Marathon runners running along a city street

‘I’m not willing to give up on running’: Mel’s prolapse story

An avid runner, Mel was in the middle of training for her second half marathon when she found out she was in the early stages of pregnancy. Now almost five years later, at 36, a prolapse diagnosis means the type of running she loved is off the table – for now.

“Running was a big part of my life,” Mel says. She was running up to five km, three to four times a week as part of her regular exercise regime and training for the half marathon. The training continued all the way up to the day of the event, when she decided not to run the race.

That was almost five years ago, and Mel says, “I probably haven’t run properly since then.”

After the birth of her first son, she experienced some leakage (incontinence) but a different symptom was bothersome after her second pregnancy.

She tried to return to running five months after the birth but felt a heaviness in the pelvic area. This heavy sensation, or dragging, in the vagina is a common symptom of prolapse.

At the time, Mel had no idea what the symptom meant. A chance conversation with her Pilates instructor was what made her seek help. 

“My Pilates instructor suggested that I go see a women’s health physio. That’s when they [the physio] realised that I had a mild prolapse.”

Mel experiences prolapse symptoms when she runs and these tend to last for a few days afterwards.

“It’s really the running and that constant pressure that sometimes makes me feel the symptoms. I’d say that if I didn’t want to be a runner, I wouldn’t know there was anything wrong,” she says.

“Half of me kind of thinks… I should just give up running altogether. But I’m not willing to do that, which is why I’ve been committed to seeing a pelvic health physio and making the sort of progress that I have made to date.”

Mel is seeing a physiotherapist for pelvic floor work and gradual ways to get back to running. Right now, that means running in short bursts rather than long distances. What she loves about running is the fresh air and feeling of a cardio workout, which she’s recreating with bike riding and Pilates.

“It’s a slow journey. It’s two steps forward, one step back. I think having the other forms of exercise has really helped a lot,” Mel says.

“I still experience a lot of frustration and can get impatient, and feel helpless when I take a step backwards. However, with the discipline of doing my pelvic floor exercises and support from my physio, I definitely feel that I am making progress and improving my running. 

Mel’s message to other mums 
“I started running again when I was four to five months [after birth], and in hindsight I feel that I may have started too early. But back then, I felt like I’d already waited a really long time and I thought I was being patient. But then a year on after that and now two years on, I’m feeling so much better than even six months ago. So, I think time plays a really strong role. 

I think it’s just being patient and understanding what your body has been through and allowing time for recovery. Getting professional advice is really important too. So, the main thing I would say to mothers is be patient and listen to your body.” 

Call our National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66 for information and advice.  

This story was first published in the Pelvic Floor First newsletter. Subscribe to PFF eNews online.