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New Mums...Don't Succumb To Vaginal Amnesia!

Posted: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at 12:24:58 PM EST by Alyssa Tait

It’s a situation I see regularly in my clinic: new mums with vaginal amnesia.

Let me explain.

Vaginas are sensitive creatures.

It’s an obvious statement, but it’s worth stating the obvious. They are easily overwhelmed by stress, tension and pain. New mums usually have a fair bit of all three going on. The pain of the stitches might fade fairly quickly (if you’re lucky), and then the aching back and aching shoulders sets in, from all the hours of baby holding, baby feeding, baby jiggling…and the stress of this time goes without saying.

I frequently see new mums for the first time six or so months down the track. It seems to be the time when life is getting (just barely) manageable, and the mum has time to notice for more than a few seconds that things don’t feel right – deep pelvic aching, pelvic dragging, lower back pain. And as for sex! Well, don’t even go there. The pain with sex can hang around a lot longer than what it takes for the stitches to fully heal.

I’ve talked in other posts about the role of the episiotomy or perineal tear scar, and how like any scar, it needs to become flexible and supple again.

But that’s just part of it. This post is about something different.

It’s about those poor, vulnerable, frazzled nerves of the vagina.

Frequently, I do vaginal exams on my postnatal patients, and find that the scar tissue is not the main issue. Instead, the nerves are objecting to any touch. The nerves have been on the defense for so long (often due to prolonged pain, coupled with the effects of stress) that the lightest touch becomes painful. This is seen by gentle, light touch within the vagina being reported as very painful, despite minimal pressure against scar tissue or muscles.

I see this as a situation of unintentional neglect. The focus has been on anywhere but the vagina, and in response, the vagina is crying out for attention and a bit of “TLC”. The new sensitivity is the nerves’ way of expressing a sense of “danger”. This has often started with a general reluctance to touch the area due to early pain due to the inflamed stitches. But this progresses to a persistent fear of pain, a defensiveness of the area. The nerves have “forgotten” how to feel sensation normally. What shouldn’t be painful (like light touch, pressure or stretching of the vagina) becomes painful.

Sex is not on the agenda at first.

When it eventually comes time to go down this road again, there is a great amount of fear and trepidation. This leads to an avoidance of sex  - easy to do anyway, when life with a baby is so busy and exhausting! – but this may end up inadvertently making the problem worse.

If you have pain with sex after having a baby, and it doesn’t ease with the first few times, it could be a kind of “vaginal amnesia” developing.

It’s important to see a pelvic floor physiotherapist for evaluation, and a program to help your body get back on track.

Then you can aim to forget all about vaginal amnesia!

For lots more detail – and practical help – about persistent pain in the pelvis, see my e-book Outsmart Your Pain: Twelve Key Insights for Conquering Vulvodynia and Persistent Pelvic Pain.

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About Alyssa Tait

Alyssa runs Equilibria Physiotherapy & Nutrition, a clinic focusing on integrative solutions for pelvic health issues including all types of pelvic pain, bladder and bowel control issues, fertility, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Alyssa’s website www.equilibriahealth.com.au is an information hub related to all things relating to the function of the female pelvis.

She aims to help as many people as possible restore balance to their pelvis through education, effective treatment and empowering lifestyle choices.

Alyssa enjoys playing the clarinet and rollerblading, though (much to the gratitude of her patients), not while she is consulting.

Connect with Alyssa  |  Facebook  |  Google Plus | linkedin | Twitter

The Gray Area of Urinary Tract Infections

Posted: Thursday, July 2, 2015 at 3:09:35 PM EST by Alyssa Tait

The ever-present UTI is anything but boring.

In fact, it turns out it's rather a shady character.

My last post introduced some of the controversies in diagnosis of urinary tract infections.

The fact is, the dipsticks used may not be sensitive enough, as the cut-offs were originally based on a small group of women with pyelonephritis (a serious kidney infection). Where does that leave us? Let me pick up where I left off.

If not a dipstick, what then?

If the simple dipstick in the doctor's office is not reliable, ideally your urine should be cultured – right? (This means your pee in a jar gets sent away for the lab to analyse and see what they can grow. As the bugs grow, the one that grows the most “wins”, and its name is given to your infection, e.g. “you had an E. coli UTI”).

Secret Hideouts

Well, unfortunately it’s not that simple either. Recent studies show that when chronic, the infection can actually take place inside the cells of the bladder wall. This work has been done by a urology professor in London, James Malone-Lee, and his team.

The Case of the Mysteriously Vanishing Leucocyte

As well as that, when the urine is looked at under the microscope, white blood cells (leucocytes) that were in it originally may not be seen. This is because they gradually disappear over time – in fact 40% of the cells may be gone by 4 hours, regardless of how well the urine is stored (James Malone-Lee’s team again, 2013. This guy is everywhere.)

An earlier study in 2010 (same team) had shown that the microscopy was no better than the dipstick for finding white blood cells. Both techniques found the existing urinary tract infection only just over half the time.

Tune in to my next instalment about the fascinating world of UTIs: “Mixed Up About Mixed Growth?"

