Oh dear, it seems I have blogging block. Its like being in the confessional..forgive me..its been six weeks since I was here last! But two hail Mary’s isn’t going to cut it. I have to write something.

I’ve been working for a couple of weeks on a piece about Birth Trauma and the sexual impact of having been through such an experience, but the piece had to be either really long and very wide reaching to give you readers a proper insight, or be too short and completely inadequate, so I’ve decided to leave it for another day.

If anyone wants to see why I’m finding it tricky, I’d point you to the UK’s Birth Trauma Association (BTA) which can be found here –https://www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/ and to also read and please support the incredible Gill Castle who has committed to do daft things to raise awareness and funds for the BTA. This is her website..https://www.stomachameleon.com/ and please read the first page and definitely scroll way down to watch the video near the bottom before exploring her blog. I find it very inspiring…And now the daft mare (who until fairly recently was scared of open water and swam with her eyes shut) has gone and signed up to swim the channel!!! Having interviewed women and read a lot and properly studied a bit about BT, my position is that we ‘sisters’ ought to be shouting for change for the women who are phsyically and emotionally traumatised during the birth process…or at least we should support charities that do! Throw Gill a few quids if you can..please. My goodness she is going to earn it!

The rest of this post is going to be links to other sources of help, particularly for those who are suffering pelvic issues maybe associated with birth – or perhaps following intrusive surgery ‘down there’.

I fairly commonly work with women who suffer vaginismus and I guess I need to explain a bit what that is.

Vaginismus is a distressing condition in which involuntary muscle spasm interferes with vaginal intercourse (or other penetration of the vagina). It is distressing because the sufferer usually wants to have sex but can’t. It is often associated with dyspareunia (which is a term used to describe painful intercourse) or a deep seated fear that intercourse will hurt, though there are many factors which may contribute and underlie a presentation of vaginismus. A detailed discussion and careful assessment is required to understand each individual woman’s problem – it is always different.

Vaginismus can be a primary or secondary. Primary vaginismus is when a woman has never been able to have penetrative intercourse and often has never been successful with a tampon either, while secondary vaginismus is when a person who has previously been able to achieve penetration later develops vaginismus and this can arise from:

Physical causes – such as bowel or genital surgery, difficult childbirth, yeast infection, lack of lubrication to name a few.

Psychological causes – perhaps fear, shame, lack of knowledge or trust along with many others, sometimes several at once.

A combination of both physical and psychological causes.

It is secondary vaginismus that I most often help women to overcome, because my practice is in the main a rehabilitation service, helping those affected by illness, treatment for illness, or traumatic injury.

Psychosexual therapists work with the woman (and the partner if there is one) to understand the problem, identify triggers, learn to relax and control the pelvic floor, and guide the couple in a very gentle manner through exercises that will lead them to achieve their goal which is usually pain free penetrative intercourse. It is fabulous to be able to help people in this way and I feel super-honoured to work with vaginismus recoverers.

But it is not only a psychosexual therapist that can help and this is possibly where I do myself out of a job! Of course sex therapists are brilliant – we work not just with the suffering woman but with the partner too (and this is really important as Vaginismus affects both partners and sometimes the relationship – there is emotional interplay and behavioural changes that can perpetuate the problem or even make matters worse) but there are pelvic health physiotherapists who work with the physical symptoms of vaginismus and other pelvic disorders too. Why am I telling you? Well, to be honest, you are way more likley to find a pelvic health physio in your local NHS service than a sex therapist these days.

I’ve recently been introduced to PelvicRoar https://www.pelvicroar.org/ which is a group of 3 UK highly qualified ‘pelvic health’ physio’s who are championing what they can offer and bringing together women’s pelvic health promotion and awareness activities from around the world. It has a huge range of really good information for women, from ‘know your vulva’ to managing continence problems, menopausal changes, sexual dysfunction and lots more besides. They have loads of links and also promote an app which helps women suffering pelvic unhappiness of all kinds to find a womens health physio close to them (UK only). This is can be found here – www.squeezyapp.com The app highlights NHS and private physio’s by postcode…click around the website and you can have a go at finding physio-help close to you.

There is certainly some cross-over in the work that we do and I have been thinking a lot about how we might bring together the two specialties to form a collaborative service – but I havent quite answered the BIG question..which is how? Watch this space!

I also know that lots of osteopaths are very enthusiastically working in womens pelvic health too and are worth a mention. Osteopaths are often left out of the conversation.

So my conclusion to today’s blog is please, if you are suffering from pelvic distress of any kind, seek help! There are lots of professionals to go at!!

What else can I point you to this time? Oh yes…from 15th February it will be the NI Science Festival. I’ve had a good look at the festival agenda (mostly online of course and VERY cheap) and have a list as long as my arm of lectures and films that I want to see. There is a session called ‘To pee or not to pee’ about the science of prostate cancer, a dementia event, a sex education panel and a rather intruiging lecture called ‘Sex robots and Vegan meat’. Being an armchair philosopher, I can’t wait to participate in that one! For Gill Castle and other crazy ladies there is a session on The Science of Swimming the Channel…and one on Coldwater swimming too…there are health benefits apparently!?! https://www.nisciencefestival.com/

At risk of sounding like Columbo…there’s one last thing (ma’am). Check out thebluetits.co if you have a vague interest in giving cold water swimming a go. No groups near me sadly but I have a neighbour with a large ‘etang’ in which he said I can swim. Maybe I will start my own group….Membership of 1.

Have a good February.