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Do I Have Pelvic Organ Prolapse?

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Motherhood is many things, but perhaps most of all, it is physical. You need your body for your baby to grow, live and thrive. After giving birth, not only are you expected to feed baby with your body, you also have to heal from the transformational experience that birth itself is. Your body hurts in ways you never imagined. And now you’re peeing yourself, and it hurts to poop, sit, stand, walk or lie down. Pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum are vulnerable states of being in large part because of the compromised body you are living in. And the overriding response to this vulnerability is silence.

All of these could be signs that a woman is suffering from pelvic organ prolapse; and still, not enough of our care providers are addressing it. What is pelvic organ prolapse? Why does it happen? And what can you do to treat it?

Pelvic organ prolapse can be terrifying. It’s uncomfortable, visible, painful; and we don’t talk about it enough. So to help new moms who are suffering from the condition, I put together a guide. Here is everything you need to know about pelvic organ prolapse, along with 7 steps you need to take to treat it.

What is pelvic organ prolapse?

Lindsey Vestal, MS, OTR/L and owner of the Functional Pelvis, explains: "In the bowl of the pelvis, females have 3 organs: our bladder, uterus and rectum. Between each organ are layers of connective tissue that keep the organs in their 'lane.' When the connective tissue lanes become weakened, stretched or torn, the organs shift in their orientation. This usually results in the organs sitting lower in the pelvis. These organs often protrude into the vagina, causing an inversion of the vaginal canal.

There are 5 different types of prolapse: 1) Cystocele (bladder prolapse) 2) Enterocele (small bowel prolapse) 3) Rectocele (rectum prolapse) 4) Uterine prolapse (prolapse of the uterus) and 5) Vaginal vault prolapse, with varying degrees of severity. In most cases, the organ does not actually come outside the body. What you may see or feel is the bulging of the vaginal canal from the shift in place of the organs above it."

Why does pelvic organ prolapse happen?

When your body goes through pregnancy and childbirth, your organs shift position, and the muscles and ligaments that would normally hold them all tidily are stretched and compromised. As a result, pelvic organs fall downward. For example, with a uterine prolapse, the uterus can sink down into your vagina; and sometimes; and with a vaginal vault prolapse, the vagina can protrude from your body.

How does it feel to have pelvic organ prolapse?

It depends on the degree and kind of prolapse. Some women get a sense of pressure in the lower pelvic area, while others feel like something is falling out. Intercourse is usually uncomfortable or painful, and even inserting a tampon can be difficult.

The good news is that your body heals. And given the right guidance and conditions, it will heal stronger. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Get properly diagnosed. Your healthcare provider may not automatically check for prolapse. At your 6-week check up, ask to be examined for all possible organ prolapse. This will help you gather information to design the appropriate course of treatment to recover.

2. Ask for a pelvic physical therapy prescription. Many health insurance plans will cover some physical therapy if your OB or midwife prescribes it. That said, not all pelvic specialized physical therapists are in network. Don’t let that deter you. Pursue the PT you want and ask for paperwork to submit to your insurance company for reimbursement. Some PTs will even work on a sliding scale.

3. You need physical training and strength training. The two go hand in hand. When your body is compromised, it figures out alternate ways to perform all the tasks in your life, from nursing to leaning over the crib to chasing after your toddler. Your repetitive daily activities create what are called compensation patterns. Muscles and joints are doing jobs they weren’t designed for in order to compensate for parts of your core that are no longer functioning.

To help with recovery, turn off the muscles that are overworking and turn on the non-working muscles, which is where PT is helpful. Next, you have to strengthen your newly activated butt, ab and thigh muscles. And for that, you’ll need to do strength training. After all, motherhood is an athletic pursuit. Dig in, it will be SO satisfying along the way.

4. Healing takes commitment, persistence and making yourself a priority. At first, moving your body after childbirth feels awkward, mushy and possibly a little painful. Your body seems foreign, and you don’t recognize any part of your life. This is exactly why taking care of your body after birth becomes a daily necessity. It will give you the energy and strength you need in your new mom reality.

5. Potty positioning matters! When your pelvis is injured and your pelvic floor muscles are weak, the last thing you need to do is exert more pressure downward. You want to set yourself up for success when it comes to your bowel movements. That means aligning your colon so that it can easily contract and release -- something that the common american toilet doesn’t allow. By placing a footstool -- any footstool -- under your feet, you will draw your thigh bones up, releasing your sits bones down and allowing your pelvis to relax into an ideal position.

6. Do your research before committing to surgery. The surgical course is usually a mesh implant that holds your organs up. There have been mixed results, ranging from permanent nerve damage, extreme pelvic pain and complete loss of libido. To top it off, the mesh implant doesn’t last forever and will eventually have to be replaced, which means more surgery.

7. Trust your intuition and get back to what you love! What matters the most is that you feel comfortable, confident and happy in your body. If that means getting back to your favorite yoga class, running trails or barre class, then set that as a goal and use what you learn from PT and your recovery exercises to gently return. You might have to start with smaller movements, modifying lots of exercises or walking instead of running, but keep at it. The upward spiral of motivation, accomplishment and feeling good doing what you love will move you forward.

