How “Training for Birth” Gave Me Hemorrhoids

Are you asking the right questions while preparing for childbirth?

Are you asking the right questions while preparing for childbirth?

By: Vanessa Long, patient of Sherine Aubert, PT, DPT, PRPC

Below, Vanessa’s openly shares her pregnancy and postpartum experience, including how pelvic floor physical therapy was the missing puzzle piece to a healthy postpartum recovery. Check our her blog here.

If you didn’t quite get it from the title, this blog post is about to get real. This is my first official writing piece for pregnant and postpartum women, especially women that plan to exercise the time of pregnancy and those looking to return postpartum. A little about me to give you an idea of my background and how I’ve come to this point during my own journey. My name is Vanessa Long. I am a mom of 2 beautiful baby boys. JT is a little over a year and half (19 months and 11 days to be exact) and Nolan, who is 4 months today.

I am a CrossFit Level 2 coach, coaching since 2012. I have a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Kinesiology from Cal State Long Beach where I was also a competitive cheerleader. I have been an athlete since I was 14 years old. In 2008, I was introduced to Olympic weightlifting through cheer. I fell in love. My body image issues (that can be a whole other topic later) began to subside. I loved what my body could DO. Shortly after, I decided to get my degree in Kinesiology and became a personal trainer after I graduated in 2011. I got a job at 24 HR Fitness where I met my best friend. He brought up doing the CrossFit Open in 2011. I thought, ok this looks cool. I like hard exercise. It wasn’t until 2012 we actually started training specifically CrossFit. Since then I have competed as an individual So Cal regional athlete in  in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Along the way fell in love with solely Olympic weightlifting. I qualified and competed at American Open and Nationals from December 2013 to May 2016, all while managing and coaching a CrossFit gym. Now that you have a brief overview of my background, what are your first thoughts about how my pregnancies went? Here are a few answers to the questions/comments I’ve received in the last two years because of this background prior to being pregnant.

Yup. I did CrossFit until the day I delivered both times.

No, I didn’t “bounce back” as quick as I had hoped.

Yes, I tried to squat my babies out.

This is the biggest workout of my life.

I’m training for birth!

Yes, I was cleared by my doctor.

I felt good. I listened to my body. It wasn’t heavy.

These are just a few. Don’t get me wrong, all these things come a good place. First and foremost, I do believe the phrase “training for birth” has an underlying good message. I think it resonates more of a mindset rather than exercises to help push a baby out. I love that women are taking control of their lives and doing more to be healthy during pregnancy. However, it has evolved with the idea that pregnant women are invincible. I used to think that. I used to defend myself and say how capable I was to show I wasn’t lazy. I felt like I had something prove. To prove I wasn’t fragile. To prove that my years of fitness prepared me for this. That I could do all the things that most pregnant ladies wouldn’t do. But here’s the thing. YOU. ARE. PREGNANT. Your body is different. It is changing. It is growing a human. A HUMAN BEING! We want so badly to feel like we can still do the things we’ve always done for as long as we can. We want to still be part of our classes. We want to be healthy. We don’t want to gain too much weight. We want an easy delivery. We think we can have a particular birth experience if we “train” our butts off for it. So, enters “training for birth.”

I decided to share part of my birth story that has helped me love and appreciate the value in working with professionals in the industry. Not just trainers to help you stay active or “get your body back” postpartum, but pelvic floor PTs and certified and credible coaches for pregnant and postpartum women. Everything is connected. I knew some things. I was cautious. I did research. But I needed more. I needed to do more. This is the stuff no one told me about. We’ve heard of symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunctions such as incontinence, diastisis recti, uterine prolapse, but no one ever told me a hemorrhoid could be considered one! I think once (not even pregnant related), someone told me it is just happens and you can’t really get rid of them so just live with it.

