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Resetting Pelvic Heath Goals | Image Courtesy of Peter Conlan via Unsplash
Resetting Pelvic Heath Goals | Image Courtesy of Peter Conlan via Unsplash

SMART Pelvic Health Goals

As we enter 2022, the new year marks a time of both reflection on the previous year and forward-thinking and planning for the year ahead. That’s why the beginning of the year is a great time to reset your pelvic health goals! Here at Femina Physical Therapy, we like to use the S.M.A.R.T. goal setting with frequent review of progress toward these goals. S.M.A.R.T. goals offer a simple and proven method of creating and evaluating goals that are reachable, specific and achievable. The S.M.A.R.T. acronym stands for:

  • Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
  • Measurable (to help motivate and track your progress).
  • Achievable (attainable).
  • Relevant (reasonable, results-based, unique to you).
  • Time-bound (time-based, time-limited).

When creating your list of pelvic health goals, keep in mind what is relevant and meaningful to you. Visualize what achieving your goals might look like, how will it feel, what will your reward to yourself be? It is important to keep these critical aspects in mind when creating goals in order to determine if they are reasonable, achievable, and meaningful! Plus, a reward for achieving our goals keeps us motivated to push through challenges and roadblocks along the way.

Below, I explain key areas of nutrition, hydration, and physical activity that have a positive impact on our pelvic (and overall) health, and give you examples of S.M.A.R.T. goals for each.

Nutrition: Pelvic Health Goals: Nutrition | Image Courtesy of Tangerine Newt via Unsplash

According to Harvard Health Publishing, eating a balanced diet that includes colorful veggies and fruits, whole grains, good quality sources of protein, and healthy fats, while avoiding added sugars or processed foods improves gut health, helps maintain a healthy weight, and also can support our well-being. It’s also important to get FIBER! Make sure you get an adequate intake of soluble and insoluble fiber, as this is important in maintaining a healthy gut. Soluble fiber absorbs water during digestion to bulk the stool. Insoluble fiber promotes the movement of intestinal contents and does not absorb water as it moves through the digestive tract. Aim to get about 25-30 grams of fiber per day; 25% of this (about 6-8 grams) should come from soluble fiber, the rest from insoluble fiber.

So, now that we know that it’s important to eat healthy for pelvic health, how do we make a S.M.A.R.T. goal out of this? An example could be: “I will eat a snack of rolled oats with dates at least 6 days of the week in order to get 6 grams of soluble fiber to improve my gut health.”

Pelvic Health Goals: Hydration | Image Courtesy of Jamie Street via Unsplash Hydration:

Most of us don’t drink enough fluids every day– coupled with wearing masks makes it even more challenging to meet your daily hydration needs! Our digestive system, urinary system, skin, muscles, and joints all need appropriate amounts of fluids to function normally. When we don’t get enough fluids, our urine becomes darker and more concentrated which can exacerbate bladder pain or pelvic pain, and can contribute to constipation and straining due to hard or dry stools. Not getting enough fluids can also leave our skin, muscles, and joints thirsty too!

A simple S.M.A.R.T. goal may be just the thing to help you meet your hydration goals.

Consider this one:

"Every 2 hours while at work, I will drink 8 ounces of water or herbal tea to help my skin, joints, muscles, bladder and gut stay hydrated and healthy.”

This is about 1-liter or 32 ounces of fluids in a standard 8-hour work day. This goal would help you achieve about 50% of your average recommended daily fluid intake.

Physical Activity:

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), adults should get at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week: about 30 minutes per day at least five days per week of moderate intensity activity (like a brisk walk, housework or gardening, swimming) or 75 minutes of high-intensity activity (like HIIT workouts, jogging, road cycling), and two days per week of full-body strengthening (arms, shoulders, back, abdominals, hips/ legs) to decrease risk of chronic diseases, improve mood, and help with healthy weight management.

Pelvic Health Goals: Physical Activity | Image Courtesy of Jonathan Borba via Unsplash

Integrating physical activity most days of the week also helps improve gut health by promoting peristalsis (the wave-like contractions of the colon) which helps move digested foods through the digestive tract. This improves common pelvic health issues such as constipation and IBS as well. Short on time? The good news is that you can break-up your physical activity into ten-minute increments!

Enjoying Your (Pevlic) Health Goals!

Remember, choose a type of physical activity that you ENJOY! If you hate jogging, don’t set a goal that you’ll start jogging 5 days per week! We are much less likely to achieve a goal if we don’t like it, or aren’t motivated intrinsically to work for it.

Try this S.M.A.R.T. goal: “ I will go for a walk for 15 minutes at lunch time, and 15 minutes after dinner at least five days per week to improve my gut health, mood, and overall health.”

As you head into 2022, approach your pelvic health goals from a whole-person, whole-body approach. Start with one meaningful S.M.A.R.T. goal and work on it for at least a 30-day period to create healthy habits and see meaningful results. Re-evaluate and modify your goals along the way to track your progress, stay motivated, and modify your goals if needed!


Sources:

Peter Ducker, Management by Objectives. HarperCollins Publishers; April 1993

https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/smart-goals.htm

https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/increasing-fiber-intake

https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm

https://www.acsm.org/education-resources/trending-topics-resources/physical-activity-guidelines

What Our Patients Have to Say

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Testimonial by Rosanna R., age 35

Heather has affected my life in the MOST POSITIVE way and I am forever grateful. My husband refers to her as the "sex doctor" so you can only imagine how happy he is with my therapy outcome.

After the birth of my son I suffered from "Vaginismus", however, at the time I just thought I was broken. My "broken vagina" affected me physically but it was an emotional struggle as well. Many women in my life also suffered with pain from sex after their babies were born so I knew I wasn't alone. They told me they "just got used to it" but I couldn't see myself living that way.

Sex wasn't just painful, it was literally impossible - IT DIDNT FIT!

Read more: Testimonial by Rosanna R.,...

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 T.H.

I started seeing Heather in October 2014. For more than two years, I had been suffering from painful urinary tract infection type symptoms after my bartholins gland surgery which included constant burning and urinary frequency sensation that led to more and more painful intercourse. I had made multiple visits to internist, obgyn and urologist's offices, went through a range of treatment with UTI and bladder frequency medication that included antibiotics, vesicare, estrogen cream, but nothing worked.

Read more: Testimonial by T.H.

Testimonial by Fritzette H.

I went to Heather after the birth of my third child. It was lucky, really, that I was referred to her, because my doctor had referred me to a surgeon for a possible hysterectomy or pelvic wall rebuild. Thankfully, I went to Heather before undergoing either surgery, she was able to fix the problem. She has studied extensively in women's health--even written a book about it--and was able to diagnose my problem, suggest a course of treatment (6 weeks), and then follow through with said treatment. By the end, as she said, I was as good as gold. Boy, was it worth it! Though uncomfortable to talk about, much less write about, it is worth getting the word out there. If you have painful intercourse, especially after birth or other trauma, the treatment may be as simple as Physical Therapy (with Heather, of course). I highly recommend her.

-- Fritzette H., 3/24/16 via Yelp!

Testimonial by M.M.

A personal journey and testimonial from one of my patients:

My husband and I were married for 5 years before we were able to have intercourse due to my vaginismus. There was nothing traumatic in my past but for some reason, even though I wanted sex, I mentally avoided "that area" of my body and didn't even admit to myself that there was a problem for a long time, even though I was never able to put tampons in. Once I finally opened my eyes up to the fact that I had a problem, I had a surgery that was supposed to fix the issue.

Read more: Testimonial by M.M.

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)

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