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About Alyssa Tait

Alyssa runs Equilibria Physiotherapy & Nutrition, a clinic focusing on integrative solutions for pelvic health issues including all types of pelvic pain, bladder and bowel control issues, fertility, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Alyssa’s website www.equilibriahealth.com.au is an information hub related to all things relating to the function of the female pelvis.

She aims to help as many people as possible restore balance to their pelvis through education, effective treatment and empowering lifestyle choices.

Alyssa enjoys playing the clarinet and rollerblading, though (much to the gratitude of her patients), not while she is consulting.

Connect with Alyssa  |  Facebook  |  Google Plus | linkedin | Twitter

The Secret to Conquering Pain With Sex

Posted: Tuesday, June 23, 2015 at 11:17:14 AM EST by Alyssa Tait

The One Absolute “Must-Have” In Vulvodynia and Vaginismus

I see dozens of women in my clinic every month who have pain with sex.

Some of them have been diagnosed with vaginismus. Some have been diagnosed with vulvodynia, but have vaginismus as well. Some have been diagnosed with vaginismus, but their symptoms are more like vulvodynia. And some have no diagnosis, but just know the most important thing – that they have pain with sex they wish they didn’t.

The “secret” to conquering pain with sex – or at least a big part of it – is the same as overcoming any obstacle.

Most of the women I see do really well. Some women, of course, don’t continue with treatment. When I contact them, some of them tell me their reasons. Sometimes they haven’t come back because their symptoms resolved after the first two treatments. More often than not, they cite other reasons: family, finances, or the all-too-frequent “I’ve just been so busy!”

So how do you ensure that you are one of the women who are a “Vulvodynia/Vaginismus Success Story”?

After more than a decade of seeing hundreds of women with vulvodynia and vaginismus every year, I have a long and fascinating list of answers to this question. But today I want to focus on just one of them. In the words of one of my patients today (with vulvodynia):

“You have to want it.”

A big part of recovery from vaginismus and vulvodynia is motivation: that powerful drive to solve the problem, and the strength of character to persevere until you get there.

(Now, I am not for one minute suggesting that’s all you need. Please don’t be offended if you know you want this more than anything, and have done everything in your power to fix the problem, but haven’t yet seen success. Of course, there are many other factors involved in success as well. So if you already know you are super-committed, this post is not for you. You don't need this.)

But without motivation and commitment, you’ll be treading water at best.

This commitment needs to be visible through all of your daily actions, the choices you make, the way you live your life. It needs to pervade your whole lifestyle and be more than just words. As we all know, actions speak louder than words.


Here’s an example of where a person’s actions tell the story of their life.

I recently visited my sister in her self-designed, self-built Tasmanian hideaway. I spent a morning with her watching her chop wood for an hour. At her place, if you don’t chop wood, you don’t get warm. There is no getting out of it: it’s either do the hard yards, or suffer the consequences. After she finished woodchopping she went and practised her flips on the trampoline for twenty minutes. She has very specific targets in her gymnastics training (which she only started as a mother of two a few years ago). She knows she won’t master the skill without the dogged, repetitive practice.

As we wandered back up the hill towards the house, my sister muttered to herself, “Hmmm, I need to find time to do a training session today.” My sister does high-level gymnastics-style body weight training, which enables her to get to the second floor of her house by climbing a rope (arms only, no legs), as there is no staircase in her house. (She does have legs, she just chooses not to use them when climbing a rope).

As I chuckled to myself at her comment – which was made in all seriousness – it got me thinking about how we all live our lives.

When we talk about what we want – or about what’s not going right in our lives – do we take action? Do we really put our money where our mouth is? And is our commitment visible through our actions and habits, day in, day out?

My sister did manage to squeeze in the training session, and her results are visible from this repeated commitment. But even if she had missed the training session she felt she needed, her lifestyle already tells the story. She had spent an hour and a half being physical in a way few women commit to. She had chopped wood and jumped on the trampoline. The day before she’d probably be up on the roof checking the solar panels. The month before she’d been rendering the walls of their cabin. The year before she'd been planing the logs to finish building the walls. Her lifestyle is a commitment to physical activity and maximising her body’s capabilities to achieve the goal in her mind's eye.

Commitment is easy to spot from the pattern of how you live your life.

What do your patterns say about your commitment? Are you watertight on your program, your stretches, your dilators, whatever it is? Are you prioritising decreasing stress in your life? Are you working on maintaining the best mental health and attitude? Are you keeping a journal of your progress?

There are no guarantees with health of course – or life in general. But commitment is the closest you will get to a guarantee of results, and progress, in some shape or form, is a certainty.

For more ideas and motivation on how to harness the power of your brain to resolve pain with sex, see my e-book Outsmart Your Pain: Twelve Key Insights for Conquering Vulvodynia and Persistent Pelvic Pain.

 

 

 

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About Alyssa Tait

Alyssa runs Equilibria Physiotherapy & Nutrition, a clinic focusing on integrative solutions for pelvic health issues including all types of pelvic pain, bladder and bowel control issues, fertility, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Alyssa’s website www.equilibriahealth.com.au is an information hub related to all things relating to the function of the female pelvis.

