Running After Baby – Part 1
Running after baby can take on different meanings for every mom. Do you want to run for exercise or do you just need to be able to chase your littles? I like to do both! For the most part, I have stayed reasonably active through running since college. I’d call myself a “fair weather” runner; using it mainly as an outlet for stress relief! So, when I tried to return to running my standard 2-3 miles post-son #2, I was shocked and frustrated at my lack of progress. I couldn’t ever seem to get past the 1.5 mile mark before I’d be running to the nearest restroom. My doctor advised me that this was "normal" after having two babies and that it would improve with time. Let's be clear : 1. common and normal are not the same thing. 2. Most postpartum physical recovery requires more than just patiently waiting.
Fast forward 12 months.
Things naturally improved as I returned to work full-time, but it was because I really didn’t have time to run or work out, ie. I was WORN OUT from a crazy schedule and 2 boys at home. On the bright side, I no longer leaked when I sneezed and was able to run 2 miles every now and then without a problem. I didn’t start having symptoms again until my “baby”, who was then a full-blown 27lb toddler, started to become a danger to himself and I was having to lift and carry him around All. The. Time. It was the end of 2017, and I had left my job to start my own practice when I decided what I needed most during that season was some “me” time. I turned to running again to help fill up my cup. I was feeling pretty good as I plugged along on my couch to 5K plan, until…
I realized I was starting to feel my pelvic floor symptoms again: heaviness, leaking, feeling like a tampon was falling out, and literally experiencing just that. Whomp whomp. I was feeling all the feels. Fear of movement that might make my symptoms worse. Self-blaming that I did something to cause this to happen. Grief that I might not be able to run again, pick up my boys, or chase them around on the playground like I wanted. Anger that no one told me this could happen postpartum and that my genetics might have played a bigger role than I realized. Ashamed that, even as a PT, I did not understand what was going on with my own body.
What to expect when you’re…a PT going to PT?!
I finally decided to let go of my pride as a seasoned orthopedic therapist and seek help from a pelvic floor PT. After my initial assessment, I confirmed my suspicion—my body was a really good cheater! I was able to run, lift, carry, and be an active mom all the while with pelvic floor, hip, and core weakness. No wonder I was having back pain, hip pain, and experiencing symptoms of what I know now to be pelvic organ prolapse. I was diagnosed with a cystocele and rectocele, both stage 2. The positive news was that I was doing my pelvic floor muscle contraction correctly, but that it was fairly weak, and I was not yet ready to run. My core and pelvic floor needed endurance, coordination, and strength training before I would be ready for the impact that running required. As disheartening as this sounds, it turned out to be a most eye-opening experience for me on so many levels. The realization that there had to be more moms like me who had no idea that pelvic organ prolapse was even a thing. That guidance and support for rehabbing/recovering postpartum is available but is not standard practice for every mom unless we advocate for ourselves. (This is quite the opposite of postpartum support in France, where every mom receives 10-20 sessions of postnatal physical therapy!) Finally, it was clear that I needed to dive into women’s health PT headfirst to learn how to rehab myself postpartum, and ultimately help more moms just like me.
Stay tuned for more of my story… if you follow me at all on Instagram, you know there's a happy ending!
If you have any questions about pelvic organ prolapse, need support, or direction,
please get in touch!