Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Residual effect of pregnancy and childbirth and getting fit now

You know, I did everything in my power to have a natural, drug free child birth for both my pregnancies. I was terrified of having a c-section. Absolutely mortified. My mom had the worst experience with my birth which was a c-section and I didn't want to repeat it. It took me until I was 24 weeks pregnant with my first to even read up on what they do, what rights I had and what to expect if I were to have a caesarean section.

So, I learned that to reduce my risks I should be healthy, fit, take a Bradley birthing class (I'm not convinced it's anything special about the class, just that people who choose it are more determined to go natural), use nurse midwives, go into labor naturally, and to not use any labor drugs. I did all of the above.

With my first pregnancy, I felt great and it was a classic textbook excellent pregnancy. Delivery was a bit long and unusual, but everything went fairly normally. Only surprise was that my baby born at 38 weeks 5 days was 10 pounds and 9 ounces. And no, I did not have gestational diabetes (I was tested three times in that pregnancy) and he did not have sugar problems after delivery either. With that birth,  I tore - a lot. But, it healed and I moved on.

However, after that pregnancy, I started to have problems with urinary stress incontinence. It was a problem when I sneezed and jumped up and down with exercise. Since I didn't sneeze much and stopped exercising, it wasn't a huge deal.

Second full term pregnancy nearly 9 years later and I started having more problems with stress incontinence during pregnancy. I found I needed to wear a pad all the time to protect myself from wetting my clothes. Second pregnancy was very difficult with all sorts of problems for me. I did develop gestational diabetes late in the pregnancy and despite being extremely rigid with my diet, I gave birth (naturally) to a 11 pounds 14 ounces baby boy at 38 weeks 4 days. Later, when I was talking to the neonatalogist I asked about why he got so big despite me being so very, very careful with the sugar in my diet and he said that he got bigger because of the sugar, but that also I just make really big babies. He too didn't have any blood sugar issues after birth and the neonatalogist said he probably would have been 11 pounds anyway. And, considering how big he has always remained, that's probably true.

His birth was faster than my first baby's, and while I didn't tear much, the little guy did break my tailbone which took over a year to get over and still gives me problems if I sit in certain positions.

After that birth, the problems with stress incontinence got worse, but I didn't worry about it too much. I had a very needy baby who didn't sleep. And reality was, I was in pretty bad shape overall, so what was a bit of stress incontinence?

But here I am almost six and half years after giving birth to my youngest and I'm feeling better and getting more fit and the urinary incontinence is beginning to be a real problem.

I had never been good about doing kegel exercises - exercises that all women are supposed to do every day to strengthen their pelvic floor muscles, so starting this summer, I got better about working those muscles every day - several times a day. You can't see improvement right away, but it's been over two months and I've seen no improvements. I can even tell that I'm unable to tighten a certain area of those muscles... muscles I know I used to be able to tighten. In fact, I cannot stop the flow of urine when sitting on the toilet - even after all those months of exercising those muscles. That's not a good sign.

It's becoming a bigger problem because my fitness level has increased a lot and I have the ability to do more higher intensity workouts, but I can't because of urinary stress incontinence. I can't run without leaking with every single step. I can't do jumping jacks or any power steps on a step routine or bouncing around in Zumba class. I even discovered I can't stand up on the bike and pedal without leaking with every single stroke. It doesn't matter if my bladder is full or empty. I just leak.

So, I started looking things up again. And here's a pretty comprehensive explanation of what it is and what are treatment options. http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/uiwomen/

And that page starts with "millions of women experience involuntary loss of urine ". It is so very, very common for women to have this problem. I think my problem is a bit extreme, but it's something probably most women have dealt with after having kids. At least most women I know. Yet, I am in classes with women every day and they are jumping up and down, bike riding, running and so on and they don't seem to be having the same problem I'm having.

So, now, after all these years I wonder if my insistence on having natural childbirth instead of c-sections was the wrong decision for me. If, in the end, I did more damage to my body with natural childbirth than I would have with c-sections. I tore all the way through (vagina to rectum), severe urinary stress incontinence, and a broken tailbone that still bothers me. Oh, and hemorrhoids which fortunately rarely give me problems, but I didn't get them at all until childbirth.

Of course, I can't know what problems I might have developed with c-sections and hind sight is 20/20, so what can I do? I have to deal with what I have to deal with now. And, if I want to continue with improving my fitness, I need to fix this problem. So, when I see the doctor soon, I'll be mentioning this and starting treatment options.

Fun stuff, huh?

No exercise yesterday, but doing bodypump this evening.

Stats for 9/6/11:

Beginning weight: 255.6  Now: 188.0 (67.6 pounds lost)

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