Have you ever heard of vaginal prolapse? I hadn't either, until it happened to me. Here's my story.
Allison Henry: My first pregnancy was totally normal and healthy and fine. When my daughter was 11-and-a-half months old, I got pregnant with my second child.
About ten weeks into my pregnancy, I was doing prenatal yoga and it felt like someone had rammed a pitchfork up my butt, so I stopped. It was an intense, sharp pain, but it passed. As I was feeding my daughter lunch a short time later, it felt like I had peed my pants, and when I ran to the bathroom, I saw I was gushing blood everywhere. It was the biggest scare of my life.
I rushed to the OB/GYN, and they said I hadn't lost the baby, thank God. But they couldn't figure out what was wrong, and I kept bleeding for 15 weeks straight. When I was 25 weeks pregnant, they put me in the hospital for three-and-a-half weeks on bed rest. That was the first time I had stopped bleeding in four months, and I was so relieved. When they released me, they put me on hospital-level bed rest at home, but even walking from the couch to the bathroom made me start bleeding again, so they had to put me back in the hospital. My son was born six-and-a-half weeks early, at 33 weeks.
What they ultimately found out was that I developed a hematoma outside the placenta. The baby was fine, thank God, and after he was released from five weeks in the NICU, we thought the whole ordeal was behind us. Boy, were we wrong about that.
One day in the bathroom, I felt something kind of strange when I was wiping. There wasn't really a hole there -- it felt kind of flat. I thought it was a little weird, but I had a 19-month-old and a newborn to care for, so I brushed it off. I wasn't bleeding, I wasn't in pain, so I didn't address it.
Over the next year, I noticed this more and more and more. I would feel that something was poking out of my vagina when I was wiping.
In the meantime, I had a massive emergency appendectomy, I got gangrene, and I was hospitalized. It took me about eight months to heal from that whole thing, so I didn't really address what was going on with my vagina.
One night, I took a look down there, and it was like my insides were on the outside and they were coming out. I knew I couldn't put this off any longer. I went to my doctor and said, "My vagina is falling out of my body!"
I was referred to a pelvic floor specialist. She took a look and said, "Holy crap -- your vagina is falling out of your body, and it's dragging your bladder and your rectum along with it!"
It turned out I had complete uterine prolapse, where the uterus is falling out of the body. I also had rectocele, where the walls of the vagina are weakened, and your rectum is pushing into the back wall of your vagina. That explained why I had been constipated for months. They also told me I had cystocele, where your bladder pushes through the other wall of your vagina. I had been having trouble peeing -- even though I always felt like I had to go. This was apparently why.
The uterus is supposed to be 8 or 11 centimeters up inside your vagina. When I was lying down in the doctor's office, mine was 3 centimeters up, but when I was standing, it was plus-five centimeters! It was literally falling out of my body.
I had to have surgery, and they took my uterus out. All the ligaments that hold the uterus in place were completely shredded by all the blood I'd lost in my second pregnancy. My husband and I had thought about possibly having another child, but that took care of that.
Then my doctor had to resupport and restructure the back wall of my vagina so it wouldn't collapse again. She put my rectum and my colon back in their proper place. She had to untwist my bladder and place it right-side-up. It had twisted and turned upside down.
After a few days of recovery, I was released from the hospital ... but unfortunately my story doesn't end there.
Every complication that could happen to me happened.
I was throwing up, constipated, and completely backed up for days. I had a UTI, and I was on antibiotics for that and painkillers.
Then seven days after my surgery, I was watching "Snow White" with my daughter when my son came into the room. He didn't like the seating arrangement and sort of lunged on top of my daughter. I had to push him off her, and when I did, I heard a loud ripping sound. Oh, no. I looked under the comforter, and my entire bed was covered with blood. It was like a horror movie -- you could see the blood filling the entire white bed. Since it was under the covers, thank God the kids didn't see anything.
I screamed, "Call the doctor! Call the doctor!" In 15 minutes, I had passed 10 huge palm-sized blood clots.
My stepmom rushed me to the emergency room, and the ER doctor was trying to figure out where the blood was coming from, but couldn't see because there was too much blood gushing out. He was poking around down there -- and I was still extremely tender from my surgery. It was the worst pain of my life.
He called my doctor and said: "I can't see where it's coming from. She's bleeding so fast and so much, I can't see. I'm killing her!"
So they prepped me for emergency surgery. It turns out when I pushed my son off my daughter, I ripped through eight way-deep internal sutures. My doctor had to go in and stitch everything back up once again. After having two surgeries in one week, I was beyond sore afterwards. I was in so much pain.
They put me on an antibiotic that I was allergic to -- I got a full body rash and was covered in red bumps from my head to my ankles.
The cumulative effect of all the anesthesia in my body did me in. I lost 30 pounds. Not that I minded being super skinny, but I was so sickly skinny, it was scary.
Six months later, I started having this weird discharge that had a funky odor. I was still in pain. It turned out my body was now rejecting the second set of sutures, and I had to have -- guess what? -- another surgery!
That was a year and a half ago. Since then, I've had some bladder issues, and they had to go in and slough off some of the scar tissue that had grown on the inside walls of my bladder as a result of my surgery.
The experience has been a total nightmare, but I'm happy to say I'm on the mend. We just had a cocktail party to celebrate me feeling healthy. And I do have the vagina of a 13-year-old virgin, with a perfect labia, as a bonus.
Within 10 or 15 years, there's a 90 percent chance I'll have to have another reconstructive surgery to resupport the walls of my vagina, because the results don't last forever. But that's something I knew going in.
There are definitely other women out there who've had this, or are experiencing the symptoms now. My advice is to go to the doctor sooner rather than later. If I had gone sooner, I would have had a much less complicated surgery. But I was dealing with a toddler and a preemie, and I thought I'd just deal with it later. It took me years to see my doctor.
If I had addressed this when it was just partially prolapsing, there's a possibility I could have had kids again. So don't wait like I did. If something doesn't feel right, get checked out right away.