She aims to help as many people as possible restore balance to their pelvis through education, effective treatment and empowering lifestyle choices.

Alyssa enjoys playing the clarinet and rollerblading, though (much to the gratitude of her patients), not while she is consulting.

Connect with Alyssa  |  Facebook  |  Google Plus | linkedin | Twitter

Ten Ways to Make Using Your Vaginal Dilators Less Unappealing

Posted: Wednesday, June 17, 2015 at 12:57:08 PM EST by Alyssa Tait

Get Acquainted With Them

In vaginismus and painful sex, using dilators is often part of your rehab program.

Let’s face it, anything unfamiliar can be a bit scary. A new experience is always a bit daunting, even when it’s positive. And it makes sense from an evolutionary sense to be cautious when encountering a new object, even if it ends up being good for you.

It’s natural to feel some trepidation about starting work with your dilators.

As it is, you’re probably feeling a bit nervous or anxious already. You have been experiencing difficulty using tampons and possibly painful sex, and your super smart brain is working overtime to warn you of any other possible dangers out there.

(It’s great to have the ultra-developed brain of a human being, which learns from experience and tries to look out for you. But this is one situation where you’re going to have to convince your brain you’re in no danger of harm, and that trying something new – using dilators – is actually going to help you.)

I’ve already talked about how naming your dilators can help. Another important step in convincing your brain that using dilators is actually ok is to get acquainted with them.

Get to know your dilators! Get a bit more familiar with them!

This uses a concept known among psychologists and pain therapists as “graded exposure”.

Graded exposure is the opposite of throwing yourself in the deep end. It’s just dipping your toe in the water, realising that the water is a bit cold but won’t kill you, and gradually dipping more and more of your body in. This way, you get used to it. You don’t think you can do it when you start, but you take small steps to give you confidence.

What are some things you can do to get acquainted with dilators?

One of the best things you can do to get to know any object is just to hold it.

When you are just using your eyes, your brain works overtime in dreaming up all kinds of intimidating thoughts. If you use your other senses, such as touch, it takes away that sense of a “foreign object”.

So take out your dilator kit, and hold them one at a time. Start with the smallest.  Feel how smooth it is. Feel its temperature.

Place it against the skin of your arm to get a sense of how it feels to the body.

You can do this as gradually as you like. You may want to keep the bigger ones hidden away for a while if they are psyching you out. There is no reason you need to store all the dilators together. You can even start by just keeping the small one somewhere you see it, like your underwear drawer, so that your brain gets lots of “incidental exposure”.

There is research showing that if you have seen a stranger before – without realising – when you next see them you unconsciously rate them as more friendly. I can’t see why dilators would be any different! The more you see them, the less scary they will be.

Even more powerful would be to store them with something appealing, unexpected or humorous.

You could store your dilator in your sock drawer, in a zany sock or a lacy stocking. This will automatically make your brain have more positive associations with it.

You could use it as a jewellery or ring stand on your dresser.

You could keep them with your knitting needles. (Even casting on a few stitches to them while they’re waiting to be used, in your favourite colour yarn).

Or even in a bowl of fake fruit on your dresser!

These suggestions might sound silly, but that’s exactly why they work. They shock the brain into a different mode and remove the “threat” associated with the dilators. In pain science, this is called “homuncular refreshment”. It’s a legitimate technique!

So think like the experts.

Start yourself on some graded exposure to dilators, using homuncular refreshment!

More about graded exposure in the next instalment. In the meantime, you might want to refresh your memory on some other cute ideas of getting used to your dilators in my first post in this series.

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About Alyssa Tait

Alyssa runs Equilibria Physiotherapy & Nutrition, a clinic focusing on integrative solutions for pelvic health issues including all types of pelvic pain, bladder and bowel control issues, fertility, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Alyssa’s website www.equilibriahealth.com.au is an information hub related to all things relating to the function of the female pelvis.

She aims to help as many people as possible restore balance to their pelvis through education, effective treatment and empowering lifestyle choices.

Alyssa enjoys playing the clarinet and rollerblading, though (much to the gratitude of her patients), not while she is consulting.

Connect with Alyssa  |  Facebook  |  Google Plus | linkedin | Twitter

Stuck on that Last Dilator?

Posted: Wednesday, June 17, 2015 at 12:57:29 PM EST by Alyssa Tait

Getting From the Plastic Thing to the Real Thing – Part 1

Pain with sex can be a bit of a project to resolve.

I’ve written a lot about painful sex due to muscular causes. (The old term is vaginismus. I still use this term because usually that’s what the doctor has called it to the patient coming to see me. And the new official term, “Genito Pelvic Pain/Penetration Disorder” has a way of making you quake at the knees.)

I’ve often said to the women I see that I wish I could make their vaginismus with sex go away with the wave of a magic wand. But muscles don’t switch on and off with the click of your fingers.

Retraining your muscles takes time.

Retraining your muscles takes attention.

Retraining your muscles takes motivation!

If you’ve used vaginal dilators as part of your program to resolve vaginismus, you’ll have first-hand experience of the commitment and discipline required to solve this problem.

