When I say pelvic health, most women think pelvic floor. And that’s a great step forward – at least we’re actually talking about pelvic floor health. But pelvic health is so much more than your pelvic floor. It’s about your periods, sex hormones, vaginal microbiome, cervix and uterus. It’s even about your mental health – if you’re carrying around deep shame, personal trauma, anxiety or depression, it will show up in your pelvic bowl. Culturally, our approach to pelvic health is so limited; we think this area is for sex, babies, periods and paps. That’s it. But what if your pelvic health is also connected to your creativity, vitality and empowerment? It’s time to rethink pelvic health.
Where did all this negative association come from? The female pelvis is littered with sexism. Even basic medical terminology that we use on a daily basis is derogatory. The word vagina actually means “sheath”, like something that covers another object, i.e. a penis. This body part isn’t even named based on its own form or function – it’s named in relation to something entirely foreign and the implication is that it is there to receive this object. Another example is the pudendal nerve. This is a key nerve to the perineum – the area of skin between the vaginal opening and anus. Well the term “pudendal” actually means shame. Shame! This juicy, sexy nerve means shame. And unfortunately, the list of misogynistic medical terms goes on and on.
Rethinking pelvic health is all about tuning in. Since we’ve reduced the creative capacity of the uterus to solely mean reproduction it seems almost anti-feminist to consider embracing this region of your body. Tuning in to your period is a deeply empowering way of connecting with your body. First off, simply understanding that your body is not static is hugely liberating! Each aspect of your cycle represents different hormones, emotions and energy levels that can help you create your most authentic life. Your actual period (i.e. when you bleed), can be an opportunity to move inwards, reflect on the previous month and surrender to the physical feelings of fatigue or heightened emotional sensitivity. Understanding that hormones are designed to be supercharged around ovulation sheds light on your sex drive and energy levels. Every symptom that historically was classified as “hysteria” – which is a derogatory reference to the word womb – is actually your body attempting communication. The key is to tune in to what it’s trying to say.
So how do you go about tuning in to your pelvic health in an authentic, modern way? A great first step is to download a period tracking app. These are most popular amongst the trying to conceive crowd, but I think are just as valuable for increasing your period awareness. A good app will let you track ovulation signs, sexual encounters, heaviness of period flow and even changes in mood. Simply knowing your cycle inside and out increases your confidence and connection with your pelvic well-being.
Another way to increase your pelvic health awareness is to be an active participant in your pap exams. A pap exam is a test that everyone with a cervix should receive to check for signs of cancer – regardless of gender identity. But historically, we mentally check out during these tests and focus on the super interesting tiles on the exam room ceiling. And why not – these tests are by nature invasive and uncomfortable. But I believe we can change this experience and that you can advocate for an empowering pap. First, find a practitioner who is open to letting you insert the speculum yourself – you get to control the pace of the exam. Second, why not ask to see your cervix? This is a seldom seen part of your anatomy, but such an incredible thing to visualize. The cervix is the connection between your internal pelvic bowl and external environment. Its position changes depending on where you are in your cycle and opens as wide as a melon during birth – check it out! Surround yourself with a health care team that completely supports the belief that you are in charge of your body and ultimately, you are the decision maker.
I want your pelvic space to completely belong to you. I want us all to reject negative belief patterns that a period is a nuisance, the uterus is only for reproduction and that birth is still the curse of Eve. You deserve to feel completely empowered when it comes to making health care decisions and in order to get there we need to collectively reject the traditional narrative and rethink all aspects of pelvic health. Tune in to your own body rhythms and tune out the mainstream narrative.