We interrupt your regularly scheduled program to talk about… my busted lady business!
Oh yes, you read that, right. This is a post about my vag.
I don’t know how common vaginal or uterine complications are after vaginal delivers but my guess is I’m not the only one who has been dealing with busted lady business after pushing a couple of human beings out of her lady bits. Unfortunately, most women aren’t talking much about this stuff because, well VAGINAS, but I think prolonged vaginal/uterine issues should be a part of the vaginal births dialogue. Maybe if women knew the potential consequences they would be better prepared to manage them.
My daughter was big (nine pounds) and I received a third degree tear when she was born. The resulting scar tissue made sex uncomfortable and sometimes painful. I went to five pelvic floor therapy appointments–and did some work at home–that were somewhat helpful but the discomfort continued.
My son was also big but I guess I was stretched out because I only received a one degree tear despite the fact that he emerged with his elbow up by his head. When we finally resumed sex after my son’s birth, the pain seemed to be gone. I was thrilled! I assumed that the second birth had stretched the scar tissue enough to alleviate the discomfort I was feeling.
Then we started using condoms and the pain came back. I assumed the latex was irritating my scar tissue (despite the mountains of lube I use every time we get busy) and that once we settled on a more permanent form of birth control (and could ditch the condoms) the pain would subside. Unfortunately that was not the case, and eventually I realized that I had developed a fissure (read: open wound) on my perineum, right where my scar tissue had been.
My OB-GYN suggested the fissure was yeast-related and it made sense since it got really bad when we were battling thrush. I took yet another round of Diflucan (my third at that point) and treated it topically, but it never really went away. Around this time I met with my pelvic floor therapist again and she told me I should stop using Al.ways In.finity pads–which I LOVE because I can’t use tampons (more on this later)–because they irritate some women’s skin and might be causing, or at the very least exacerbating, the issue.
I was really bummed to abandon my Al.ways In.finity pads even before I tried the alternative–pure cotton pads the size of pillows. The minute I pulled out one of those gigantic cotton pads I knew I needed another way to manage my periods–I couldn’t wear some pants with these pads, they were so bulky! Tampons hadn’t been very comfortable (the pressed against my perineum) ever since I had my birth (foreshadowing here) so I ordered a Lunette Cup (think Diva Cup, but another brand) with a coupon I had from BlogHer.
It came and I tried it out and was disheartened to find that it fell out pretty much immediately, no matter how many different ways I inserted it. In my obsession to make the menstrual cup work, I fell down the rabbit hole of reviews, discussion threads and posts offering advice. I ended up in an email exchange with a Lunette customer service representative (who was amazing and responded to my emails at all hours of the weekend, despite my assurance that she could wait until Monday to respond). At the end of our exchange she asked if I had a low cervix. I wasn’t sure what was considered “low” and she said if your cervix is only a finger’s length from your vaginal opening during menstruation (it lowers when you have your period), it’s considered low.
Well, that explained why my menstrual cup was falling out: My cervix was less than a knuckle’s length away from my vaginal opening! When I told her this she promptly suggested I contact my OB.
I did and just recently had my appointment, where I was not surprised to be diagnosed with pelvic organ prolapse. It seems I have a combination of two situations, my bladder is falling down onto the vaginal wall (cystocele) and my cervix is somewhat prolapsed. Of course I had been consulting Dr. Google about how to treat a low cervix and the most common treatment of a prolapsed uterus is a hysterectomy. Obviously I wasn’t going to do that, and I was expecting my OB to tell me I was just shit out of luck, and that I just couldn’t wear a tampon or menstrual cup and that sex and some exercises would sometimes be uncomfortable because of the prolapse. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there is a relatively simple surgery available to “repair the structural integrity” of my vagina (my phrasing). Evidently they build a “hammock” (my doctor’s phrasing) to hold up the ceiling of the vagina and that should help with many of the issues I’m having.
I’m seeing an OB that specializes in this sort of thing on Wednesday. I hope we’re on the same page about surgery because I’d really like to be able to wear tampons or a menstrual cup now that I have to wear pure cotton pads and I believe some of the discomfort I feel when I have sex and do vigorous exercise is also related to my pelvic organ prolapse. I also wonder if my constant low-level hemorrhoids could also be related.
So that is the saga of my busted vag. Obviously it’s not severely damaged, but it is has been an ongoing issue that I would love to resolve so I can move on with my life. I spend one week a month having my period and am trying to have sex once a week, plus I work out 2-3 times a week, so I am dealing with some version of this busted vag business on a pretty regular basis.
On a related note, my OB stressed that I shouldn’t consider the surgery if I might have another child and I was surprised by the conviction (and relief) in my voice when I assured her we were done having children. I’m so ready to get the inside of my body back in shape so that I can leave the negative physical effects of having children behind me.
Have you dealt with any lingering physical issues after having babies? Have they gotten better over time?