Have you received a pelvic prolapse diagnosis?
Can you talk about your prolapse concerns and fears?
Even in western society pelvic prolapse diagnosis is still at times veiled in secrecy.
Women are often left to cope alone with their prolapse fears unable to discuss their concerns even with close friends or family.
Do any of these prolapse-related concerns sound familiar to you?
- It’s going to get worse
- It’s my fault
- I won’t be able to exercise
- I’ll put on weight
- I can’t talk about this
- He’s going to notice
- He’ll get turned off
- I’m ageing before my time
- It’s the beginning of the end …
These are just a few commonly expressed prolapse concerns.
Some women carry on regardless of their pelvic prolapse diagnosis and barely give it a second thought.
Others find the going very tough!
Unfortunately there’s a general lack of emotional support and coping strategies for women with prolapse problems.
This lack of emotional support for women with prolapse can sometimes contribute to prolapse anxiety, decreased self esteem, vulnerability and dare I say even self loathing and sometimes feelings of depression.
How to Cope with Your Prolapse Diagnosis
If you’re finding your prolapse hard going, this information is designed to help you with practical coping strategies for getting on top of your prolapse fears and concerns.
1. You’re Not Alone
Take some small comfort in knowing that many other women have prolapse too.
Consider the prolapse statistics…1 in 2 women who have had a vaginal delivery will have some degree of prolapse within their lifetime i.e pelvic prolapse is a very commonly experienced problem!
2. Prolapse is NOT Life-Threatening
Pelvic prolapse is not a life-threatening condition. This fact in no way minimises the potential impact of prolapse however sometimes it can help to keep the overall severity of the pelvic prolapse condition in perspective when it comes to physical injury.
3. Understand Your Prolapse
Prolapse can seem all the more mysterious and unsettling because it’s an injury that’s not visible to the naked eye.
What is a prolapse?
Prolapse involves a soft tissue injury.
You’ve almost certainly heard of abdominal hernia. A pelvic organ prolapse involves a vaginal hernia.
A pelvic prolapse is a hernia (bulge) into the vagina.
What causes the bulge?
The bulge occurs when one or more of the pelvic organs (bladder, bowel or uterus) bulge into the vagina – often through weak vaginal walls.
The injury and weakness causing prolapse involves the tissues supporting the pelvic organs; strong connective tissues that secure the pelvic organs in their normal position and the pelvic floor muscles underneath the organs.
4. Block Unhelpful Thinking
Do you find yourself repeatedly agonizing over your prolapse; what if it get’s worse, what if I can’t exercise ….
Repeatedly thinking about an issue embeds that pattern of thinking in our brain – a bit like hard wiring that thought.
→The first step is to notice and acknowledge that you’re thinking your prolapse.
→Then make a conscious decision not to follow through with analysing or ruminating on that thought (i.e. revisiting it over and over).
One strategy to block unhelpful thoughts is to visualise a stop signal or a sign – whatever works best for you.
Your signal to stop thinking about your prolapse may be a stop sign or red traffic lights. Someone I know uses the computer screen shut down icon (X) to block unhelpful thoughts.
Choose the stop signal that works best for you and use this when you find yourself dwelling on your prolapse.
5. Challenge Unhelpful Thoughts
When you know you can block unhelpful thought about your prolapse you may be able to start to challenge unhelpful thinking with facts.
Here are 2 examples of how you might challenge unhelpful prolapse thoughts …
Unhelpful thought 1: “Now I can’t exercise and I’m going to put on weight”
Challenge 1: Women can exercise to avoid weight gain with prolapse.
Challenge 2: Women can exercise and avoid prolapse worsening.
Challenge 3: Prolapse-appropriate low impact fitness exercises are effective for weight management and weight loss.
Challenge 4: Weight management is the balance of energy in-energy out. You are in complete control of your energy intake – don’t let prolapse be an excuse for a poor prolapse diet.
Unhelpful thought 2: “My partner’s going to notice my prolapse and get turned off”
Challenge 1: So your partner’s a gynaecologist?
Challenge 2: If he is a gynaecologist he looks at prolapse all day!
On a more serious note…
Challenge 3: Most male partners cannot detect a mild to moderate prolapse during intimacy
Challenge 4: Lying down prolapse usually becomes much less noticeable
Challenge 5: Prolapse makes no difference to the physical sensations during intimacy for the male partner
Challenge 6: Your partner develops a hernia – are you turned off?
Challenge 7: Be completely honest with yourself – does your prolapse make you any less of a loving partner or woman than without a prolapse?
Here’s more information, facts and tips for prolapse sex-related concerns.
5. Worst Case Scenario
When you’ve managed to challenge some of your unhelpful thoughts you might consider worst case scenario and ask yourself whether or not you can cope with that outcome
Sample worst case scenario/will I cope?
Worst case scenario 1: Your prolapse gets worse
a. Will you cope? Yes or No
Most likely you will cope, if not what’s worst case scenario?
b. How will you cope?
Sample coping strategies: strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, stay active with pelvic floor friendly exercises, modify factors contributing to prolapse worsening (e.g. heavy lifting, constipation and straining), consult with your health practitioner, pelvic floor physiotherapy, trial a support pessary, gynaecologist assessment/review, discuss your fears with trusted support person(s)
Worst case scenario 2: Your prolapse repair fails
a. Will you cope? Yes or No
Most likely you will cope, if not what’s the worst case scenario?
b. How will you cope?
Sample coping strategies: return to your surgeon for review, strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, stay active with pelvic floor friendly exercises, modify contributing factors, pelvic floor physiotherapy, trial a support pessary, discuss your fears with trusted support person(s)
6. Take Positive Action
Positive ways to get started include:
- Getting physically active – regular pelvic floor safe exercise will help you feel good about yourself and your body..
- Getting socially active – social activity helps you feel supported, positive and relieves stress.
- Educating yourself about prolapse management – education is empowerment, the more you know about your prolapse and your management alternatives the more empowered you’ll feel.
- Accessing professional support; make an appointment with a pelvic floor physiotherapist, see a dietician, enlist the support of a pelvic floor safe exercise provider, see a counsellor if you need coping strategies and support
Key Points for Coping with Pelvic Prolapse Diagnosis
Receiving a pelvic prolapse diagnosis and living with a prolapse is not always straight forward for all women.
Unfortunately the emotional issues related to pelvic prolapse are still often unrecognised and poorly managed even in our western culture.
Holistic prolapse management needs to recognise both the physical and emotional aspects of living with a prolapse so that more women can access emotional support and coping strategies to improve their long-term quality of life.
How do you cope with your pelvic prolapse diagnosis?
Share your coping strategies (below)
with Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist Michelle Kenway
Learn how to exercise safely, strengthen your prolapse and reduce your risk of repeat prolapse.
Prolapse Exercises is a complete exercise guide for women after prolapse surgery seeking to exercise safely and protect their pelvic floor.