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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – pelvic pain isn’t in your head, it’s in your muscles.

But could it also be in your birth control?

That’s one of many questions a team of scientists from the European Society of Sexual Medicine set out to answer recently by taking a comprehensive look at the current body of research on how hormonal contraception can affect female sexuality.

Sadly, the first takeaway is no surprise. We need more research – a lot more. And of all the different facets of female sexuality they examined, pelvic floor and urological symptoms got the least attention from the scientific community.

But here’s what they do know for sure. Your “hormonal status influences all the tissues in the pelvic region, including bladder, urethra, and muscles”. And the limited amount of research available suggests that certain kinds of hormonal birth control leave women at increased risk of painful bladder syndrome, urinary incontinence, pelvic floor inflammation, and frequent UTIs. They can also decrease lubrication – a factor in painful sex that also contributes to a number of more serious conditions like vulvar vestibulitis or vulvovaginal atrophy.

But don’t ditch your pills, or rush to get your implant removed just yet. If your birth control method is working well for you and your partner, stick with it. If it isn’t – the right mindset and the right specialists can help.

If you’re contemplating making a switch, these three steps can make a big difference.

Treat the pain first. If you’re experiencing pelvic pain or urinary incontinence, schedule a consultation with a qualified women’s health physical therapist. Both conditions have many, and sometimes multiple, causes. Your birth control might have something to do with it, or it might not. Either way, pelvic pain is treatable; and getting to the root cause of your pain is a crucial part of what we do. That knowledge is a big help to your doctor, too.

Explore your options. The days of one size fits all birth control pills are over; contraception can and should be customized for every woman. The European research team wisely encourages providers to take into account a woman’s specific needs and expect them to change over time. Ideally, that begins with a big picture assessment of your psychological, physical, and relational needs and risk factors; and it ends with empowering and supporting your decision from among a wide variety of birth control options. But you may have to push for that. Even good doctors are used to simply writing the prescription that works for most of their patients. Let them know from the beginning – or starting today – that you’re the team expert on your body.

Insist on follow up. The European researchers suggest a three month check in with your provider after starting or switching contraceptives, especially if something isn’t working for you. Hormonal contraception isn’t the only form of birth control; but if you’re really committed to it, your provider can offer a different hormone combination, a different dose, or a non-oral medication (like a vaginal ring or implant) before recommending non-hormonal solutions.

Hormonal birth control works for many women; but there’s only one you. If you experience pelvic pain or other side effects while you’re taking it, don’t suffer in silence. The whole point of contraception is giving women the sex life they deserve. Make sure the one you choose works for your whole body, as well as your mind and relationship.

Citation

Both S., Lew-Starowicz M., Luria M., et al 2019. Hormonal Contraception and Female Sexuality: Position Statements from the European Society of Sexual Medicine. The Journal Of Sexual Medicine 16:11 1681-91.

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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 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 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 Ann V.

I wish i could give this place 10 stars!! 
I have been suffering from vaginismus for 5 years and never found the cure to it. I had seen an ob/gyn and he diagnosed me with vaginismus and told me i needed a surgery to cure my condition, which i refused to do. He also referred me to a PT that he works with, i had given them multiple calls and they never responded back to me, so i started searching yelp for another PT. I am SO HAPPY I found Heather's office! I was working with Laureen, and with her guidance and techniques i was able to be cured from vaginismus in only 2 1/2 short months!!! I couldn't believe how quickly their program worked for me! I am forever grateful and thankful from Heather, and Laureen! They are the absolute best at what they do!

Read more: Testimonial by Ann V.

Testimonial by S.P., Age 26

I would like to start off by thanking Heather Jeffcoat for educating me and curing me of Vaginismus. I had been married for almost three years before I was referred to Heather. I never knew about Vaginismus until almost three years into my marriage. I knew something was wrong when I went on my honeymoon and came back a Virgin. I had always imagined how magical my first night would be but boy was I wrong.

Read more: Testimonial by S.P., Age 26

Testimonial by S.P., Age 26

I would like to start off by thanking Heather Jeffcoat for educating me and curing me of Vaginismus. I had been married for almost three years before I was referred to Heather. I never knew about Vaginismus until almost three years into my marriage. I knew something was wrong when I went on my honeymoon and came back a Virgin. I had always imagined how magical my first night would be but boy was I wrong.

Read more: Testimonial by S.P., Age 26

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