Let’s face it; ‘down-there’ stuff is just not all that easy to talk about is it? Unfortunately this leads to the misconception that we are alone in our suffering and that nothing can be done. Hopefully by sharing my story I can break the taboo and encourage you to seek help and not to suffer in silence. I first noticed something was wrong when I started finding sex uncomfortable and sometimes even painful following the birth of my second child in 2014. A quick self-examination revealed a bulge at the entrance to my vagina (ew!) My GP confirmed that I had a prolapse and sent me off to the urology clinic (isn’t that where old ladies go I thought – not so, it seems!). The consultant there told me I had a grade 3 cystocele, where basically my pelvic floor had given way and the bulge I was feeling was actually my bladder making a bid for freedom! This explained some of the other symptoms I had been experiencing but had written off as ‘just what happens when you’ve had 2 babies’, such as the need to go to the loo a lot (urge incontinence) and needing to cross my legs to cough and sneeze (stress incontinence).
"Manual Kegels just didn't work for me"
The consultant said that I would probably need an operation to repair the damage to my personal geography but that much could be done in the meantime to improve my symptoms - and maybe even delay the op for a good few years.
Putting the op off for a bit seemed like a plan as I was still breastfeeding baby number 2 at the time and a hospital stay followed by a lengthy ‘light-duties’ only recovery did not really seem like it would fit in. There were also concerns over my age; I was apparently ‘quite young’ (why, thank-you!) to have this sort of op and there would be an increased chance that I would need further surgery after the menopause (which is apparently when a large number of ladies first notice the symptoms of a prolapse. So delay was the order of the day, and I was dispatched to the urology nurse for some Kegel exercise training. I was given some exercises to do at home and an ‘educator’ which would help me work out if I was doing them correctly. If you have never used one of these it is basically an egg shaped thing with a long stick attached, you pop the egg bit in your do-dah and wait for the little stick to wave at you if you are squeezing in the right direction. I got nothing. Absolutely nothing, not even a jiggle.
"My nurse introduced me to the idea of Kegel stimulation devices"
How many more woman are crossing their legs out there not realising that there is something that can be done? This isn’t something we should put up with!
By this point my confidence had taken a battering; relations with hubby were a bit of a no-go zone as he was either worried about hurting me or I was worried that everything down-there just felt wrong, and following a particularly nasty summer cold my stress incontinence was causing me greater concern. I began to wonder how I would maintain my work life if it got any worse and at times I got quite weepy over what I regarded as my broken body letting me down. I mentioned all of this at my next clinic appointment and it was pointed out that I had likely suffered some nerve damage that was making it really hard to tell if I was doing my exercises correctly, or even do them effectively at all. It was then that my lovely nurse introduced me to the idea of Kegel stimulation devices, like the Kegel8, which by way of small electrical impulses (much like a TENS machine) cause the muscles to contract of their own accord. Meaning that you not only make sure you are ‘doing’ them but also that you are doing them in the right place for the right length of time. I did a bit of research and must admit, due to the initial cost, um-ed and ah-ed a bit before I decided to give it a go – but oh-my-word am I glad I did!
"I saw results in only 6 weeks!"
The Kegel8 is really user friendly; there are pre-programmed settings specific to your personal needs. Need to improve your stress incontinence? Got it! Want to increase your sensitivity and help repair damaged nerves? There’s a setting for that. Just want to keep trim and toned down there? Sorted! It covers everything you can think of and more besides. I started by following the prolapse program twice a day for 12 weeks. 6 weeks in I could really notice a difference. My bulge didn’t feel as prominent, and my urge to go to the loo every 5 minutes was starting to lessen. Sex became more comfortable and by the time I saw my nurse again she said my muscle tone had significantly improved. Using the kegel8 is easy, you just pop your chosen probe in (lubrication is the key here ladies, lubrication) pick your program and off you go. I used to do mine whilst doing the night feed! It doesn’t hurt and isn’t even uncomfortable but you CAN feel it working, giving those pesky muscles a darn good work-out. I started by following the prolapse program twice a day for 12 weeks. 6 weeks in I could really notice a difference.
I am now signed off from the clinic until such time as my symptoms start to trouble me again, at which point I will be booked in for my repair op. But that is likely to be long after baby number 2 has started school. I hardly notice my prolapse at all these days and currently use my Kegel8 a few times a week. I will sometimes use it up to once a day if I have had a cough/cold or done anything that has put extra strain on my pelvic floor such as heavy lifting at work, but basically it is life as normal.
I have even started running, which I could never have considered before as I would be too worried about needing the loo or leaking! And to think, if it had not been for the pain I experienced during sex I may never have found out I had a prolapse as everything else I just considered par for the course of motherhood! How many more woman are crossing their legs out there not realising that there is something that can be done; this isn’t something we should put up with.My Kegel8 will definitely form part of my (eventual) post-surgery routine and I so wish I had known about it before I had kids. I would have used it before and between my babies to ensure my pelvic floor was in tip-top condition.
I have a daughter now, and I will certainly be introducing her to her own Kegel8 in time to help protect her pelvic floor health. I hope her mother’s experience will mean that she will never feel the need to cross her legs to sneeze! Power to your pelvic floor!