Taking care of your body the way you want to is important. Women are marching together, advocating for the planet, upending politics - the entire social conversation is shifting with a fierce feminine tide. And yet, there is still so much to learn and to share with each other with regard to our bodies. That’s why we need to challenge the assumptions that would have you live in a painful, disabled body. You are rewriting history, Mama. Your body is your gateway to this work. Love it. Tend to it. Heal it, and it will carry you far.

Rachel Welch is the creator of Revolution Motherhood, a doctor-recommended fitness method that integrates yoga, pilates, barre, and pelvic physical therapy. Her signature programs educate and empower women with techniques to fully recover after childbirth. She offers live classes in NYC and On Demand programs around the world.

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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.

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A viral video about car seat safety has parents everywhere cracking up and humming Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

"I like safe kids and I cannot lie," raps Norman Regional Health System pediatric hospitalist Dr. Kate Cook (after prefacing her music video with an apology to her children."I'm a doctor tryin' warn you that recs have changed," she continues.

Dr. Cook's rap video is all about the importance of keeping babies facing backward. It's aptly called "Babies Face Back," and uses humor and parody to drive home car seat recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing is a milestone many parents can't wait to reach," Dr. Cook said in a news release about her hilarious video. "But this is one area where you want to delay the transition as long as possible because each one actually reduces the protection to the child."

Last summer the AAP updated its official stance on car seat safety to be more in line with what so many parents were already doing and recommended that kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But with so many things to keep track of in life, it is understandable that some parents still don't know about the change. Dr. Cook wants to change that with some cringe-worthy rapping.

The AAP recommends:

  • Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats are good up to 65 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their car seat they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, between 8 and 12 years old.

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[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

Suicide rates for girls and women in the United States have increased 50% since 2000, according to the CDC and new research indicates a growing number of pregnant and postpartum women are dying by suicide and overdose. Suicide rates for boys and men are up, too.

It's clear there is a mental health crisis in America and it is robbing children of their mothers and mothers of their children.

Medical professionals urge people to get help early, but sometimes getting help is not so simple. For many Americans, the life preserver that is mental health care is out of reach when they are drowning.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg just released a plan he hopes could change that and says the neglect of mental health in the United States must end. "Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal," says Buttigieg.

He thinks he can "prevent 1 million deaths of despair by 2028" by giving Americans more access to mental health and addictions services.

In a country where giving birth can put a mother in debt, it's not surprising that while as many as 1 in 5 new moms suffers from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, more than half of new moms who need mental health treatment don't get it. Stigma, childcare and of course costs are factors in why women aren't seeking help when they are struggling.

Buttigieg's plan is interesting because it could remove some of these barriers. He wants to make mental health care more affordable by ensuring everyone has comprehensive coverage for mental health care and by ensuring that everyone can access a free yearly mental health check-up.

That could make getting help more affordable for some moms, and by increasing reimbursement rates for mental health care delivered through telehealth, this plan could help moms get face time with a medical professional without having to deal with finding childcare first.

Estimates from new research suggest that in some parts of America as many as 14% or 30% of maternal deaths are caused by addiction or suicide. Buttigieg's plan aims to reduce those estimates by fighting the addiction and opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services in underserved communities and for people of color. He also wants to reduce the stigma and increase support for the next generation by requiring "every school across the country to teach Mental Health First Aid courses."

These are lofty goals with a lofty price tag. It would cost about $300 billion to do what Buttigieg sets out in his plan and the specifics of how the plan would be funded aren't yet known. Neither is how voters will react to this 18-page plan and whether it will help Buttigieg stand out in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

What we do know is that right now, America is talking about mental health and whether or not that benefits Buttigieg's campaign it will certainly benefit America.

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[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence-based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]

If you breastfeed, you know just how magical (and trying) it is, but it has numerous benefits for mama and baby. It is known to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half.

If this wasn't powerful enough, scientists have discovered that babies who are fed breast milk have a stomach pH that promotes the formation of HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells). HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. This is a combination of proteins and lipids found in breast milk that can work together to kill cancer cells, causing them to pull away from healthy cells, shrink and die, leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, this mechanism may contribute to the protective effect breast milk has against pediatric tumors and leukemia, which accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancer. Other researchers analyzed 18 different studies, finding that "14% to 19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or more."

And recently, doctors in Sweden collaborated with scientists in Prague to find yet another amazing benefit to breast milk. Their research demonstrated that a certain milk sugar called Alpha1H, found only in breast milk, helps in the production of lactose and can transform into a different form that helps break up tumors into microscopic fragments in the body.

Patients who were given a drug based on this milk sugar, rather than a placebo, passed whole tumor fragments in their urine. And there is more laboratory evidence to support that the drug can kill more than 40 different types of cancer cells in animal trials, including brain tumors and colon cancer. These results are inspiring scientists to continue to explore HAMLET as a novel approach to tumor therapy and make Alpha1H available to cancer patients.

Bottom line: If you choose to breastfeed, the breast milk your baby gets from your hard work can be worth every drop of effort.

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