Many women who use dilators progress well through the program and experience the reward of pain-free sex at the end of it – and the elation that comes with it!

But if you had solved the problem, you probably wouldn’t be reading this post.

Maybe you are finding the dilators really hard to get going with.

In that case, you will love my series on The Alien Concept of Vaginal Dilators, as well as Ten Ways to Make Using Your Dilators Less Appealing!

Sometimes the barrier is actually not a physical one. Sometimes it’s your brain that’s putting up the most resistance, and not allowing you to move forward.

In this situation, you may want to know more about retraining your brain in vaginal and pelvic pain.

But if you have been persisting with your dilators for a while, have made it to the biggest one, but just can’t move on from there, this blog series is for you.

Training with dilators is all about small, measurable steps.

In this series I'll go through some ways you can structure your training sessions.

I'll also help you with some stepping stones from the training to the "real thing".

Can't wait? Need help now?

For one-on-one training in making this transition, make an appointment to see me.

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About Alyssa Tait

Alyssa runs Equilibria Physiotherapy & Nutrition, a clinic focusing on integrative solutions for pelvic health issues including all types of pelvic pain, bladder and bowel control issues, fertility, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Alyssa’s website www.equilibriahealth.com.au is an information hub related to all things relating to the function of the female pelvis.

She aims to help as many people as possible restore balance to their pelvis through education, effective treatment and empowering lifestyle choices.

Alyssa enjoys playing the clarinet and rollerblading, though (much to the gratitude of her patients), not while she is consulting.

Connect with Alyssa  |  Facebook  |  Google Plus | linkedin | Twitter

MTHFR or MTHFaRrrrgh?

Posted: Friday, May 8, 2015 at 5:52:12 PM EST by Alyssa Tait

Working On Your Methylation The Wrong Way

MTHFR is a huge buzzword. “Have you got MTHFR?” “Get your MTHFR tested.” “Heck, I’ve got MTHFR, what do I do now?” “Quick, treat that mischievous MTHFR before it wreaks havoc!!”

Hold your horses!

You don’t “treat MTHFR”. You don’t leap into any sort of treatment. And you definitely don’t self-treat!

Here’s the long and short of it.

MTHFR is an enzyme important in a critical metabolic process called methylation.

We have a gene for this enzyme, and just like with other genes, things can go wrong. You can have a mutation.

Having a mutation in the MTHFR gene does not make you a mutant.

But a certain type of mutation (called “homozygous C677T”) on this gene can reduce your function of that enzyme by around 70%. This can have widespread effects on metabolic processes, and is linked with many health conditions such as:

Neural tube defects such as spina bifida

Cancers including cervical cancer

Parkinson’s disease

Polycystic ovarian syndrome

Hypertension (high blood pressure)

Pregnancy hypertension

Recurrent miscarriage

Schizophrenia

Bipolar disease

Depression

The MTHFR enzyme is responsible for the important final step in the body’s metabolism of folate (called methyl-folate). But remember, a mutation (also called a SNP, or single-nucleotide polymorphism) does not mean this stops working entirely. It just potentially slows the enzyme down by up to 70%. The important process of methylation in your body is dependent on a lot more than just this.

So if you find out you “have MTHFR”, please don’t do what my patient did! (BEFORE I saw her, that is.)

My proactive patient read an article on MTHFR and recognised a lot of her own symptoms.

She had her GP test her for the gene mutation, and when it came up positive, she started self-treating with folinic acid, and her doctor started doing vitamin B12 injections, because that’s the treatment the woman in the article had done.

This is not the way to do it! There is NOT a one-size-fits-approach to an MTHFR mutation.

Treatment is only needed if there are signs that it is causing problems.

You need to be treated by a clinician with good understanding of methylation, nutrigenomics and MTHFR.

There need to be other tests done besides the gene test.

There needs to be monitoring of what you’re doing.

If you start on any any supplements, this doesn’t mean you take them every day for the rest of your life.

And don’t attempt to self-treat without supervision by a clinician who is trained in this area.

Remember, the Internet is a double-edged sword. Increased exposure to knowledge can be empowering. But by the same token, a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

If you suspect methylation issues or have tested positive to MTHFR and don’t have a knowledgeable clinician to help, get in touch with me for an in-clinic or Skype consultation.

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About Alyssa Tait

Alyssa runs Equilibria Physiotherapy & Nutrition, a clinic focusing on integrative solutions for pelvic health issues including all types of pelvic pain, bladder and bowel control issues, fertility, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Alyssa’s website www.equilibriahealth.com.au is an information hub related to all things relating to the function of the female pelvis.

She aims to help as many people as possible restore balance to their pelvis through education, effective treatment and empowering lifestyle choices.

Alyssa enjoys playing the clarinet and rollerblading, though (much to the gratitude of her patients), not while she is consulting.

Connect with Alyssa  |  Facebook  |  Google Plus | linkedin | Twitter

Urinary tract infections - not as cut and dried as you think!

