But please remember that whilst these problems are common, they are not normal, and there are solutions out there for you.
Periods have always been secret women’s business. So much so that one in five women suffer from period pain, living off painkillers month to month, and never really informed of the root cause of their pain. Unfortunately one in 10 women suffer from endometriosis, which can only be diagnosed and removed with laparoscopic surgery.
Period pain points to a hormonal imbalance involving oestrogen dominance and low progesterone. It can be reduced and eliminated through dietary and lifestyle changes, such as reducing stress, eating more B-vitamins and vitamin C, and eating less refined sugar. Pelvic and abdominal physiotherapy can also be very helpful, not only for period pain, but also for spotting and irregular periods.
Bladder and Bowel Leaks
Because so many women accidentally wet themselves after having children, women think it’s normal and put up with it. And while bladder leakage is spoken about amongst girlfriends, accidental pooping and wind control issues are a silent struggle for one in eight mums.
There’s no need to recoil from the sight of a trampoline or avoid the aerobics sessions at your gym. Research shows doing regular pelvic floor strengthening exercises can put a stop to those embarrassing leaks.
Pelvic Organ Prolapse
If you’ve given birth, chances are you could have a prolapsed bladder, uterus or rectum. Prolapse is when one or more of these organs sags down in your pelvis, so if you notice things look a little loose and stretched down there, or maybe you’ve noticed a bulge, it’s probably prolapse.
If you do have prolapse, you’re not alone; it affects at least 30 per cent of women, and 50 per cent of those who’ve had a forceps birth. Symptoms of prolapse include leaking, a slow stream, lower back pain, lower abdominal pain and feelings of heaviness or dragging in the pelvis.
See a women’s health physiotherapist, as she can do a vaginal check-up, teach you pelvic floor exercises and fit you for a support device called a pessary, to push things back up. Don’t worry, pessaries are safe, sterile and pain-free; in fact you won’t even feel it’s in there (kind of like a tampon).
LISTEN: Mia Freedman has a mirena. And she wants to tell us all about it (post continues after audio…)
Sex is meant to be pleasurable, but around 20% of women find it a real pain. The problem is overactive pelvic floor muscles. That’s right, forget weak pelvic floor muscles, these bad girls can get tight and cramped. Some women can’t even have sex at all, in a condition called vaginismus.
Great news ladies, women’s health physiotherapy is the solution. Your local friendly physio can show you how to relax and stretch these muscles using the help of vaginal dilators, and if you’re up for it, your physio can get into those vaginal muscles and release them for you. It might seem daunting but it really works!
Also known as vaginal wind, or in cruder circles “vaginal farts”, queefing tops the list on embarrassing women’s health issues, especially when it happens during yoga or during sex. Air can build up inside the vagina, and when released, makes that distinct awkward sound.
Women who have pelvic organ prolapse are more likely to experience vaginal wind, because there’s more space for air to build up and release. Those pelvic floor strengthening exercises can come in handy to tighten your vaginal area and reduce the chances of queefing.
Women who have an overactive pelvic floor are also more likely to queef, especially during yoga, pilates or sex. Chronically holding onto those muscles can release air when the muscles are stretched. In these cases, it’s important to let go and relax the pelvic floor. Seeing a women’s health physiotherapist to release those muscles is your best answer to this embarrassing problem.
Heba Shaheed is the co-founder of The Pelvic Expert, where she provides online exercise, nutrition and pelvic floor physiotherapy programs for mothers, pregnant women, and women with pelvic pain and endometriosis. Heba has over 7 years experience in women’s health physiotherapy, nutrition and exercise. You can follow her on her website, Instagram and Facebook.
Want more real talk on the health issues that matter to women? Click here.
Or if you’re after a juicy debrief on sex and relationships, get the Prude and the Porn Star podcast in your ears.