I once peed my pants at work.
Seriously. I peed my pants in the middle of a treatment session.
I'm not talking about a little dribble of urine. I'm talking full-on, soaked ring around my rear-end, walk-of-shame waddle back to the office peed my pants.
Here's the deal. I was 8 months pregnant and working with a dear woman on her activities of daily living. During this particular session, we were working on toilet transfers when I sneezed and simultaneously soaked my britches. I "snissed." (Are you with me?)
Thank my lucky stars, the lady I was working with had moderate-stage dementia and was sweet as can be. "Mrs. Williams, I've had an accident and need to run home. I'm going to have one of the nurses come and help you back to your bed."
"Okay, sweetie. Are you gonna be alright?"
Eight months pregnant. Peeing your pants is normal, right? Nope.
Nope. Nope. Nope.
Do you know what else isn't 'normal?' Leaking urine when you run or workout. Losing control of your bladder after having children. Pain with sex. Pain when you insert a tampon. Pain with a gynecological exam. Straining during bowel movements. Losing the ability to hold back gas.
On the rare chance that we actually talk about these experiences, our well-meaning fellow women and/or healthcare practitioners may respond with, "Oh, that's normal." But what they actually mean is: "That's not uncommon."
Not uncommon does not equal normal.
Not uncommon is not a reason to accept the inconvenience, the embarrassment, or the pain.
Not uncommon is not a reason to not seek intervention for dysfunction that significantly affects your daily life.
Here are 3 things you can do for your pelvic floor today:
Appreciate the role of the pelvic floor
The bowl-shaped muscles that make up the pelvic floor, along with their bony structures and connective tissues, don't get much time in the spot light. I suppose I understand. Their functions--bladder and bowel management and sexual participation--are some of our most personal and intimate activities of daily living, and can be difficult to discuss with even our most trusted companions and healthcare practitioners.
But...here's the thing. The pelvic floor is responsible for more than those three activities of daily living. The pelvic floor also (1.) provides support to our pelvic organs and (2.) acts as an important part of our 'core' muscles to provide stability as we walk, run, sit-down, lie down, laugh with friends, sing in church, take care of our babies, and do our jobs.
Our pelvic floor muscles are not just responsible for the intimate functions of peeing, pooping, and sex. The pelvic floor muscles are essential to each and every movement we complete during the day.
We need our pelvic floor muscles to work well. Our quality of life depends on it.
2. Get real about the health of your pelvic floor.
Is your pelvic floor doing what it's support to do? Is it allowing the voluntary control of your bladder and bowel functions? Are you able to painlessly participate in and enjoy sex? Is your pelvic floor properly supporting your organs?
Write down any concerns you have. The good news is that you may be able to improve the underlying dysfunction that is causing the concerns you have. You may not have to accept the inconvenience, the embarrassment, or the pain that has accompanied what you previously thought was 'normal.' But your healthcare team needs to know about your concerns before they can administer the care you need.
3. Be candid about any concerns you have with your healthcare team.
Girlfriend. I'm talking to you. I know you. I am you.
"I'll make an appointment to discuss that the next time I get a day off."
"I'll remember to ask my OBGYN that question during my next wellness exam...in 10 months."
"This will probably go away...right? I just don't have time to go in for that right now."
"I'll give it a few months and see if I'm still having this problem...then I'll make an appointment."
Stop that. Make time for yourself. Advocate for yourself. Be forthcoming and honest with your physician about your needs. They are there for you. If you feel pelvic floor therapy may help, consider specifically asking your physician for this non-invasive and not-medication-based treatment method. Or, call a pelvic floor therapist yourself.
If you've previously discussed a concern with a healthcare provider and were told your experience was "normal," consider bringing the issue up again. Because remember, your issue may not be uncommon, but not uncommon does not equal normal.
Live today. Live better tomorrow. Inspire others to do the same.
Your (pelvic floor) OT,