Posted: Thursday, July 2, 2015 at 3:10:54 PM EST by Alyssa Tait

For a long time, urinary tract infections have been treated as though they are simple, garden-variety ailment that is straightforward to treat. This seems to be the attitude of both the doctors treating them and many of the women suffering from them: oh well, another UTI, better get to the doctor and get antibiotics!

Recent research seems to show that UTIs are not as clear-cut as we might have thought – they are more complex both in the diagnosis and treatment.

An overview of studies on urinary tract infection recently came up with some interesting findings.

Pyuria - it sounds nicer than "pus in the urine"

Pyuria charmingly means ‘’pus cells in the urine’’ and is the common finding where the square on the dipstick turns purple.

Pyuria has been thought to be a strong indicator of a urinary tract infection. In very few cases, women with UTIs do not have pyuria. However, in almost 40% of cases, pyuria was found where a UTI was not diagnosed. That is, there was a ‘’positive dipstick’’ (indicating pyuria) but when a culture was done, the lab could not confirm an infection.

What does this mean? It could mean that these women indeed were free of infection, and that there was another cause of the white blood cells in the urine. It could be that these women had recently already started on antibiotic treatment, and it had sufficiently ‘’killed off’’ the bugs to make culture difficult.

But, intriguingly, there is a third possibility.

It is equally possible that there was actually an infection, but the lab technique was unable to culture it sufficiently to reach the level required for a true UTI diagnosis.

This latter explanation has been proposed by researching urologist Professor James Malone-Lee, who points out that original ‘’cut-offs’’ for UTI were based on just seventy-four women, who had been hospitalised with pyelonephritis (severe kidney infection), which may actually be a different kettle of fish to a ‘’plain old UTI’’.

Intrigued? Watch this space for part 2: "The Gray Area of UTIs", where the plot thickens!

 

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About Alyssa Tait

Alyssa runs Equilibria Physiotherapy & Nutrition, a clinic focusing on integrative solutions for pelvic health issues including all types of pelvic pain, bladder and bowel control issues, fertility, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Alyssa’s website www.equilibriahealth.com.au is an information hub related to all things relating to the function of the female pelvis.

She aims to help as many people as possible restore balance to their pelvis through education, effective treatment and empowering lifestyle choices.

Alyssa enjoys playing the clarinet and rollerblading, though (much to the gratitude of her patients), not while she is consulting.

Connect with Alyssa  |  Facebook  |  Google Plus | linkedin | Twitter

Anxiety, MTHFR and the Nutrition Solution

Posted: Tuesday, March 24, 2015 at 11:57:03 AM EST by Alyssa Tait

Does nutrition have anything to do with mental health? Or is it in your genes? Yes to both.

Nutrition is critical for best physical health. More and more people consider seeing a clinical nutritionist to help their body feel at its best. But as for mental health? Leave that to the psychologists. That’s nothing to do with nutrition, right?

Wrong.

I never thought I’d say this, but you can actually believe some things you read in the newspaper.

The Courier Mail (a daily paper in Brisbane, Australia) published an article recently that got me jumping up and down with excitement. It described a genetic issue with a gene called "MTHFR", and a treatment approach that we as integrative clinical nutritionists are using – and with reasonable accuracy at that!

“How a vitamin cured my anxiety: Elisa Black’s story of lifelong struggle and new hope for the future”.

A vitamin cured her anxiety? Surely that’s just another sensationalist tabloid headline?

Well in this case, no.

This was a story of personal triumph based on a nutritional link with anxiety, depression and other mood disorders that is supported by research and finally gaining a mainstream foothold.

The condition she describes – the MTHFR gene polymorphism – is increasingly being tested for by a range of clinicians due to its relevance to a huge range of health conditions, some life-threatening, some chronic, but all causing enormous suffering.

If you missed it, read it in full here. It’s not long, and is skilfully written – it manages to condense a complex topic into an easy to understand summary within a touching real-life story.

I am treating an enormous number of patients with anxiety – some officially diagnosed, and some just plainly obvious to them and to me. I am also treating numerous patients with an MTHFR gene polymorphism as described in the article. And of course – I am treating quite a number of patients with both.

Aside from mental health issues, other conditions my MTHFR patients have include chronic pain, recurrent miscarriage, infertility, thyroid issues, gut issues, migraines and chronic fatigue.

Identifying the MTHFR gene polymorphism, if present, is step one.

Step two is implementing a specific nutrition program (with attention to lifestyle as well) to help the body compensate for the “weak link in the chain” that is the MTHFR gene polymorphism.

Here are my recommendations:

  1. Read the article here.

  2. Share it with your doctor.

  3. If your doctor is not knowledgeable about testing for and treating this, find a clinician who is (myself, for example).

To start solving your health problems, contact me for an appointment.

I can directly refer you for the test, and have undergone specialised training in the relevant nutritional treatment.

I’ll get you on the path to recovery.

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About Alyssa Tait

Alyssa runs Equilibria Physiotherapy & Nutrition, a clinic focusing on integrative solutions for pelvic health issues including all types of pelvic pain, bladder and bowel control issues, fertility, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Alyssa’s website www.equilibriahealth.com.au is an information hub related to all things relating to the function of the female pelvis.

