Recovering from urinary retention: Laura’s update

After delivering her first baby Laura went into Urinary Retention which caused an acute bladder injury. She was unable to pass urine and had no feeling that she needed to go. After an initial period of time with a catheter she has had to use Intermittent Self Catheterisation (ISC) to pass urine throughout the day.  If you haven’t read her last blog you can read it here.

We’ve been working together for a number of months and she’s making fabulous progress! I’ll let her tell you…

In my first ever blog post, I shared my story of retention post child birth. My journey of recovery is ongoing. I am still not completely ‘fixed’ yet but I am well on the way and now truly believe that I will get there in the end…whenever the end might be. There has been exciting highs but also really disheartening lows. Although I feel like it has been a lifetime since having a normal functioning bladder (when in reality, it’s only been 7 months), I am definitely nearly better and I wanted to share that with you too. Jilly has helped immensely in my bladder recovery both emotionally and physically. I have attended appointments with her monthly, fortnightly or weekly if she or  I felt I needed it. No time during the appointments was ever wasted and I was never made to feel like being there was an inconvenience. I felt empowered after every session enabling me to help myself as well. Everything was well documented so that I could see my own progress on a regular basis.

What did I see?

In January: I had a very unhappy bladder with horrible symptoms like not feeling the need to go or having a deep tummy pain when full but not being able to void.

In February: I was consistently making an effort to void but the data was all over the place and I was still passing more using ISC than I was naturally.

In March: A clearer pattern was beginning to emerge. I was having episodes of voiding more naturally than using ISC but not quite enough yet. Definite signs of a bladder recovering.

In April: This was a particularly bad month for me. My little boy was quite poorly, not sleeping and ended up in hospital so I decided to write this month off and stop worrying about voiding naturally while I had other things to concentrate on.

In May: I had what looked like quite a normal, happy bladder. Although not perfect yet as I was still voiding and using ISC every 2 hours, I had reduced the volume of my average ISC from 350ml to 46ml! Only 2 voids out of the 24 recorded were considered abnormal. This was my favourite month yet.

What has helped me so far?

  • I have used and will continue to use a bladder stimulator every time I go to the toilet at home. This helps because it stimulates the bladder muscle to contract.

  • I have been taught how to do pelvic floor exercises correctly and now spread the word to everyone I know. Initially, I did the exercises every time I fed the baby, now I do them 3 times a day religiously.

  • I used a vaginal probe for 12 weeks to help strengthen and then relax my pelvic floor.

  • I am double voiding on my first morning wee to try and reduce the amount I am passing using ISC. I try to go, when I can’t anymore, I stand up, move around and then try again before using ISC.

  • I began by voiding every 2 hours using ISC. This was to help shrink my bladder, helping me get the feeling of needing to void back. (When I went into retention, I didn’t have the feeling of needing to go and needed to have this retrained).

  • I am now still voiding every 2 hours but only using ISC every 4. The next phase is to train my bladder to go for longer periods of time, eventually only needing to use ISC twice a day.

  • I have had acupuncture to help relieve pressure when my pelvic floor has become tight and for general relaxation. I also had some myofascial release to get my pelvic floor muscles moving more normally.

  • I have practiced mindfulness and visualisation trying to imagine my muscles melting and relaxing.

  • Breathing techniques when going to the toilet have helped relax my pelvic floor – trying to make my tummy and chest rise equally.

  • I am getting back to exercise. Pilates to strengthen my core has been enjoyable and running…this is new…I am not a runner but now I know my pelvic floor is safe, I’m enjoying it.

So where am I on my bladder recovery story now?

Here I am in June: I am now using ISC less frequently and feeling more confident when voiding naturally. I am making a conscious effort and being brave, trying to use a catheter every 4 hours instead of 2. I have tried to do this twice before and ended up back where I started but as Jilly has told me…’2 times does not make a pattern’ so I’m just getting on with it and seeing where I end up. I am working on my first morning void as this is where I am passing larger amounts using ISC. Mentally, I am in a good place. I am making sure I do pelvic floor exercises three times a day using the NHS ‘Squeezy’ app as my reminder…my pelvic floor muscles are continuing to improve having already gone from a grade 1 to 3. #winning.

Do I still have problems?

Yes. It takes stage fright to a whole other level.

I struggle to go if I am under pressure for any reason whatsoever:

  • If my baby is distressed in any way or bored and needing attention.

  • If I’m in a rush.

  • If I know I need to go for longer periods without voiding like a long car journey or work.

  • If I’m super busy.

  • If I know someone is waiting for me.

  • If I am stressed out in any way.

  • If I’m really tired

But are these problems anywhere near as horrific as when my journey first started?

Definitely not. I am still working on techniques to overcome these issues and am hopeful that in the future, I won’t need to give it a second thought. I will most likely carry catheters around with me for at least a year or so for my own peace of mind but I hope that one day, I won’t need to worry about that. I know I will have all the help I need until I am better and I know the support will be there for me next time, for future pregnancies should I ever need it again. For this I will be eternally grateful.

So what do I know now that I would tell others?

  • There is not enough information out there (or information that is easily accessible to a lay person) about retention!

  • It can happen to anyone.

  • It’s important not to suffer in silence…talk to anyone who will listen.

  • You can recover.

  • You need to give yourself time.

  • Your bladder is a muscle like any other – it needs training, or re-training!

  • Don’t be scared to try anything that may help (obviously following advice from the professionals)…there are so many weird and wonderful contraptions out there.

  • There is help available – find a pelvic health physio…they are worth their weight in gold…there are 800 (ish) around the UK and you can find one local to you by searching here.

I am hopeful that in the very near future and before I try for another baby, I will be able to write a blog post and share my story as someone who has completely recovered from something that I never thought would happen to me or anyone else but something that has made me stronger as an individual than I ever thought I could be.

HAPPY BLADDER.

Keen to know more about how to put all this together? Come and join me on a Happy Bladder Course – dates are up for 2019 in the UK and Ireland.

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