WHAT IS PROLAPSE, AND HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE PROLAPSE?
If you want to learn more about what prolapse is, and how you know if you have prolapse you can read "Do I have prolapse?" If you already know that you have prolapse, and you want to learn how to heal prolapse naturally, you have come to the right place. In this article I will share with you how to take an integrative approach to pelvic wellness, helping you to take a whole body approach to healing prolapse, rather than focusing on the physical aspects alone.
WHAT IS AN INTEGRATIVE APPROACH TO HEALING PROLAPSE?
When we consider ourselves as human beings, we can appreciate that we are more than a physical body alone. We are physical, energetic, emotional and spiritual beings. Along with that, if we contemplate how our emotional wellbeing can impact our physical health, we can begin to appreciate that each of these aspects of health can impact prolapse symptoms. Sometimes it can be challenging to get our head around how our emotional wellbeing may impact our prolapse symptoms. It is quite possible that you have already noticed that when you become stressed or anxious that prolapse symptoms become more obvious. Just as stress and tension can manifest in the body as headaches or increased blood pressure, our emotional wellbeing can impact prolapse symptoms. When we take into consideration these pillars of health (physical, emotional, spiritual, and energetic) we are able to take an integrative approach to pelvic wellness.
HEALING PROLAPSE FROM A PHYSICAL PERSPECTIVE
To go into great detail of how to heal prolapse naturally is beyond what can be shared in a single blog post. This is why I have written my book Body Conscious : A woman's guide to holistic pelvic wellness and feminine embodiment. In Body Conscious I share how you can heal prolapse naturally, using the information, education, mindset shits, and practices that are offered within the book. In this post I will share some of my best tips as to how you can begin to address the physical aspects of prolapse healing so that you can get started today. In part 2 of this post I will share how to address the energetic, emotional, and spiritual aspects of prolapse healing.
Healing prolapse from a physical perspective means ensuring you are giving yourself the best chance of optimising your pelvic wellness. Healthy pelvic floor muscles are essential to provide adequate support to the pelvic organs, reducing prolapse symptoms, and healing prolapse. Healthy pelvic floor function means strong and supple pelvic floor muscles - muscles that can be activated effectively and fully relax. To learn more about how to tell if you are activating your pelvic floor muscles well read this post on 'How to tell if I am doing my Pelvic Floor Exercises Right' .
Maintaining healthy bladder & bowel habits are essential for pelvic wellness.
HEALTHY BLADDER HABITS:
Avoiding going to the toilet ‘just in case’.
Going ‘just in case’ can reduce the bladder’s capacity to stretch. This reduced stretch happens both on a physical level and a neurological level, meaning that the reduced stretch can cause increased bladder sensation and increased urinary frequency. Ultimately this can lead to a further decrease in bladder compliance, and the spiral continues. Decreased bladder compliance can lead to increased urinary frequency, which can ultimately lead to urgency and urge incontinence.
When you sense the need to urinate, don’t answer the “first call”-wait 10 minutes. Again this relates to maintaining bladder compliance and healthy bladder functioning at a neurological and physical level.
Maintain your hydration.
This is important for general health, and the health of the bladder itself. Acidic urine can lead to increased urinary frequency, and ultimately lead to urinary urgency and urge incontinence. Although there is much education around drinking a particular amount of fluid each day, the best way to monitor your hydration is to look at the colour of your urine. This is because we all live in different environments, sweat differently, and use our bodies differently. Someone doing little movement, in a cool environment, who is not sweating at all will need less fluid to maintain their hydration compared to a woman who is going for a run in the heat of the day.
Adequate hydration is reflected by urine that is pale and straw-like in colour, anything darker indicates the need to drink more fluids. If your urine is almost clear, you may opt to drink a little less particularly if you are finding frequency a concern. Don’t take too much notice of the colour of your urine the very first time you go to the bathroom in the morning as your kidneys have been working overnight without much fluid input and will therefore naturally produce darker coloured urine.
Notice also the flow of urine.
The flow of urine should be easy to commence, with a steady stream, and stop completely without dribbling or the sensation of needing to go again shortly after. There are many reasons why the flow of urine may become disrupted including pelvic organ prolapse (POP), a bladder outlet obstruction, or decreased bladder muscle activity. Knowing the cause of an altered flow of urine can help to manage the primary problem early and prevent further conditions from developing such as urinary tract infections (UTIs), or the progression of POP.
Lastly, it’s important not to ignore symptoms such as bladder leakage and urgency. Symptoms of increased urinary urgency or incontinence may be a result of an underlying concern that may require further investigation or intervention. In addition, these symptoms can be the precursor to secondary conditions and without appropriate management it is increasingly likely that they will develop.
