Women's Pelvic Health
I have more conversations than I can count about women's pelvic floors.
I never realised how much I loved my pelvic floor until it was broken.
Here's what happened......
I had a baby. And then I had 2 more!
At the time I had my first baby, I was living in France, and a few weeks after my first daughter was born, after a very medicalised vaginal delivery, my OBGYN, asked me if I would like to start "re-education of the pelvic floor".......Uh whaaaat? What's that?
So basically re-education of the pelvic floor can be done a few different ways, but it generally involves either a finger or a "wand" being inserted into your vagina.
If a wand is inserted, it can provide mild electrical currents that stimulate the muscles, the idea being that it can bring tone back to the vaginal walls.
Or you may use the wand to contract your muscles around, in different sequences, and you'll be provided with real-time feed back, via a computer screen, as to how strong, and accurate your muscles are.
And this is what I did,
You can see a physiso or midwife, who will insert 1 or 2 fingers into your vagina, and give you direction about how to contract and release different muscles, and muscle groups in your vagina.
If you've had a baby, I'm sure you can imagine my response to this.
No fucking way.
No-one is coming anywhere near me! I've had waaaay too many people poking around down there as it is, the last thing I need is another examination.
Besides, we don't do that shit in New Zealand, and our women are FINE.
AND, I'm a nurse - I think I would have heard about it, if this treatment was really necessary.
So my OBGYN did a quick "squeeze my finger with your vagina muscles" test - which was unpleasant enough as it was - and then he told me, "yeah you're ok, you should be fine".
And I went on my way. Doing my pelvic floor exercises as often as I remembered........so lets just say a few times a day for about 3 days, and then I forgot about them. Until I remembered them in the middle of the night while I was breastfeeding.....but fair to say, I did them fore a little while / whenever I remembered / not that much.
Fast Forward 18 months
I was at a new friends place, not even thinking I jumped onto the tramp with my now toddler, it was the first tramp I'd been on since having a baby, and on my first jump I - wet my pants - and not just a dribble or a few drops, I'm talking wet. my. pants. I was horrified. I was so wet - It was so unexpected - and I had to change my pants RIGHT NOW.
Obviously I don't bring a spare change of clothes with me everywhere I go so I had to borrow my new friends pants! Lucky for me she was a fellow kiwi chick, and us kiwi chicks are pretty relaxed about such things.......she asked me if I had done the "re-education" (she'd had kids in France - so she was well versed in how things went). Ugh no-way I told her, why did you??? Turns out she HAD been through the re-education process, 3 times! AND she could run without leaking, and even jump on the tramp!
I wanted that.
So after baby number 2 (another girl, born in France) I put my hand up for this re-education thing.
At 6 weeks post baby, my midwife did an assessment, to make sure I was well healed, and said I was ready to begin. WOOOHOOO!
Super nervous, I lay down on the bed, with my little baby sleeping in her capsule next to us, and the midwife put one finger inside my vagina, then she instructed me on how to do different exercises to strengthen my pelvic floor muscles.
I basically got 2 new exercises every week for 6 weeks.
I bet you didn't think there was that much you could do with your vagina ah?
At the end of the 6 weeks, I remember thinking
"I have the strongest vagina in the world".
Of course I don't. I'm pretty good - but I'm not THAT good!
I think that title belongs to this woman.....and also Kim Anarmi puts on a pretty good show too.
These are links to videos - you may want to pop in your earphones - or make sure you take a look when you're not at work or with the kids.
But maybe the true masters are the women in Asia, where this art was first developed?
Anyway. I digress.
I may not be the strongest woman in the world, but that re-education taught me more about my vagina than I had ever thought possible.
Honestly, I learned to move my body in a way I hadn't even considered!
It was life changing.
- Because I could now run and jump with confidence
- Because I felt empowered and strong in this part of my body, where I had previously felt a bit embarrassed and weird about.
- And because I felt like I was taking care of my future health - doing everything I could to make sure I didn't suffer a prolapse later in life.
- Oh and it was pretty awesome for my sex life too
Why am I writing about this.....
Because I talk about different issues around pelvic health, at least once a week with women. It may be women who are brand new to motherhood, sometimes it's with women who have a few kids and aren't so new to the game, and sometimes it's even with women who've had their kids years ago - like 20 or 40 years ago, who are still living with pelvic floor issues.
What are pelvic floor issues?
- Issues like leaking urine when laughing, or sneezing or coughing, or running, or jumping, or playing touch, or netball......
- Issues like painful sex
- Issues like not being able to have sex
- Issues like needing to pee more frequently
- Issues like vaginal prolapse, bowel prolapse, bladder prolapse, uterine prolapse
- Issues like painful urination, or bowel movements
- Issues like not being able to control your bowel or bladder
- Issues like constipation or not being able to get everything out of your bowel
- Issues like not being able to climax during sexual intimacy
- Issues like low libido
- Issues like hemorhroids
- Issues like pelvic pain
- Issues like varicose veins in your vagina or vulva
- Issues like stool stains on your knickers
- Issues like passing wind accidentally (you know as opposed to the times when you do it on purpose!)