I will say it now, I was pretty lucky with my pregnancies. I didn’t have complications. No concerning dysfunctions pregnant or postpartum. I never really peed myself until about halfway through my second pregnancy. It was minimal. Side note: peeing yourself is common, but it is not normal. After my first, my diastasis closed. I delivered my first 19 days early. I had no signs of labor until I was actually in the hospital. I only knew labor was coming because during a heart rate check at the hospital, I was having contractions 6 minutes apart and was dilated 2cm.  I honestly was in denial. All I kept telling my husband was, “I just need to poop! I just need to poop!” I barely remember anything, but he came after 20 minutes pushing. He was born vaginally and naturally. One stitch. After my first, I felt pretty good about everything. I felt like I had prepared for that. Gave myself a pat on the back. Hell, the day before I went to the hospital I front squatted 231lbs. It wasn’t heavy to me at the time. I didn’t think it was hard. I didn’t “max out.” Nothing hurt. I didn’t pee. I even breathed through it (this part is important to know for later).

Postpartum. During this time I felt in control. I felt great. I was looking at resources online to help guide me through my journey back to what I love most. I found some great women to talk with. I heard about different breathing strategies. I watched a bunch of videos on it but I swear it was like patting my head and rubbing my belly button. Then it hit me. Even during my first pregnancy, I didn’t ever really know WHAT to feel or listen for in my body. I think I have a good idea based on my athletic background, but I had never been pregnant. Since I didn’t have anything feel “bad” it would be OK. I’d get by. So, what did I really know? Nothing! I had nothing to compare it to. I had no guidance from a medical professional. I was used to being the person people came to. Who did I have to go that was an expert in the world of muscles that hold in babies? Yes, my doctor cleared me but he just asked how I was feeling or if I had questions. I didn’t. He just said ease back into exercise. He didn’t check my vagina or anything. I was asked if I wanted birth control and sent on my merry way.

I had heard of going to pelvic floor PT but my insurance doesn’t cover it and I kept procrastinating. So where does this lead me now? Well, while I’m on this postpartum journey, at 7 months I find out I’m pregnant again! As the months go by, I keep up with things on the internet about fitness and pregnancy. I learned from new reliable resources that resonated more with me. Specifically, I stumbled upon Brianna Battles who created the Pregnancy and Postpartum Athleticism course. I had accepted that it would be different training, but that didn’t stop me from still tip toeing that line time to time. I wanted to. I needed to. I still wanted to prove myself to everyone that I could do things. I was doing my best to stay mentally strong through the struggles of a pregnant mom with a toddler running a muck.

I start to learn about a piston breath. I kind of look into it, don’t really get it. Try it, but think maybe I’ll do it later. I just don’t get it. Well, turns out that shit would’ve been really helpful. Remember when I said the first time I was pregnant and front squatted a bunch of weight but didn’t think it was terrible because I wasn’t holding my breath? I did not take the time to learn properly. Turns out, I was missing a few pieces to connect with that breath. I had no idea how to feel for and control my diaphragm, transverse abdominis or pelvic floor. So, there I was 38 weeks, 6 days pregnant about to have a second baby in the last 15 and a half months.

My doctor, who was AMAZING at telling me exactly what to do, is what led me to this revelation as I’m pushing. Earlier that evening, what I thought was a false alarm turned out to be me laboring at home during bath time for JT while James was at a work function–45 minutes away. We finally get to the hospital at 9:20pm. When they check how far I am dilated around 9:45pm I am 7cm. It is go time! My doctor comes in. I’m trying to sign papers and get my IV in. He checks me. I’m at a 9, almost 10. He says if I am up for it, I can start pushing. I say, OK! What happens next is like an out of body experience. I am super aware of my body. I am aware of the burning sensation and pressure between my legs. I am present. I calm my mind. I tell myself I can. Here we go.

Doctor says, “I need you take a deep breath, pull your legs back and exhale.”

Me: “AHHHHHH! *As I am holding my breath instead of what he said to do* Fuck. This hurts. Owwwww. It’s ok. This is only temporary. 

Doctor: “You need to DO EXACTLY what I say. You’re making it harder on yourself. Breathe out, bring your knees up and push!”

Me: “AHHHH!” *I start to do what he says, but then I go back to holding it half way through* Why can’t I do this?! C’mon Vanessa. Listen. Relax and do exactly what he says.