She aims to help as many people as possible restore balance to their pelvis through education, effective treatment and empowering lifestyle choices.

Alyssa enjoys playing the clarinet and rollerblading, though (much to the gratitude of her patients), not while she is consulting.

Connect with Alyssa  |  Facebook  |  Google Plus | linkedin | Twitter

Best Ways to Help a Tampon Go In Step 8

Posted: Tuesday, August 2, 2016 at 7:49:26 AM EST by Alyssa Tait

Don't Feel Weird About Using a Sex Toy to Help Your Tampon Problem 

Firstly, this is an 18+ post.

If you do not fall into this category, please go get your at-least-eighteen-year-old-mother and respectfully ask her permission for you to read this together. However, my target group for this post is the woman over eighteen who, despite her best efforts and my expert advice (starting with my first tampon blog), struggles to use tampons comfortably.

Let’s start with a technicality.

The term “sex toy” can be very offputting for some. I do wish there was another name for sex toys. (Though some of them deserve a tacky name like that.)

For the purpose of this blog, could we call them Attraction Contraptions? Objects d’ Heart? Mojo Gizmos? A Love Science Appliance? Not exactly catchy. Now I know why they are simply “sex toys”.

Apparently the word “dildo” is from the Italian “diletto”, or “delight”.

I would like to suggest in this post you become a dabbler in sex toys – a Diletto Dilettante, if you will.

I would firstly like to get it straight that I am not making an overall judgment on sex toys, for good or for bad. I am simply suggesting that in the scenario of having difficulty with tampons, they should not be discounted. They could after all be a useful tool.

fluteplaying

At first blush - perhaps literally? - suggesting the use of sex toys when you are struggling with inserting tampons may seem like a bad joke.

The mere sight of them (or even thought of them) may be enough to make you recoil.

But trust me. There is good theory behind this apparently crazy idea.

What we need to do is to help the idea of using tampons stop being threatening. We need tampons to become a friend instead of a foe. My sex therapist friends tell me that for some women, using sex toys can help develop "friendlier feelings" in this area. If you read my post about the Empress in charge of the Guardians of the Gate, this concept will be familiar. We are looking for ways to turn the cranky Empress into a purring pussycat. And sex toys do have an excellent track record of doing this for women.

I am certainly not an expert. But if you are just a little open to the idea, becoming familiar with a vibrator, for example, may help develop some positive experience with the landscape.

Some vibrators are very small, discreet and tasteful. (And if that's not your style, there are plenty of other styles as well!) The advantage of the small vibrators is that they can be used to develop awareness of pleasurable sensations anywhere around the vulva, but they can also be inserted in the vagina. (Perhaps it's better to think of this as the vibrator "being embraced by the vagina"?) In fact, there are sets that double as vibrators and dilators – the topic of my next blog post in the series – like this one.

A number of my patients with difficulty inserting tampons, inserting their finger, or allowing entry of a penis tell me something interesting.

All of a sudden, the difficulties evaporate (or at least improve) after orgasm.

This makes sense; when you are aroused, the vagina expands. The silky tent roof we have talked about before becomes billowy and even more flexible, creating lots of space. So becoming aroused - with or without a sex toy, of course - can be a marvelous preparation to experimenting with inserting a tampon.

You're almost there! The ninth blog post in this ten-part series can be found right here.

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About Alyssa Tait

Alyssa runs Equilibria Physiotherapy & Nutrition, a clinic focusing on integrative solutions for pelvic health issues including all types of pelvic pain, bladder and bowel control issues, fertility, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Alyssa’s website www.equilibriahealth.com.au is an information hub related to all things relating to the function of the female pelvis.

She aims to help as many people as possible restore balance to their pelvis through education, effective treatment and empowering lifestyle choices.

Alyssa enjoys playing the clarinet and rollerblading, though (much to the gratitude of her patients), not while she is consulting.

Connect with Alyssa  |  Facebook  |  Google Plus | linkedin | Twitter

Ten Ways to Make Using Your Vaginal Dilators Less Unappealing - Reclassify Them!

Posted: Monday, February 16, 2015 at 2:47:32 PM EST by Alyssa Tait

Women who use vaginal dilators generally don’t do it for fun.

If you’ve been recommended vaginal dilators, it’s probably for the problem of painful sex or vaginismus. You can read more about the common reluctance to use vaginal dilators here, and learn about the concept of removing the “threat” associated with using them here.

But in this blog post I’d like to focus on my first suggestion for making vaginal dilators more appealing to use (or, at least, less unappealing).

The way you see an object is influenced and shaped by its name.

Would you agree? For example, wouldn’t you rather wear a “chemise” than a singlet? “Go for a pedicure” rather than “have your corns filed off”? Take something to “settle your stomach” rather than “stop the belching”?

Well, your vagina agrees. Like you, your vagina has class.

And therefore, your dilators need to be re-class-ified.

You could reclassify the dilators as “trainers” if you want to feel sporty or focus on your achievements. (“I’m just going to go have a session with my trainers.”)

