Women

Culture of silence on prolapse is doing serious harm to women

I was so relieved to see your article breaking the taboo of prolapses (‘You feel so sexless and dirty’: the women living with incontinence after childbirth, 7 April). There has been a culture of silence around women’s health issues that has left women like me walking blindly into harm’s way. I suffered a needless prolapse because I made uninformed decisions during my pregnancy and labour, and postpartum. I did heavy and awkward lifting during pregnancy, and high-impact exercises postpartum. Most people reading this probably won’t know what prolapse is because we have never been told, because it is taboo. Prolapse is where internal organs can fall out of place and into the vagina, leaving sufferers in permanent discomfort.

At the time I was left to feel stupid and ashamed. I asked myself how could I not have known that? Had I been so caught up in focusing on the pregnancy and birth that I hadn’t paid any attention to any advice postpartum? When I was finally able to see a doctor, he said: “Oh that’s just what happens. Women are designed badly.”

I felt so stupid that I didn’t know, but when I read back through pregnancy books, they don’t have prolapse in the appendices or index. I wasn’t stupid, I just was never told. There has been a pervasive culture of withholding information about pelvic floor exercises and prolapse.

I had an argument with a male friend who is a GP about women not being warned about prolapse, and he said: “They don’t want women to be too scared to give birth.” That is nonsense. I knew I might die from pregnancy and childbirth. I can handle knowing about prolapse. We can all handle knowing about prolapse.

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