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Pelvic Floor Dysfunction | Image Courtesy of Le Minh Phuong via Unsplash
Pelvic Floor Dysfunction | Image Courtesy of Le Minh Phuong via Unsplash

First some facts about pelvic floor dysfunction:

  • Nearly one in two women experience painful sex.
  • One in three women suffers from urinary incontinence.
  • 40% of all women and 50% of childbearing women have pelvic organ prolapse.

Because I’m a fan of scientific data, this isn’t the first time you’ve seen the truth by the numbers in this space.

Rarely, though, do I get to talk about a ‘study of many studies’ like the one published in Sexual Medicine Reviews.

Here’s an unsurprising conclusion:

Millions of women worldwide are impacted by pelvic floor dysfunction.”

The medical community has a collective term for all the conditions I mentioned and many more – Pelvic Floor Dysfunction (PFD). The researchers on this team weren’t interested in breaking new ground (at least, not with this article). Their focus was on the very thing that keeps me motivated professionally and personally – the effect of pelvic floor dysfunction in ALL its forms on a woman’s sex life, and the medical interventions most likely to help.

Keep reading for my take on some of their key takeaways.

PFD has been shown to have a negative impact on women’s social, physical, sexual, and psychological well-being.” 

World Health Organization studies estimate sexual dysfunction affects 30-50% of women at some point in life. These researchers found the number rises to 50-83% in women with pelvic floor disease. However, they noted, “personal shame and social taboos still prevent open discussion on the topic”. In my years of practice, I’ve seen (and successfully treated) many different types of PFD; yet the one thing almost all my patients have in common is the belief that they’re alone in their struggle and fundamentally flawed.

If you suffer from any form of pelvic floor dysfunction, you aren’t broken; our culture is. Your problem isn’t in your head, it’s in your muscles (or your fascia, or the nerves, or ligaments – either way, I GOT YOU!). And the point of naming it isn’t to label you; it’s to improve your social, physical, sexual, and psychological quality of life.

Despite the high incidence of pelvic floor dysfunction… it is clear that more research is required; training of doctors in this field is also a priority.” 

Among the data were national surveys in the United States and the United Kingdom that revealed only 22% of gynecologists regularly screen women for sexual dysfunction and 23% never do. Their biggest barriers? Lack of time and training. I’ve met (and educated) many of these doctors, and I’ve treated thousands of their patients. If your gynecologist doesn’t ask you about your sex life, tell them about it – especially if you have concerns or problems. If they can’t provide solid, medically-based follow-up, and especially if they tell you it’s all in your head, it’s time to find a new doctor.

Better yet, call a pelvic health physical therapist that specializes in female sexual dysfunction.

Why?

Pelvic floor muscular training has been shown to improve sexual desire, performance, and the ability to achieve orgasm… reduce incontinence and increase sexual satisfaction.” 

The research team found solid clinical evidence of all those benefits and more, even though pelvic floor physical therapy research is still limited compared to the data on surgery and other approaches to treating pelvic floor dysfunction. (They also concluded that most of the surgical studies focused on anatomical fixes more than increased sexual function.)

One more time – pelvic floor muscles are muscles. There’s no better expert than a physical therapist, and no physical therapist would recommend surgery as a first response to muscle issues anywhere else in the body. I’ve used pelvic floor physical therapy to treat countless cases of pelvic floor dysfunction without surgery; I’ve even used it to help correct problems caused by unnecessary surgery. And my focus is always on sexual function and well-being since that’s why most of my patients seek me out in the first place.

Treating your pelvic floor dysfunction

If you’ve been diagnosed with any type of pelvic floor dysfunction – or if you struggle with painful sex, pelvic pain, or incontinence – Femina PT can help.  We’ve been at the forefront of women’s and pelvic health physical therapy for years, and we’re always on top of the latest research in the field. Most importantly, we’re committed to helping you have the fulfilling, pain-free sex life – and total life – you deserve.

 

References

Verbeek M., Hayward L. 2019. Pelvic Floor Dysfunction And Its Effect On Quality Of Sexual Life. Sexual Medicine Reviews 7:4  559-64

More Great Products We Love

Beating Endo by Iris Kerin Orbuch, MD and Amy Stein, DPT

From two of the world’s leading experts in endometriosis comes an essential, first-of-its kind book that unwraps the mystery of the disease and gives women the tools they need to reclaim their lives from it. 

