Mum’s ‘mortifying’ incontinence after bladder prolapsed during childbirth

A new mum who suffered with “mortifying” incontinence for more than a year after giving birth was shocked to discover that her bladder had prolapsed.

And the organ had moved so far out of place Anna Curtis could feel it in the shower.

Gym bunny Anna worked out throughout her pregnancy with daughter Lauren, now four, but after giving birth, she began "leaking” every time she exercised.

It made her job as a post-natal personal trainer nigh on impossible.

At first, Anna, of Epsom, Surrey, thought her body was simply recovering from childbirth.

The 39-year-old said: "After my first gym class following Lauren’s birth, I leaked a little but thought it was just part and parcel of what my body had been through.

“But it continued until the point where it wasn’t just when I exercised. At times, I’d be left very distressed when I leaked through my clothes."

When her symptoms worsened over the course of 18 months, she eventually discovered that her bladder had prolapsed – when one or more of the organs in the pelvis slip out of place.

“I’d known all along that was the case," she said of the prolapse diagnosis.

"I had this awful feeling of heaviness and I could literally feel it in the shower.”

During her textbook pregnancy with Lauren, Anna, whose husband, Michael Curtis, 42, is a network engineer, even continued to run and lift weights “right up to the birth.”

Then, after delivering Lauren naturally at Epsom General Hospital in July 2013, she began experiencing an odd heavy feeling in the pit of her stomach.

Initially, she thought it was just her body recovering, but then, eight weeks later, she went to a mother and baby fitness class, only for her bladder to leak afterwards.

“At the time, I wasn’t a post-natal personal trainer, so I didn’t know the dos and don’t of exercising after childbirth,” said Anna.

“I’ve always been very fit, so I threw myself into it.

“I almost felt I had something to prove.

“For many women, the pressure to bounce back, lose that baby weight and be back in your size eight jeans comes from magazines and celebrities, but in my case, it came from within.

“Fitness has always been a passion of mine. I enjoy it. It reduces stress and it’s my way of being there for myself.”

Cautious, Anna consulted her GP for advice, but said she did not get many answers at first.

She added: “Everyone thought it was just my body recovering, so I felt like I had to get on with things.”

When Lauren was five months old, Anna started leading fitness classes.

The exercise itself was no problem but, working out most days, her urinary incontinence worsened to the point where she struggled to teach.

She had to wear pads almost around the clock – even then having accidents, when urine would leak through her clothes.

For 18 long months, she was left feeling “upset and embarrassed” about her problem.

Then a urologist, diagnosed her prolapse which, according to the NHS, happens when one or more of the organs in the pelvis slip from their normal position and bulge into the vagina.

While not life-threatening, it can be incredibly uncomfortable, and symptoms include a feeling of heaviness in the tummy, feeling or seeing a lump or bulge, problems with weeing and discomfort during sex.

On top of this, Anna also has diastasis – where the two muscles running down the middle of her stomach separated – meaning she still looked pregnant months after giving birth.

Thankfully, both conditions improved after she began working with pelvic floor physiotherapist Emma Brockwell, having sessions once a month.

“The prolapse is something I’ll have to stay on top of my whole life, but the physio has helped enormously,” said Anna, whose experiences have inspired her to start mother baby fitness classes called Team Mama.

“In lots of countries, women are given pelvic floor physio as standard after giving birth, but here, I felt I had to really fight for it.”

Though her prolapse has remained stable and urinary incontinence has improved, Anna’s diastasis sadly worsened when she gave birth to her second child, Mattie, in August 2017.

Admitting that she had been nervous about getting pregnant again, she continued: “Everything had come together quite well, thanks to the physio, then after Mattie it came back hugely.

“I could literally see my intestines through the skin. The gap between the two muscles was bigger than my hand.

“I still looked like I had a baby bump, too. All three of my conditions are hugely related.”

Now, with the help of further physio – which she has once every six weeks – Anna is improving all the time.

And, while she says there is no quick fix for what her body has been through, she can run again in short stints without leaking or feeling heaviness.

Now, she is speaking out to help teach other women about post-natal health, and encourage them to give their bodies a chance to heal.

“It’s been a long road, but I’m slowly coming out the other side,” she said.

“Every mum will have their own pregnancy journey, but it’s all about doing what’s best for you.

“There’s a lot of pressure to get back out there, but many of these mother and baby fitness classes encourage exercises that are completely inappropriate. With me, the symptoms were always there, but the classes I did certainly didn’t help.

“You only get one body, and after something as major as giving birth, you’ve got to be kind to it.”

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy is encouraging people to find new activities they enjoy as part of their Love Activity, Hate Exercise? campaign which launches in July. Visit here for more information.

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