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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

What Our Patients Have to Say

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Testimonial by M.N., age 28

A personal journey and testimonial from one of my patients:

I was diagnosed with vaginismus 4 years ago. I never heard of such medical condition until after I got married. At first my husband and I didn't know what to do, we didn't know what the issues were or how to overcome it. Being born and raised in Armenia and being Christian I wasn't that open about talking to sex with others and so it wasn't easy to seek help. But eventually I went to an Ob-Gyn and luckily she knew about the medical condition (not many doctors know). She referred me to a physical therapist and I couldn't believe it and thought it's something I can handle myself. I ordered a kit from vaginismus.com and started practicing with dilators. There was some small progress but wasn't much helpful.

Read more: Testimonial by M.N., age 28

Testimonial by J.B.

My husband and I were having problems with painful intercourse. My therapist recommended that I go and get a pelvic floor evaluation from a physical therapist. Having never been treated by a physical therapist, I wondered how this really was going to help me. My husband who is a physician was very supportive and agreed that a PT evaluation would be a great idea. So i made the appointment and was blown away by what I learned. I had no idea that pelvic floor muscles could get tight and have trigger points just like any other muscle in the body. I'm a massage therapist and very familiar with tight muscles, and this new thought really amazed me. Heather's program to help relax and strengthen these muscles made such a difference. I can say that I am 100% pain free during intercourse now. Yippee! Going to the PT appointments and doing the at-home exercises was definitely a discipline, but it's 100% worth it! The rewards are amazing.

-- J.B.

Testimonial by Julie T.

Femina PT (née Fusion Wellness & Physical Therapy) has honestly changed my life. Before receiving treatment at Femina, I was going doctor to doctor to try and find the answer to my pelvic pain. It has taken me YEARS to find someone that can help fix this. It wasn't until my gynecologist recommended your clinic that I finally felt relief. My pelvic pain is almost gone, and granted I still have a lot more to work on with Laureen (my PT), my original problem is nearly cured. I am so grateful to her.

What is even better is she gave me practical exercises to do at home that were not tedious and provided instant (and lasting) relief. Although I mainly work with Laureen, my interaction with the owner (Heather) has been great. She is very generous, kind, and committed to her business.

It hurts to know there are women out there suffering who will never know or have the opportunity to work with women like Laureen and Heather because this issue is hardly talked about and this field is so rare. I hope more doctors and physical therapists see the value in this work and can relieve more woman of their pain.

-- Julie T., 12/4/16 via Yelp!

Testimonial by Amanda W.

Heather's unique physical therapy program literally changed my life! After years of struggling with vaginismus, a condition that made it impossible for me to have intercourse and very difficult to use tampons without pain, a gynecologist referred me to Heather. I was nervous for my first appointment, but Heather's professional and friendly demeanor put me at ease. She did a great job explaining each technique she was using to help my muscles relax. Heather uses a combination of internal and external stretches and exercises to relax the pelvic floor and build muscle strength. Her specially developed home program helped me quickly recover from an issue that seemed insurmountable before meeting Heather. She was optimistic about my progress and incredibly encouraging. Less than 6 months after my first session, I was able to have pain-free sex for the first time in my life! If you are suffering from vaginismus or any other pelvic floor issues, I highly recommend making an appointment with Heather and reading her book!

-- Amanda W., 2/15/16 via Yelp!

Testimonial by Amanda W.

Heather's unique physical therapy program literally changed my life! After years of struggling with vaginismus, a condition that made it impossible for me to have intercourse and very difficult to use tampons without pain, a gynecologist referred me to Heather. I was nervous for my first appointment, but Heather's professional and friendly demeanor put me at ease. She did a great job explaining each technique she was using to help my muscles relax. Heather uses a combination of internal and external stretches and exercises to relax the pelvic floor and build muscle strength. Her specially developed home program helped me quickly recover from an issue that seemed insurmountable before meeting Heather. She was optimistic about my progress and incredibly encouraging. Less than 6 months after my first session, I was able to have pain-free sex for the first time in my life! If you are suffering from vaginismus or any other pelvic floor issues, I highly recommend making an appointment with Heather and reading her book!

-- Amanda W., 2/15/16 via Yelp!

Testimonial by R.S.

I wanted to thank you so much for helping me get through something I thought I may never be able to. We have achieved pain-free intercourse and this has really solidified our marriage. We are so grateful to you for all the work you do! Thank you!!

-- R.S.

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