Approximately one out of every 10 women has endometriosis, an inflammatory disease that causes chronic pain, limits life’s activities, and may lead to infertility. Despite the disease’s  prevalence, the average woman may suffer for a decade or more before receiving an accurate diagnosis. Once she does, she’s often given little more than a prescription for pain killers and a referral for the wrong kind of surgery. Beating Endo arms women with what has long been missing—even within the medical community—namely, cutting-edge knowledge of how the disease works and what the endo sufferer can do to take charge of her fight against it.

Leading gynecologist and endometriosis specialist Dr. Iris Kerin Orbuch and world-renowned pelvic pain specialist and physical therapist Dr. Amy Stein have long partnered with each other and with other healthcare practitioners to address the disease’s host of co-existing conditions—which can include pelvic floor muscle dysfunction, gastrointestinal ailments, painful bladder syndrome, central nervous system sensitization—through a whole-mind/whole-body approach.

Now, Beating Endo formalizes the multimodal program they developed, offering readers an anti-inflammatory lifestyle protocol that incorporates physical therapy, nutrition, mindfulness, and environment to systematically addresses each of the disease’s co-conditions on an ongoing basis up to and following excision surgery. This is the program that has achieved successful outcomes for their patients; it is the program that works to restore health, vitality, and quality of life to women with endo.

No more “misdiagnosis roulette” and no more limits on women’s lives: Beating Endo puts the tools of renewed health in the hands of those whose health is at risk.

What Our Patients Have to Say

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Testimonial by Jackie W.

I was in multiple car accidents a decade ago, and I have been to many physical therapists through the years without success. They found the root of my lower back pain problems and after nearly a decade of barely being able to walk I finally can again without pain. They are also the best pelvic floor pts and the only ones who found the connection between my pelvic floor and lower back problems. If you need help with physical pain, they are your answer.

-- Jackie W., 1/19/17 via Yelp!

Testimonial by S.H., age 24

I just wanted to thank you for everything you've done for me for the past 19 months. I literally could not have reached my goals without you and your practice. You gave me the courage to keep moving forth with my treatment no matter how afraid and anxious I was. You were always there to answer questions and made this whole process so much easier than I expected it to be.

It's because of you that my marriage is on the right track, that I can get pregnant and that this part of my life is finally over. I really feel that Fusion Wellness is a team of people you can call family and are there to root for you and cheer you on until you reach your goals. There is nothing better than knowing I accomplished this with you guys by my side and as calmly and patiently as I needed. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for always being there and helping me reach my goals.

S.H., age 24

Testimonial by Y.L. (mom of 2)

After having my second baby via C-section I searched for months to try to find help for my lower back pain and separated abdominal muscles. I finally came across Heather Jeffcoat via a mommy blog. I reached out to her via email and set my first appointment. My first appointment went amazing … she listened to what my symptoms, check my separation and explained to me in detail what the next steps would be. Not only did my abdominal separation go from 3 to about 1 -1/2 but my back has pain has significantly reduced. I’m personally recommending all my mommy friends to Heather!

Y.L. (mom of 2)

Testimonial by Jamie M.

I have been going to see Heather for a while now, and I can't tell you enough how much she has improved my quality of life. Heather specializes in issues like pelvic floor, but I see her for other orthopedic issues.

I have a lot of chronic joint pain and dysfunction issues (back, hips, neck) that require that have ongoing physical therapy maintenance. The effects of my problem joints/areas overlap and interconnect with each other in complex ways, so helping me requires really having a complete understanding of the entire skeletal and muscular system. Pain does not always appear where the problem actually is, the human body is a twisty, many-layered puzzle. I have an exercise program I do at home and I am very functional, but there are just something things I need a PT to help me out with.

Read more: Testimonial by Jamie M.

Testimonial by T.C.

While pregnant with my twins, Heather took care with keeping me on my feet and pain free. She saved my back, my sanity and the holidays! I would recommend her to every “mom” looking to stay on her feet during pregnancy and post-partum.

-- T.C.

Testimonial by S.B.

As someone who suffered the debilitating physical and emotional effects of vaginismus (as well as a complicated history of back injuries) for more than 15 years, I thought a "normal" life was just a fantasy. Then I found Heather.

Read more: Testimonial by S.B.

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