It may appear a little strange to write a blog about breathing, when it is something that we do 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and have been doing so consciously and subconsciously since we were born! However, just because breathing is automatic, it doesn’t mean that we do it effectively! Many people hold their breath without realising, they breathe into their upper chest only, or they don’t breathe in and out all the way. Being more aware of your breath and optimising the way you breathe can have a profound impact not only on your pelvic health, but your health in general.
This article is a personal story written by one of our patients (she/her) who asked if she could share her journey with Endometriosis and reflect on her experience engaging with one of our Pelvic Health Physiotherapists over the last 18 months. Her honest and powerful story will touch your heart.
Women’s & Men’s Health Physiotherapy (WMHP) exists to restore pelvic health, empowering every person to live their best life. This is our cause, our belief and what we stand for. As the physiotherapists treating, guiding and supporting you to restore your pelvic health, it is vital that we are all clear on what you would like to achieve as we embark on your journey to pelvic health.
In 2013 I gave birth to my first child who was delivered via forceps after a long labour. At the time I needed a blood transfusion and I was told I had sustained a 3rd degree tear. It was another 16 months before I was diagnosed with a bilateral levator avulsion and subsequent prolapses. As a first-time mother, I didn’t identify as having birth trauma. I didn’t even realise birth trauma was a thing.
During pregnancy, there is a large amount of pressure placed on the pelvic floor muscles. Imagine the pelvis is like a trampoline; the rim being the bones of the pelvis, the springs being the ligaments and the mat being the pelvic floor muscles. The weight of the growing baby, hormonal changes and weight gain, weaken and stretch the mat and the springs, which is exacerbated further by vaginal birth. It is well known that weakness of the pelvic floor muscles (the mat) can lead to the development of poor control of the bladder and bowel (incontinence) and pelvic organ prolapse.
So many of our patients diagnosed with a prolapse stop exercising. Exercise may exacerbate their prolapse symptoms, or they may be worried about making their prolapse worse. But exercise is so crucial to look after both physical and mental health. One of the most common questions we get from our patients with prolapse is: what type of exercise am I able to do?
Endometriosis-related pain levels are not always related to the extent of endometrial lesions. For many people, pain may not be relieved after removing the endometriosis through surgery, or hormonal treatment to suppress menstruation. Changes to the nervous system (brain, spinal cord and nerves) is one way to understand why some people don’t respond to current methods to treat their endometriosis-related pain.
The inspiration for this piece is from one of our favourite books, “Come As You Are”, by Dr Emily Nagoski. Dr Nagoski has pulled together 10 years of research into women’s sexuality, and shares an essential exploration on how female arousal, desire, autonomy, pleasure and orgasm works, and provides tools for women to create and sustain a fulfilling sex life.
A condition we often see in men and women is shy bladder syndrome (aka paruresis), a term used to describe people who find it difficult or impossible to urinate near other people. This is quite a common social phobia, secondary only to the fear of public speaking. It often begins at school, and symptoms can vary in different situations – eg. going to a public toilet where there are others around (ie school, restaurant, the MCG!) can be quite challenging for people with this condition!
Bladder leakage is a significant problem for Australian women and is an issue that needs to be taken more seriously. There are over 5 million Australians who experience bladder leakage and 80% of these are women. The physical, emotional and social impact that this can have on a woman’s life cannot be underestimated. Whilst bladder leakage is very common, it is also very treatable - pelvic floor muscle training is the number one recommended treatment world-wide.