Model speaks out about little-known post-pregnancy condition called primary lymphedema
Most people are familiar with the myriad side effects of pregnancy — from nausea to joint pain to swelling and more, there are so many physical discomforts a woman can suffer throughout those nine months.
What most may not realize is the fact that some conditions can last far beyond pregnancy, sometimes impacting a woman’s health for the rest of her life. Such is the case with model Sarah Buller, who is speaking out about a rare post-pregnancy ailment called primary lymphedema.
According to Redbook, Buller’s left leg is swollen to twice it’s normal size and it’s a result of pregnancy. Managing the swelling is a round-the-clock ordeal involving a battery of treatments. “Wearing compression garments every day, manual lymphatic draining massages at the physiotherapist, exercising, elevating my leg, bandaging, taking supplements to get rid of excess fluid … It has always been a constant daily struggle to keep the swelling under control.”
Buller even traveled to France to undergo a surgical fix called Vascularized Lymph Node Transfer, which takes normal lymph nodes from one part of the body and transfers them to another. Even the surgery wasn’t enough to alleviate the problem, as the mom still struggles to manage her day-to-day swelling and discomfort.
Hey all, doing a little update on zee #lymphie leg. It’s been 2 weeks since the lymph node transfer and things are still going well. My leg is a lot softer in my calf area, my foot/ toes are still swollen (but these will be the last areas to loose liquid from, said the doc)… My thigh is carrying a lot of extra fluid but is still very soft; I believe this is because the fluid is coming out from the lower part of my leg and taking time to drain from my knee upwards. When I pit my leg up to elevate I can immediately feel pins adbd needles and the liquid flowing back up the leg (I never felt movement like that before!)… I’m still really sore in the areas they cut me open, mostly in my left arm/ back area!!! Its seriously sore, I still cant lift my arm to wash my hair or pick my nose. SO frustrating 😂 Some days my leg isnt feeling great, because I’ve been on my feet too much and need to rest, so its still fluctuating in size– which I expect it to do anyways (even though it makes me feel horrible when its a “bad” day cause I’m like ITS NOT WORKING!!.. I’m too impatient!)… Anyways, thats where we are at right now xoxoxo #lymphnodetransfer #lymphoedema #lymphedema #primarylymphoedema #vlnt #primarylymphedema
A photo posted by @lymphosaurus_rex on
While Buller’s specific condition is rare, post-pregnancy side effects that don’t go away after giving birth are not. According to a study in the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health, long-term health problems resulting from pregnancy and birth (defined as persisting after six months) plague 31% of women. That’s a significant number.
Most of these issues aren’t as serious as Buller’s swollen leg, but are still something many women suffer in silence. They range from urinary incontinence, hemorrhoids, separation of the abdominal wall, numbness and scarring post-cesarean section, perineal pain due to vaginal tearing, pelvic pain, bladder prolapse and a host of other conditions.
As common as it can be for a woman to have a lasting problem after pregnancy, it’s certainly not openly discussed the way pregnancy symptoms are. It seems moms aren’t too eager to talk about the awful things that can happen after giving birth. But as Buller found, it can help to find a community of other women experiencing the same complications. After searching hashtags on Instagram, she discovered she was far from alone. Being a new mom can be isolating, even more so when you don’t feel 100%. Finding support is so important.
It’s been seven years since my last surgical birth, and my scar is still numb to the touch. My abs still feel strange to me, though they aren’t separated, and the bone between my breasts aches on occasion. I also have an umbilical hernia resulting from my last pregnancy not large enough to require repair, but definitely large enough to annoy me when I go too hard at the gym. I rarely discuss these things in the open, but when I do, I’m often met with a chorus of “me too’s” from fellow moms. Which makes me wonder — why don’t we speak out more if so many of us are having these things happen?
I don’t have the answer to that, but Buller is right on the money in searching for others to commiserate with in her search for relief. As of now, there’s no cure for her condition, but at least now she’s done suffering in silence. Her reaching out for help can be a lesson to all of us hiding our strange post-pregnancy conditions when a little support could go a long way toward feeling better.