Claire Baker , a local women's health physio says "these things are common - but not normal."
If you have any of these symptoms going on, don't assume that this is just what you have to put up with - you know, now that you're a mum - seek help.
And it's important to remember - I'm talking about mums in this article, but these issues can affect women who've never had kids, and pelvic floor dysfunction can also affect men - obviously in some different ways.
So after I had my 3rd baby who was a 3 1/2 hour delivery, weighing in at 10 pounds, I felt like something was wrong. It had been about 6 weeks, and I just felt not right "down there".
I was experiencing a few of those common - but not normal, symptoms.
This is when I met Claire Baker, a women's health physio in Tauranga. She told me I'd had a small bladder prolapse - but not to panic, because it was something I could work on.
So that's what I did. Along side working with Claire, I started doing all the exercises I'd learned in France. Which helped a lot, but I still needed more.
And that's when I found Tara O, who introduced me to the Jade Egg. Which I adore. Actually to be honest Kim was the first one to introduce me to the egg - but I just found her a little full on for me at that time in my life, and went looking for someone else I could really relax with and relate to.
Now my pelvic health isn't what it was when I was 20 - an effortless strength I didn't even think about!
It's something I continually need to keep on top of - and if I'm not doing my exercises, or using the jade egg I'll notice it. You know, because I'll pee my pants.
Just like any muscle group, if you don't exercise it, if you have poor posture (which is another way this group of muscles gets a work out) it stops working so well. BUT if you start exercising it, you can gain your strength back.
Claire tells me, it's entirely possible to help women at any point in their journey.
She also tells me it's not only about being super tight - in fact sometimes being too tight is part of the problem......
She tell's me so many things - that' I decided it would be a great idea to interview her.
So - I have a bunch of questions I'll be talking with her about, specifically regarding sexual dysfunction, and general pelvic floor health.
But if you have something you'd like to know or have me ask her - this is an opportunity for you to Send me an email
(email@example.com) or PM me on Facebook, or DM me on Instagram - OR leave a comment here in the comment section.
I'm really looking forward to talking with Claire, and helping anyone out there who might be going through some tough stuff.
It took me a long time to be able to run again after my 3rd baby, and I remember I often felt so sad, angry, and cheated about not being able to do the things I loved doing.......like on top of everything else being a mother was about - all the shitty stuff we have to endure - sleepless nights, our bodies are now a food source, our clothes don't fit anymore, hair's falling out, pimples, bleeding, sore breasts..... now I couldn't even go for a run to get out my frustration or feel better about myself, or lose some of that weight???
Luckily I can now go for a run.
But it didn't happen straight away - and it wasn't something I could "push through" - that line of thought only did more damage.
I really needed to re-learn this part of my body - after every birth - because every birth was different.
I don't have the body of 20 year old.
I have the body of a woman who's had 3 kids.
I really needed to retrain the way I moved, the exercise I prioritised, and absolutely I needed to retrain the way I thought about my body.
Our minds and bodies are not separate things - they're intimately connected and we need to support them both.
I guess I want to let you know, if you're going through any kind of pelvic floor dysfunction or sexual dysfunction - you're not alone. It's not shameful. You don't need to feel embarrassed or like there's something wrong with you. You don't need to hate your body - or be stuck.
You are more miraculous than you will ever know.
There are things you can do - Lots of things.
Here are a few ideas....
- Consult with a women's health physio - there are a couple in the Bay of Plenty, and there are Physios all over NZ who offer this kind of support
- Check out Tara O - she even has a give-away called "Quit the Leak"
- Buy a Jade Egg + join the Jade Egg Academy !
- Check out Tami Lynn Kent - she has a TED talk and books, including Wild Feminine, Mothering From Your Centre, and Wild Creative.
- You could work with Shaylee Ann - a Woman who works locally as a Hormone and Pelvic Pain Specialist
- Focus on your posture, how you stand, move and breath - engaging those core muscles on a subtle level
- Consider seeing an herbalist, naturopath or homeopath
- You might want to think about some women's coaching, counselling or seeing a psychologist
- Consider cutting out foods that can cause inflammation in your system (like sugar and dairy)
- Be gentle with yourself, don't force your body to do work it's not ready to do
- Yoni massage (vaginal massage).
- A relaxing massage just for you - do loving things for yourself.
- Think about low impact exercise like, walking, swimming, biking, yoga, pilates, reform fitness
- Pee when you need to - you're not doing your pelvic floor any favours holding it - I see you mums!
- Talk about it with a friend, or journal about it, just don't ignore it.
- Ohhh I almost forgot - talk with your doctor.......I guess I mentioned all this other stuff first because in the past, doctors haven't always been able to help me.....but it is always important to check in with them and discuss your health and wellness.
So let me know if you have any thing you want me to ask, or any topic you'd like to see covered when I chat with Claire Baker.
Let me know what your journey has been, where you're at and what's helped you?
Lets support each other as women, let's talk about a part of our body that is incredibly strong, flexible and vulnerable.