It can be frustrating when your body’s limitations hold you back from experiencing life with the freedom and flexibility you desire. It can be discouraging to look ahead to recovery and see only a long road, wondering if you’ll ever get back to “normal.” It can be difficult to encounter doctors who only acknowledge the physical implications of your pelvic health complications, having little concern for the overwhelming feelings you experience navigating these issues.
Here at Intimate Rose, our founder, COO and certified pelvic floor rehabilitation therapist, Dr. Amanda Olson gets it. After suffering serious damage to her pelvic floor in an accident—followed by giving birth to her two children vaginally—she knows that the emotions connected to issues such as urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and childbirth recovery are complicated, to say the least.
“It's perfectly normal to feel frustration, anger, sadness, disappointment, or even hope,” says Dr. Olson. “These emotions are typical when dealing with these challenges.”
From her own experience, as well as that of friends, loved ones, and the patients she works with in her clinic, not only are these feelings understandable, but they’re also quite common. According to Dr. Olson, learning to be gentle with yourself is a critical aspect of successful pelvic floor rehabilitation.
“It’s important to show yourself some grace as you go through the process,” she says. “You wouldn't ridicule a friend for not being able to bench press a certain amount of weight, so don't ridicule yourself if you have trouble tolerating a certain level of pelvic floor exercise, such as a heavier Kegel weight.”
Dr. Olson recommends patients to avoid the temptation to immediately attempt to push your body’s limitations. For example, while it might initially feel more “productive” to start using a mid-range Kegel weight, it is actually much better for your body—and your emotions—to begin with the lightest weight. In some cases, it may even be necessary to begin using the lightest weight while in a sitting position, to provide the pelvic floor additional support.“(Beginning with the lightest weight) helps you avoid feelings of disappointment if you can't tolerate a higher weight at first,” says Dr. Olson. “Don’t become frustrated with yourself!”
“The Kegel weight will help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles just as using weights daily in the gym would help strengthen your legs or shoulder or abdominals,” she adds. “It is going to take time, too; it’s not going to happen overnight.”
Some may experience the opposite frustration; being able to use the heaviest Kegel weights, while still experiencing symptoms of pelvic floor weakness. In these cases, adding some water-based lubricant to the weight can make it more challenging. Some also find it helpful to add physical movement, such as light exercise, to increase the challenge, however, do not exceed ten to fifteen minutes with the weight in.
Accepting your body’s current ability with gentleness and grace is an important step in avoiding feelings of disappointment as you move toward recovery. In many cases, pushing your body too far is detrimental to sustainable increases in strength. It can also lead to discouragement, which makes consistent use difficult. Identifying and connecting with the truth about your body and the process of recovery is a helpful way to ensure that your emotions are supporting your physical recovery, rather than detracting from it.
“It’s important to keep in mind that any weight will help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles if you use them consistently over time,” says Dr. Olson. “Progress doesn't happen overnight, so be kind and gracious to yourself during the process!”
“The bottom line is there can be a lot of emotions that surface when undergoing pelvic floor therapy, especially if you're not progressing as quickly as you like,” she says. “Be patient. Therapy is a process, and our team at Intimate Rose is here to help you along the way.”