My Bladder Has Fallen And I Can’t Get Up! Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me About Cystocele?

When I was pregnant with my first child, I read everything I could. But, one thing no one told me was that one possible side effect of childbirth could be that my bladder may someday fall out of its normal resting spot inside my body.

Now before I send any of my pregnant readers into a tizzy, please note that this condition, known as cystocele, is fairly uncommon, especially among younger women. But, if you have ever needed a reason to kegel, keep reading.

By the way, if you are male, heed my warning and stop now. Go watch something on Tivo or make a snack.

OK. . .all clear?

Here’s the scoop:

It was another ordinary night in the Fairly Odd household in spring ’04. Fairly Odd Father was enjoying a night out with the boys to see the Boston Bruins. I was four months pregnant with my third child. Belly was three and Jilly had just turned a year old.

I decided to give the girls a bath, so I got the water in the tub ready. But, as I lifted them into the tub, I felt an odd sensation. It was if something was sliding out of me. Not painful, just not right. I had visions of me birthing my baby right then and there, on the bathroom floor. I thought about an ex-coworker who told the story of how her mother knew she was about to birth her twins when she looked down and saw a leg coming out. “I hope I don’t see a leg” was all my brain could muster.

(deep breath)

I then reached down and pushed something back up into my body. Something squishy and fleshy and not a baby leg. I suppose I should be so very thankful of that fact.

Miraculously, I had brought the phone into the bathroom with me, and dialed my OB/GYN’s number with shaking fingers. I got the answering service and will never forget the poor guy who had to answer my call. “Excuse me, what is happening?” I’m not sure what he said to my OB/GYN, but 60 seconds hadn’t passed before my OB was calling me back.

I answered his questions:

* no, no blood (thank goodness)
* yes, it seems to be up there again, although I am lying down with my head propped up so I can see my two babies who are still in the tub
not having any contractions or anything to indicate I’m going into labor

I thought I’d soon hear an ambulance driving up to take me to the ER, but instead he told me to take it easy, go to bed and come in first thing the next morning.

Really? Well, OK!

Except, not OK, because I still had my two girls stranded in the tub (there was no way I was going to try to lift them), and a husband at least an hour away. So, I called my next-door neighbor who (thankfully) knows us well and had a key to the house. I then called my husband on the phone and turned him a little more gray by blubbering the following into the phone:

“(sob) I need you to come home right now because something is falling out of me but I don’t think it’s the baby but it might be my uterus and (neighbor) is coming to help but I need you home, and I’m freaking out and I need you home (sob).”

My beloved neighbor got the girls out of the tub, ready for bed and tucked in, probably even with a bedtime story, while I lied in my bed and let my mind race. What the heck was going on with my body? Is this my fault for getting pregnant again so close to baby #2? Maybe a VBAC hadn’t been such a great idea. Why hadn’t I done those stupid kegels?

The next morning, I felt better but was scared to do anything that might aggravate things. I got myself to the doctor’s office and went through an exam where he determined that it was probably not my uterus that had fallen, but my bladder. I guess that pushing out my 8 lb, 12 oz Jilly had weakened everything enough that, when a new baby started to sit on top of everything, it made the bladder droop down where it shouldn’t go.

This was unbelievable to me.

“Wait. My bladder can fall out of me like that? Will other organs start falling out too? But, how do some women have 10 kids? Are you saying that all of them have had their bladders fall out of them? Why doesn’t anyone talk about this???”

I will never forget what my OB said to my panicked questions:

“Listen—I’ve seen women who have had 10 kids and no problems, and some have one and—poof!—it all falls apart. But, listen, this isn’t too uncommon. I have little old ladies who shuffle in here all the time with their uterus hanging down to their knees.”

I’m pretty sure I whimpered at this point, thinking briefly of all those little old ladies I had passed shuffling down the halls in the medical center. I sure as hell hope he was joking to take my mind off my own issues.

I was fortunate, though, because my cystocele kind of straightened itself up on its own. Oh, sure, I made sure to sit down more often during the day, especially if that feeling started to come back. But, as my body changed during pregnancy, it seemed to hold everything in place.

I was petrified of what would happen after I pushed out my third, but things were not too bad. D was my biggest baby at just over 9 pounds, but my cystocele came back only mildly after his delivery. I found a wonderful specialist in Urogynocology and paid a few visits to her but we decided to take a “wait and see” approach. My goal was that if I needed surgery to correct things, I wanted to wait until my youngest was at least five years old.

Well, D is 4 1/2, and things seem pretty good. I’m active (hey Shredheads!) and am still crappy at remembering to kegel. I even have a whole set of, um, weights, that I never use, but will probably need to reconsider as my age keeps going up. Although I don’t think I’ll ever top her achievement.

But, I’ll probably never run a 5K again (or a 1K) or do my first triathalon*, which is kind of a bummer, but if I can get through the rest of my days with all of my internal organs staying internal, I’m willing to make some sacrifices.

*UPDATE: On 7/3/12, I ran my first 10K in 1:07 without any cystocele-related issues! My son is now almost eight, and it looks like things corrected themselves over time.