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February 20, 2024

February 7, 2024

The Importance of Pelvic Floor Health: Why Moms Suffer in Silence and When to Seek Help

E:
211
with
Carine Carmy
Co-Founder & CEO of The Origin Way

What You'll Learn

  • The Underrepresentation of Women’s Health
  • Why Pelvic Floor Health Matters for Everyone
  • The Stigma Around Pelvic Floor Health
  • Other Reasons Moms Avoid Seeking Support for Pelvic Floor Health
  • The Long-Term Effects of Pelvic Floor Health Concerns
  • How to Take Control of Your Pelvic Floor Health

Do you struggle with your pelvic floor health? Recent research suggests that at least 32% of women experience pelvic floor concerns—yet only about half of them seek support

Many moms experience painful sex, incontinence, or other symptoms. But accessing the healthcare you need isn’t always easy. 

Part of the problem is a lack of education and awareness around female bodies and reproductive health. Part of it is a social stigma issue. Part of it is a medical system that doesn’t prioritize women’s health. And part of it is a belief that we should put our own health needs on the backburner.

The result is that moms are coping with pelvic floor health concerns that can and should be addressed. 

We often suffer in silence, believing that our issues are normal or just part of the motherhood experience. But the truth is that when left untreated, pelvic floor issues can worsen and lead to an impact on our wellbeing and quality of life. Most pelvic floor health concerns can be addressed and helped, if we know when and how to seek support. 

This week on The Momwell Podcast, I’m joined by Carine Carmy, Co-Founder & CEO of Origin—a pelvic floor therapy startup—to discuss why pelvic floor health is so important and how moms can access the care they need. 

The Underrepresentation of Women’s Health

Carine came into the pelvic floor health space after experiencing struggles with her own body. After years of suffering with painful sex and receiving no answers, no referrals to physical therapy, and no real treatment options, she connected with an old friend who was practicing pelvic floor therapy. 

This led her down a path toward answers for her own health, and showed her that there was a gap in awareness and education around health care for women. 

Carine pointed out that while the research around pelvic floor health is very clear, that knowledge isn’t being shared with the general public. On top of the lack of awareness, access to providers is an issue, especially when you factor in networks, insurance, and benefits. 

For moms, the lack of knowledge about pelvic floor concerns has a very real physical impact. Many moms have reached out to me to express frustration that they were never prepared for the physical aspects of birth—how to push, what tearing would mean for them, or what the pathway to recovery should actually look like. 

For moms, the lack of knowledge about pelvic floor concerns has a very real physical impact.

And because our bodies go through such a big change after birth, we often don’t even realize that our issues are a sign that something is wrong—it’s far more common to believe that incontinence or painful sex are just a part of life we must adjust to. 

It’s not uncommon to hear moms say they can no longer run, sneeze, or even laugh without experiencing pain or incontinence. Yet they often don’t realize that these issues can be healed. 

Carine said that we should be empowering women with knowledge of vaginal anatomy before they even give birth and creating a system for regular check-ins on their physical health after. 

Why Pelvic Floor Health Matters for Everyone

In many ways, the lack of awareness regarding pelvic floor health connects to and mirrors the trajectory of maternal mental health awareness. Moms have been conditioned to believe that their concerns are not valid, that they should put their needs last, and that they should just accept what’s happening to them. 

Just like with mental health, the system around pelvic floor health is beginning to change. Moms are breaking the stigma and learning how and when to seek support. 

But the medical system still has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to women’s health, both from a public awareness and a medical access standpoint. 

Pelvic floor health isn’t just a concern for women—one in nine men also struggle. 

Carine pointed out however that pelvic floor health isn’t just a concern for women—in fact, one in nine men also have pelvic floor dysfunction. The lack of understanding goes beyond just a women’s health issue. 

It ties into a taboo about reproductive and sexual health in general. We’re still largely uncomfortable with sexual discussion, even often referring to our own body parts with incorrect words or avoiding talking about them with our children. But if we want to change the way we view our health, we have to destigmatize these topics. 

Carine said that the pelvic floor is the center of the body—and as a result, it can impact so many other areas, from tension in our jaws to our lymphatic system. It has to do with so much more than sexual health. So it’s important to be intentional about the way we speak and the way we address pelvic floor health in general. 

In recent years, people have started embracing the conversation around pelvic floor health—and Carine wants that to continue. She believes that we need to respect pelvic floor health, take it seriously on a small and large scale, and share clinical evidence-based information about it. 

The Stigma Around Pelvic Floor Health

There are many reasons why we tend to avoid seeking help for pelvic floor health, starting with the sexual stigma. It can feel uncomfortable to have someone checking on parts of our body that we’ve associated with shame or something taboo. And even if we don’t have that same association, it’s common to feel awkward or uncomfortable with vaginal examinations. 

We also often lack the language to even discuss our concerns or pinpoint where they lie when it comes to the pelvic floor. 