Same thing happens again two or three more times. I start it off well, but lose it. I want to quit. I can feel negative thoughts sneak up. I shake them off. My head hurts from pushing with my face and trying to figure out where to feel. I tell myself I can. Follow direction. I cry.

Husband: “You can do this, bear! You are so strong! You’re doing great!”

Doctor: “You’re almost there! Here’s his head!”

Me: “AHHHHHH!!” *finally getting it right. This is it. You’re doing what you’re supposed to do. Fuuuuuck. Only a few more. I can do this. This pain is temporary. 

Doctor: “Keep going! Breathe out, bring your knees up and push!”

Me: “AHHHHH!” I did it!


I start shaking uncontrollably. What’s happening? This didn’t happen last time?! Oh, that hormone release. I feel so out of it. I feel shocked. 10:18pm, he’s here. 7lbs 11oz, 18.5 inches. I did it. I’m exhausted. Holy shit, I did it. I have another beautiful baby boy.

The next morning I finally look in a mirror. My face is red. It is splotchy. I popped a bunch of blood vessels in my face when I tried to use the same method when I squatted before I was pregnant. I did what I was used to. One of the questions I asked after was if I ripped. Nurse said, “No, actually. You’re lucky.” It sure as hell didn’t feel like it though! Besides looking like I tried to draw freckles on my face, I think the two worse things to do after you have a baby are cough and go poop. I cringe at the thought of either for the first 3-4 weeks. I was expecting to feel OK after the first few weeks like I did with my first. I thought, I didn’t rip, this should be easier, right? Nope. I couldn’t poop. It hurt SO BAD. I tried to relax. Couldn’t. It was awful. Once I was done bleeding I felt so relieved about it. Then I started bleeding more. That’s weird. I thought I was done. Hmm, that’s weird it is only when I poop. The light bulb goes off. You’ve got to be kidding me! I tell my doctor at my 6 week check up and he said I could use cream for it, but if it gets really bad and persists to see my general doctor.

This whole time I am thinking this has nothing to do with a pelvic floor dysfunction. I had already made the decision to finally see a PFPT. I am excited. I fill out the lengthy questionnaire. I circle “no” for most things, occasional for the peeing, and look at that! Hemorrhoids is listed. I see my wonderful and fabulous PT at about 11 weeks postpartum. She checks me. No diastasis. Everything looks pretty good. Internal exam time. This probably seems creepy to say, but I loved this part! I enjoyed it because I finally had answers to my questions. Was I actually breathing properly? Is my strategy good for me? Am I actually recruiting the muscles in my pelvic floor like I am suppose to? She tells me it I am a bit tight. Some women can tend to always contract down there. She wasn’t surprised given my history. I tell her the whole deal with my bowel movements. She then hits me with a knowledge bomb. The tension and tightness I had down there while trying to push and not knowing how to relax is what caused the blood vessels in my face to pop and now why I have a hard time going to the restroom.

I tell her my birth story. I ask her, is THAT why the doctor was telling me that? She said, “YUP!” Holy moly. It all started to come together. My mind was blown. I was so excited to learn these things! I realized the way I was used to squatting in the past was NOT how I was supposed to push during delivery. Now when I hear people say, “Our bodies are meant to do this, your body will know what to do when it comes!” I say, “Mine didn’t!” I am happy to report that after I learned to properly strategize my breathing, I was able to feel less pain. Bleeding stopped. I became regular again. Imagine that!!

So, the take away is this. Go learn about your growing amazing and beautiful body. Understand what is happening. Know WHY you are doing things. Create a mindset of growth. Accept where you are. You have permission to not live to other people’s expectations. Do what you can with the body you have, not what it used to be. Get help. Ask for it. Ask questions. Invest in yourself. Everyone asks about the cute babies, but sometimes we forget to ask about mom. Training for birth isn’t about doing workouts that challenge and push you, it is about you connecting with your body. It is about the mindset you develop and grow during pregnancy and beyond. We do not train for birth while we are pregnant, we prepare for motherhood. As Brianna Battles says, “I am with you” and we are, we all are.

Sarton Physical Therapy and its affiliates recommend that you contact your physician before participating in any physical therapy, exercise or fitness related programs. Learn More.