MY PROLAPSE wasn’t necessarily caused by the same thing YOURS was.
We have to get to the root cause and change THAT if we are going to make lasting change to how your body manages pressure, to how your pelvic floor functions.
This area of the body is FAR more COMPLEX and wonderful than we give it credit for and your way back from prolapse isn’t necessarily going to follow some neat little perfect formula.
And while I do believe that there is birth trauma that can cause prolapse, it has been my experience personally and with my clients that most people that end up with prolapse, were hanging out on the spectrum of prolapse, asymptomatic but MAJORLY at risk LONG before they developed symptoms.
And so in the end, what I did to heal my prolapse can be summarized in the list below and taught by me TO YOU via in-person, workshops, 1:1 coaching and upcoming pelvic floor programming.
BUT keep in mind, what worked for me will be different than what works for you and THAT is where the coaching comes in.
I’m not just dishing out “one-size-fits-all” programs for women, because I know that YOU”RE prolapse story and your body are unique.
We need to address what’s taking place in YOUR pelvis and your life to get real results.
You HAVE to be MOTIVATED.
You HAVE to be persistent.
I WILL help you find your way!
But for your own reference, here is the short version of what I did:
Changed my mindset around exercise-more is not better, better is better, being persistence over perfectionist and always being prudent…that sort of stuff that I now coach my clients to do!
Changed my breathing habits-daily practice!
Cultivated a practice of checking in with my pelvic floor in exercise and throughout my day-not obsession, just awareness
Altered my wardrobe
Learned better movement strategies for exercise and strength training
Used kettlebells to build my body in spite of some movement limitations
Learned to not take strength, health, abilities or moments of success for granted
Prioritized gut health for nutrition, elimination, inflammation and healthy tissue purposes
(Mostly) ditched my ego around exercise
Conquered my fear around prolapse becoming worse
Learned how to use many different approaches and pieces of equipment to build strength
Found substitutions and ways to work around limitations or movements that don’t currently feel good on my pelvic floor.
Now don’t freak out! You don’t necessarily have to do all of these things.
Your path is not my path.
Your goals are not my goals.
Your prolapse is not my prolapse.
If we work together, I help you find the shortest distance between where you are now and where you can get to in order to feel capable and confident in your body.
But it’s good for you to see that for me, prolapse was a whole life, whole body issue that I resolved by doing lots of different kinds of work in different areas of my life and THAT got me great results.
After a lot of mental and trust work, I did end up returning to PT in 2017 to round out my prolapse rehab process and I worked with an awesome PT, Katie Swore at NC Center for PT in Durham.
Katie did Crossfit so she TOTALLY got my need to keep exercising and not fear lifting.
She also believed strongly in the approach that I had been using where I was training my PF IN MY WORKOUTS and throughout my daily life!
She was the best and I was SO very happy the day she told me, “You’re done, there’s nothing left for us to do here.
What I do now!
I am on a MISSION to normalize conversations about pelvic health, help ALL women find REAL strength and this INCLUDES working with and through their pelvic (and often gut) health struggles!
After learning just how IMPORTANT pelvic health is for daily life and ALL fitness pursuits, I changed my business model.
I began sharing my own story.
I created content and programs that INCLUDED pelvic and true core health, breathing strategies and alignment awareness.
I started working 1:1 with women that were just like me, trying to find strength and build a movement practice to help and in spite of their pelvic health.
And I particularly have a heart for helping women in the Christian community understand their pelvic health struggles in fitness and in life, because we tend to be a little close-lipped about this topic in the and I know the PAIN and FRUSTRATION of feeling like I have no one to talk to about all of this.
Our world is flawed and our bodies fail us at times, but God NEVER fails us!
He has given you people like me that work in fitness to help women find their way back and wonderful pelvic floor physical therapists that can help you on the clinical side of things!
You are not alone. You are not broken. I see you!
Sarah Smith is on a mission to help women conquer their pelvic health struggles and build STRENGTH and SKILLS!
She is a strength coach, RKC2 Kettlebell Instructor, postnatal fitness specialist and pelvic floor and gut health advocate with a Masters in Soil and Agricultural Science.
She works online and in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Sarah is a mom to three boys and one English Bulldog. She loves soil, coffee and not folding laundry. Come follow her on Instagram or Facebook.