HEALTHY BOWEL HABITS:
Maintaining healthy bowel habits helps to maintain our overall health and to prevent possible pelvic floor concerns from developing. One of the major muscles of the pelvic floor, the puborectalis muscle, forms a sling that originates from the pubic bone and wraps around the rectum and back to the pubic bone. The puborectalis muscle creates a ‘kink’ in the rectum and helps to maintain faecal continence. When we sit well on the toilet this muscle can relax to unkink the bowel and help stools to pass freely through the rectum. When we don’t sit well on the toilet, or when we are constipated, we need to generate more force through the pelvic floor to pass bowel motions. When this occurs there is an increased downward pressure on to the pelvic floor that can increase the risk of developing POP.
The main things to note concerning toilet posture are:
- Sit with the knees higher than the hips, preferably by using some kind of stool/foot support. The neural pathways that help us to press up onto our toes are the same as those that help to maintain continence. Think about young children who dance on their tip-toes when they need to use the bathroom – this is one of our body’s natural ways to stop us from leaking. This is why a stool is preferred so that we don’t have to work against this natural neural pathway.
- Have the knees slightly wider than the hips to allow for a gentle lean forward from the hip joint and an open outlet.
- Keep the back relatively straight to avoid compression on the abdomen.
- Allow the belly to soften and bulge.
- Don’t push, simply allow the bowel motion to fall away naturally.
Bringing awareness to your bowel motions is the best way to monitor your bowel health. The Bristol Stool Chart indicates what a healthy bowel motion looks like. A copy of the Bristol Stool Chart is readily available on the internet through a simple Google search.
A stool Type 3 or 4 is considered ideal for optimal bowel and pelvic health. Bowel motions should be soft and easily passed without the need to strain. If you do experience constipation, increasing green leafy vegetable intake, fruit content, as well as fluid in your diet may be helpful. If you choose to use natural fibre supplements or other stool softeners be aware that some bulking agents can help stool consistency long-term but they can cause worsening constipation of you are already constipated. Ideally, constipation should first be addressed with an appropriate laxative medication (speak with your health care provider) and then the bulking agent used as a preventative measure for long-term prevention of constipation. Regular exercise can also help with bowel motility.
Unlike the bladder, it is encouraged that you answer the ‘first call’ of the bowel whenever possible.
In addition to healthy bladder and bowel habits, there are some other general health habits that can help to maintain pelvic health. Listening to your body during exercise, and not ignoring symptoms of or incontinence is important for pelvic health.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY DURING EXERCISE:
If you are feeling prolapse symptoms either during exercise, or after exercise, it is recommended that you stop and modify that exercise in some way. In some instances you may need to take a break from a particular exercise and slowly build up to it again. Some of the most challenging exercises that women find aggravate prolapse symptoms include:
- High impact exercises like running
- Weighted exercises like gym classes or free weights, and
- Strong deep core exercises like sit-ups, V-sits and some pilates style exercises
Part of taking a holistic approach to healing prolapse is maintaining emotional wellbeing- therefore stopping exercise that you love and enjoy is not usually and effective strategy. However, if you can modify your exercise and continue to build the strength/endurance/co-ordination etc required to be able to perform the exercise without aggravating prolapse symptoms - this is usually a far better approach than ignoring symptoms completely. In my book, Body Conscious I explain how to monitor and modify your exercise in depth.
Finally, learning ‘The Knack’ and exercising and/or relaxing the pelvic floor is recommended for women who have pelvic concerns.
The Knack is a term used to describe the ‘bracing’ of the pelvic floor before an activity that will increase intra-abdominal pressure such as a cough, a sneeze, or a laugh. Performing The Knack helps to support the pelvic organs including the bladder and the urethra in a position that allows them to overcome the intra-abdominal pressure created by the cough/sneeze/laugh. When performed at the right time and with enough strength, The Knack can stop or significantly reduce bladder leakage.
Essentially, ‘The Knack’ is a strong, well-timed contraction of the pelvic floor muscles. To use this technique contact the muscles of the pelvic floor strongly beforeand duringtimes of increased intra-abdominal pressure (such as a cough/sneeze, laugh, heavy lift, or jump). For example, if you can sense you are about to sneeze, contract the muscles of the pelvic floor before you sneeze and continue to hold that contraction as you sneeze.
Repeating this technique often enough will create new neural pathways for some women, to the extent that they no longer need to think about it after some time. Other women will need to continue to consciously develop this habit as part of their lifestyle. Either way, when performed well, The Knack is known to significantly improve or stop bladder leakage entirely. It requires adequate strength, coordination, and sometimes endurance for multiple cough/s sneezes for it to be fully effective.
Future posts will address in more detail how to relax the pelvic floor.
If your wanting in depth information about a holistic approach to pelvic health, I would love to share with you my book Body Conscious: A woman's guide to holistic pelvic wellness and feminine embodiment, shares all of this information in depth. You can learn more about the book here.
If you would like to explore a body connection practice that will help you embody a holistic approach to pelvic wellness, I invite you to share in this Deep Core & Pelvic Floor Embodied Understanding practice. You can access the practice by filling in the form below.