A lot of people, mostly clients, ask me why I got into pelvic floor physiotherapy. Often the question comes just as I'm about to do an examination and often it's framed like; “How did a nice, young girl like you find yourself doing something like this?”
I normally respond by saying "Well, having a couple of kids makes you interested in the pelvic floor!" or "I think it's the area in physio where I can have the greatest effect on people's quality of life". Both of these statements are very true.
But the real reason I became interested and specialised in women's health is that after my first baby, Lily who is now aged 7. I developed a vaginal prolapse. I was 24, and felt like I was falling apart. I was so horrified that someone like me, a physio with information and education on how to look after my body during pregnancy and postpartum, had still developed a prolapse. I felt defeated. It sent me into a spiral of depression and self pity about my physical future and the possibility of having more children.
How had no-one warned me about this? Where had I gone wrong? Was I expected to live with this diagnosis and sensation for the rest of my life?
I started learning everything I could about prolapse and pelvic floor health. One thing led to another and I was sitting in a post-graduate class at Melbourne Uni studying Advanced Rehabilitation of the Pelvic Floor, I loved it, so enrolled in another course this time, studying Exercise for Women. I realised there was so much more we needed to do to get the right information out there to pregnant and postpartum women.
So, where had I gone wrong? Despite the fact I should have known better, I had let my pride get the better of me. I had conformed to what I saw on magazine covers and Facebook feeds and tried to return to my pre-pregnant self within weeks of delivering my baby. It wasn’t necessarily about looking great, it was just about being independent and capable. I picked up prams, grocery bags, washing baskets, even assisted packing and lifting boxes when we moved house at 6 weeks post partum. I was determined to be seen by everyone, as one of those women, who are competent, successful and fabulous. It's not to say the information about how to do it better wasn't out there. It's just that the noise from my newsfeed of stories about women 'bouncing back' was so much louder and frankly, more exciting.
But even if I may have fooled a few friends or family as to my competency or fabulousness, it was skin deep, and not worth it. So, I now spend a lot of time discussing these issues with my family, friends and very importantly the women in my professional care. It is a driving passion for me to educated women about how pregnancy, labour, birth and postpartum recovery not just should be done, but HAS to be done.
It is my goal to dispel myths and images of perfection like this…
And saturate my community with real images like this….
I am very pleased to say that now, I am no longer bothered by symptoms of my prolapse. I delivered my second baby, Eliza (who was 4.6kgs), 3 years after Lily was born. I heeded all my own information about optimal recovery immediately postpartum and long term, and my prolapse stayed at bay. I now regularly participate in fun runs, lift weights at the gym and jump on the trampoline with my kids. Prolapse management and pelvic floor health will always be on the agenda for me, as it should be for everyone. But hopefully, my story and my message will mean less young women are diagnosed due to impossible and unrealistic pressures they may be putting on themselves.
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