Or perhaps “helpers” – wouldn’t your vagina rather be “helped” than “dilated”? (“Gee I’m glad I’ve got these helpers to use!”)

russiannestingdolls

Maybe “Baboushka dolls” would lend a nice vibe, and be suitable for a little family of objects that fit inside each other. (“I guess it’s time to get out the Baboushka dolls.”)

Or what about just “gizmos”? (This is how I tend to refer to them). Remember Gizmo from the movie Gremlins? Well, dilators are much more like the cute little mogwai Gizmo than a nasty reptilian gremlin. (“Where did I put my little gizmos?”)

mogwai

Even better, how about you name them individually?

It may sound silly, but the human brain works in funny ways. You’re much more likely to feel accepting of – even a fondness for – something you’ve named. Think of something that’s a set, a family or a group, like the seven dwarves or Santa’s reindeer, for example. (“Well – Prancer was a walk in the park.. And I’ve blitzed my way through Blitzen. Dasher’s done his dash. Can’t wait to get started with Vixen!”)

And if you feel silly naming inert plastic tubes, consider storing a tiny Guatamalan worry doll in each. Again, this may seem silly to your conscious brain. However, your unconscious brain will find the dilators (trainers, helpers, gizmos) much more appealing if they have been associated with an endearing little doll. (Worry dolls or trouble dolls are a set of tiny dolls that are placed under your pillow each night after being told a worry to. The legend is that you then leave the worry in the hands of the worry doll to sort out for you while you are sleeping).

You can get these little cuties for just a few dollars from an Oxfam Shop online.

worrydolls

But does it really matter what we call them? Well, it’s important not to take these little tools too seriously. ("DILATORS"  sounds terribly serious and medical to me, and I suspect to many women). They are simply a practical means to a valuable end – painless, comfortable sex and intimacy.

Check this out:

A research study had participants taste different substances named either as simple numbers or as appealing labels such as lemon, coffee jelly, caramel candy and consommé soup. Guess what? They were rated as tastier when they had appealing names. It may seem only a small thing, but renaming things in your environment that seem unappealing or even threatening can really help to defuse that threat.

(For a whole program on defusing the threat in order to help your pain, read my e-book Outsmart Your Pain.)

I would love to hear your stories about how using different terms or nicknames has helped you in this situation!

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About Alyssa Tait

Alyssa runs Equilibria Physiotherapy & Nutrition, a clinic focusing on integrative solutions for pelvic health issues including all types of pelvic pain, bladder and bowel control issues, fertility, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Alyssa’s website www.equilibriahealth.com.au is an information hub related to all things relating to the function of the female pelvis.

She aims to help as many people as possible restore balance to their pelvis through education, effective treatment and empowering lifestyle choices.

Alyssa enjoys playing the clarinet and rollerblading, though (much to the gratitude of her patients), not while she is consulting.

Connect with Alyssa  |  Facebook  |  Google Plus | linkedin | Twitter

Catch A Wave: Surfing For Your Pelvic Floor

Posted: Tuesday, February 10, 2015 at 11:13:13 AM EST by Alyssa Tait

Staying Low Impact in the Impact Zone

I'm very excited to bring you my second interview in my blog series about the least boring pelvic floor-friendly exercise options.

Madeleine Newton is an ex-pro surfer who happens to also be a women's health physiotherapist working on Queensland's Gold Coast. I don't know much about surfing, except that it looks like an awful lot of fun - and potentially a great all-body low-impact exercise that might be a good pelvic floor-friendly option. Madeleine set me straight on a few things, including how and when it is and isn't pelvic floor friendly, and how your body might feel when you first try to get back to it after childbirth. There's plenty of stuff here to get you amped about surfing!

How did you get into surfing?  

I have always had a love for the ocean and was always in it, from as far back as I can remember-  swimming, bodyboarding, you couldn't get me away from the beach or out of the water!  My parents signed me up for Nippers and I competed for years in that, which was great for developing surf safety skills and learning to save and help others.  But one day at a Nippers competition, in between events, I was out in the water practising and just started to stand up on my Nipper board and surf. The feeling was amazing, I was instantly addicted and I just couldn't stop!  My older brother bought me a lovely little old surfboard and I just never looked back! I started competing in local events and started getting really good results and had a heap of major sponsors, so that lead me to compete around Australia in the junior and school titles and on the Australian junior surfing series until I made it onto the world qualifying series (WQS) which took me to USA, South Africa, Europe, Indonesia and all around the world.

madeleinesurfshot_sm

What was your best result?

I was ranked in the top 16 in the world one year and came 2nd in the Australian Junior Titles and 3rd in the world grommet titles also.  

What do you love most about it?  

Being in the ocean, there's something healing and magical about it! It's freedom! And the feeling of being one with the ocean diving through waves and riding them. The old saying "only a surfer knows the feeling" really is true. It's hard to describe the feeling and nothing else really compares!


How long did you have off surfing after having your baby?