But the more we are aware of our own bodies and our own anatomy, the easier it is to feel comfortable discussing our sexual and reproductive health, understanding what’s normal and what’s not, and seeking support. 

Carine pointed out that there is a spectrum of comfort that ties into cultural factors, the way we were raised, and our own experiences. Past traumas, such as sexual assault or traumatic birth, can also play a role. 

We need to trust our providers if we’re going to discuss intimate details or concerns with them.

She said that it’s important for providers to be intentional and create a comforting and safe environment that allows people to feel secure and cared for. We need to trust our providers if we’re going to discuss intimate details or concerns with them. 

Carine believes that providers have a big responsibility. They aren’t just lifting up the experience of individuals—they are trying to remove centuries and shame, stigma, trauma, and medical mistreatment of women. 

Other Reasons Moms Avoid Seeking Support for Pelvic Floor Health

Other reasons why we might not seek support for our pelvic floor health include generational pressure or patterns. Our parents and grandparents might have suffered in silence through these issues and never communicated with us about our bodies, reinforcing that same pattern in us. 

It’s also common to take on a level of self-blame for pelvic floor health issues, from blaming ourselves for having sex to feeling that our weight is the problem. 

Carine believes that providers can help with these concerns as well, by encouraging open, judgment-free conversations, and ensuring patients that they are not at fault, and that there is always a path to healing. 

A lack of access due to the medical system also presents a barrier to pelvic floor health. Sometimes specialists or insurance companies will require referrals—but general practitioners might not be willing to refer if they are carrying internal biases or a lack of understanding about the nuances of the pelvic floor. 

Without referrals or insurance, it can become unaffordable for many people in the United States to access care. 

Carine pointed out that the system needs to provide for pelvic floor care on a large scale. In the meantime, startups like Origin, which provides virtual care as well and has locations across the US, can make it easier to access care. 

The Long-Term Effects of Pelvic Floor Health Concerns

Another issue related to pelvic floor health is the way we care for our bodies after birth. While many cultures value and care for moms in the postpartum period, this isn’t typically the case in North America. 

We’re often parenting in silos, with a lack of support or community. Moms are often quickly pushed back into work or expected to bounce right back into daily life rather than taking time to rest, recover, and heal. 

So when they do experience pelvic floor health concerns, they often get swept aside or overlooked. Even seeking an appointment requires a great deal of mental work, planning, coordinating childcare, and navigating referrals, benefits, and insurance. 

Carine said that while motherhood is often an important entry point into pelvic floor health treatment and recovery, we also need to remember that pelvic floor isn’t just related to birth. We need to be supporting whole body needs through every stage of life, connecting to our core and learning how to strengthen and support our pelvic floor muscles. 

These issues can start even in teenagers. They can become worse in the postpartum period or at hormonal shifts like menopause. And without treatment and care, Carine said that issues that were at one point minor can severely impact our body function as we age. 

It’s never too late for a deep connection to your own body or muscle repair and healing. 

But if we struggle with pelvic health floor concerns, even if we have carried these issues in silence for years, it’s never too late to get started. It’s never too late for a deep connection to your own body or muscle repair and healing. 

How to Take Control of Your Pelvic Floor Health

The first step to taking control of your pelvic floor health is education. Understanding what’s happening in your body and what signs to look for is important. Origin offers free educational content as well as a quiz to help determine whether it’s time to seek support. 

Carine said that knowledge about your body can be empowering and give you a starting point to have conversations with a pelvic floor specialist. 

If you are experiencing symptoms such as pain or discomfort during sex or incontinence, it’s never too soon to see a provider. Look for a licensed provider who specializes in pelvic floor health and physical therapy. 

Finally, remember that your physical health matters. You matter. Many of us have not been taught to be open and aware of our bodies or to prioritize our needs. But unlearning the beliefs that keep us from taking care of ourselves is important. 

If you need help learning how to prioritize yourself or advocate for your needs, our mom therapists can help! Book a FREE 15 minute virtual consult today.

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Tags:

Pelvic floor, Physio, Women’s health, Postpartum

Stage:

Postpartum, Motherhood

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OUR GUEST

Carine Carmy
Co-Founder & CEO of The Origin Way

Carine is Co-Founder and CEO at Origin. Carine's passion for women's health started in her early twenties when she experienced painful sex for years and was unable to find treatment that worked. Carine is an avid writer and has been published in MIT Technology Review, Forbes, Ad Age, and PSFK and regularly contributes to Medium. She’s a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, and has conducted research on science, technology, and economic trends for The Milken Institute and Center for Bioethics at Penn.

Erica Djossa
Erica Djossa
PMH-C | Founder of Momwell
Erica is the founder of Momwell, providing educational resources and virtual therapy for moms. She is a mom of three boys and a registered psychotherapist. Erica’s work has been featured in the Toronto Star, Breakfast Television, Scary Mommy, Medium, Pop Sugar, and Romper. how they want it.
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