Despite desperately wanting to be back in the water after having my first baby, it took about 6 months before I got back to surfing. My body was just not ready for it.  The combination of extreme tiredness, low iron, recurrent bouts of mastitis, learning how on earth to feed and look after this gorgeous little human properly and having quite a difficult first birth meant I just wasn't able to get back into the water. As much as I love  surfing, it just wasn't a priority for me at that stage, and I felt it had to be put on the back burner while I concentrated on the most important job in the world (and just surviving  really!).  Some women just ease straight into motherhood and make it look so easy, but that wasn't the case for me. My body was so heavy, sore and tired, and having a little creature to look after and care for 24/7 was a huge shock for me (especially having been quite independent previously), it was a very steep learning curve.  I'm very lucky though, to have the most amazing and supportive husband in the world who continuously encouraged me to get back into the water!

What did it feel like to get back on the board for the first time after bub?  

Because it had been a while, I had lost a lot of muscle tone and strength (and had put on a lot of weight too) and I was still quite sore. I remember struggling, fitness wise, to paddle out the back and getting quite frustrated, as I used to be such a high level surfer previously.  I also remember doing a breastroke kick to propel myself onto my board and my groin muscles and pelvis killing me with pain. I think I only stayed out for about 10 minutes and came in and cried to my husband!  But just as I had persevered to get to an elite sports level in the past, and with some help from a personal trainer (doing a mums group training session 1-2x/week) I eventually regained the strength, found I was still able to surf just as well, lost some of the weight, and was back surfing in 6-8ft Indonesian waves again, within 1-2 years.  I guess it's not the picture perfect answer you might have been expecting, but I guess my point is, that for some mums, it's a bit of a struggle after having kids, but if you keep persevering, setting and achieving small goals, you will eventually get there, just as long as you dont give up!

Was your experience any different following the birth of your second baby?

Yes totally different. My second baby was a breeze in comparison.  I was surfing on a rubber mat right upto the day my second baby was born. I was a lot stronger and fitter, I seemed to handle the pregnancy better (no back or pelvis pain this time), labour better and I knew what to do with the baby the second time round.  I was back surfing at around 6 weeks. Being a physiotherapist with a special interest in women's health, I knew the dangers of going back too early and the risks of injury due to joint laxity (and also mastitis from lying on or hitting those enormous boobs) and I was very cautious to only go out in small safe conditions.  My main worry was slipping on the board and stretching already lax ligaments, but that never happened and I found surfing helped me get stronger, fitter, healthier and much much more happy!!! I was a better mum for it too.

Do you think surfing helped you bounce back after having a baby?

Definitely! I felt human again. It gave me "me" time (alone or with friends) in the surf. The feeling was amazing. I felt refreshed and started regaining my strength and energy. It's just an awesome sport for lots of reasons.

Do you ever think about your pelvic floor muscles when surfing?

I don't really think about them, but since having children I am much more aware of my pelvic floor muscles and a correct contraction, and I do notice when they are contracting. For example during paddling, along with some of the other back (multifidus & erector spinae) and core muscles (transversus abdominus), I sometimes feel the pelvic floor muscles co-contracting aswell.  And sometimes I am aware of them 'bracing' prior to and during certain maneuvers and turning the board and so on.  Surfing definitely helps strengthen all muscles including the pelvic floor.  And SUPing (stand up paddle boarding) has been great for small days too.  SUPing is great for the core, arms and legs.. well, the whole body really!

madeleinesurfing_sm

As a physiotherapist, a surf coach, surfer and mum, what advice would you give to mums trying out surfing for the first time?

Just have fun with it.  It's your time away from the kids to enjoy.  Expect (& embrace) a bit of a workout, and allow yourself some time to learn.  It usually takes a few sessions to get up and standing.  It's  also worth getting a qualified surfing instructor to give you some tips to start off with, even the tiniest tips, can help you stand up and ride that wave right through to the shore. Keep persevering, because once you get that feeling, you won't want to stop!  Oh and also, the learn to surf boards can be heavy so make sure you buddy up with someone to help carry your board down to the water to protect your pelvic floor and back, especially if your women's health physiotherapist has advised you not to lift!  Just be aware also not to strain to get the surfboard into position, you can ask your instructor for easy ways to manage your surfboard without having to lift or strain to position it (things like pulling the board around from the leg rope on top of the water rather than trying to lift the board against the water current etc).  Even just laying down and paddling in some safe, flat water is a great low risk way to get used to the board, get a bit of fitness in and get out in the water with your friends!

And great bonus news, mums...you can see Madeleine as your women's health physiotherapist at Pindarra Physiotherapy and Sports Medicine on the Gold Coast. But whatever you do, make an appointment and don't just drop in - it's the ultimate surfing no-no!

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About Alyssa Tait

Alyssa runs Equilibria Physiotherapy & Nutrition, a clinic focusing on integrative solutions for pelvic health issues including all types of pelvic pain, bladder and bowel control issues, fertility, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Alyssa’s website www.equilibriahealth.com.au is an information hub related to all things relating to the function of the female pelvis.

She aims to help as many people as possible restore balance to their pelvis through education, effective treatment and empowering lifestyle choices.

Alyssa enjoys playing the clarinet and rollerblading, though (much to the gratitude of her patients), not while she is consulting.

Connect with Alyssa  |  Facebook  |  Google Plus | linkedin | Twitter
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