The Waiting Game

I posted on Instagram the other day about the ever-growing waiting list for gynaecology services in England. Nearly 600 thousand women are on that list, many will wait more than a year to access care.

You only have to scroll through the comments under the post to see why that’s such an issue: women who are struggling with symptoms, only to have their appointment moved or cancelled at the last minute; those who’ve spent money they don't have on private healthcare; those who don’t feel their discomfort is taken seriously.

So I decided to try a little something.

7 women sitting on steps whilst smiling and laughing
Photo by Joel Muniz at Unsplash

I can’t help you jump the queue - or resolve gender-based health inequalities overnight (I wish I could) - but I can recruit some familiar experts to help you manage your pelvic floor dysfunction while you wait!

Stand-by for some budget-friendly, symptom-smashing advice!

The Urogynaecologist

Dr Charlotte Mahoney, Consultant Urogynaecologist

‘For bladder issues, ask your GP for a referral to your local community continence team. They are likely to have a much shorter waiting time and can start first line treatments.
If you need to rush to the toilet to pass urine and leak before you get there (overactive bladder) cutting out caffeine and carbonated drinks may help.
If you leak urine with laughing, coughing, sneezing or other physical activities (stress incontinence) you can try self-directed pelvic floor exercises.
If you are bothered by a vaginal lump or bulge (prolapse), a pessary may help. Depending on services in your area you can have one fitted at your GP surgery, a community pessary clinic, the continence team or community physiotherapist.’

Listen to the Why Mums Don't Jump: Pelvic Floor Surgery: Urogynaecology

The Colorectal Surgeon

Mrs Julie Cornish, Consultant Colorectal Surgeon with a specialist interest in pelvic floor health and founder of the Everywoman Festival:

‘Bowel problems? Make sure that you’re not missing anything nasty! If your bowel has changed for more than 6 weeks (eg going more often or poo has changed in consistency), you have bleeding from the bottom, weight loss or ongoing abdominal pain - please make sure that you have discussed this with your GP.
Use a footstool to elevate the feet when you go to the toilet. This improves the angle of the rectum (last part of the bowel) and helps the pelvic floor to empty more fully.
Fibre is often your friend - add psyllium husk to your food to bulk up the poo to make it easier to go, or less mushy if you are finding it hard to clear. Consider using a stool softener (Laxido/Movicol) if the poo is hard or pellety.'

Listen to Why Mums Don't Jump: Pelvic Floor Surgery: Colorectal

The Pelvic Health Physio

Suzanne Vernazza, Specialist Pelvic Health Physiotherapist, founder of the non-profit organisation Know Your Floors and creator of #squeezealongTM

‘Get informed! There are some great pelvic health books out there like Why Mums Don't Jump, Strong Foundations and Why Did No One Tell Me? Another great place for free, evidence-based resources is the POGP website.
Get good at pelvic floor exercises - there's a lot of confusing information around, but they’re backed by research. Spend some time working out if you are doing them right and consistently enough. If they make you feel worse, stop until you’ve seen a health professional.
Learn to listen to your body! This is much harder than it seems. Try to work out what makes your symptoms worse and better and do more of what helps.
Sign up to Know Your Floors and join the #squeezealong on social media @knowyourfloors.’

The Perinatal Psychiatrist

Dr Rebecca Moore, Perinatal Psychiatrist and Co-founder of the campaign Make Birth Better:

‘Waiting for care can have such a huge impact on your mental health and can feel like such a hard and lonely place to be. Ask your GP if you can access therapy or self refer to NHS Talking therapies if you feel able.
If there are long waiting lists for therapy, as is often the case, try to use all the things you can that might give pockets of peace and joy - friends, writing your feelings down in a diary, connecting with other women online, any gentle exercise you can manage and trying to prioritise resting and sleep.
I know it can be so hard so feel free to contact me or Make Birth Better via Instagram and we have some free resources on the Make Birth Better website

Listen to Why Mums Don't Jump: The Head Game

The GP

Dr Aziza Sesay, GP, GP Educator, Speaker and Health Content Creator

‘The current situation is just heartbreaking and disappointing. It really shows that more resources, funding and support is required into women's and gynae health.
For patients, having an awareness of services and resources is helpful. I’d also encourage you to familiarise yourself with the red-flag symptoms below. If you’re experiencing any of them, see your GP as soon as possible as they may want to check if it could be cancer:
  • Persistent bloating for 3 weeks or more
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding - during or after sex, in between periods, after menopause or change to current periods (heavier/more painful)
  • Vulval or vaginal soreness/lump/pain
  • Painful sex
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge - dark/foul smelling/different to normal
You should also tell your GP if you’re on the waiting list and your symptoms have gotten worse. If that happens, they can sometimes try to expedite appointments.
There are more women's health hubs opening up as part of the Women's Health Strategy. They're not available everywhere but it’s worth finding out whether there is one in your area as the wait times can be shorter.’

The Gadget-Loving Physio

Amanda Savage, Specialist Pelvic Health Physiotherapist at Propelvic and self-confessed gadget nerd.

‘Pelvic floor exercises are an essential starting point for pelvic floor issues, but you have to remember to do them, and do them well. Proper holds, proper releases, endurance, quick ones and ones with movement. Not just a few sporadic squeezes here and there!
You can set an alarm on your phone or download the Squeezy app (£2.99) to remind you. There's also a whole range of devices that can monitor or even help your muscles to contract and relax.
If you're thinking of buying a device but your budget is tight, consider spending that money on a specialist physiotherapist instead. If you can only manage one appointment let them know, and they will do their very best to empower you in that hour.’

Listen to Why Mums Don't Jump: Vadgets

The Pelvic Pain Expert

Virginia Rivers Bulkeley, Director & Clinical Specialist Pelvic Health Physiotherapist at The Pelvic Pain Network.

'If you're struggling with Pelvic Pain, know that you are not alone, and there are some reliable sources of information out there to help you feel informed and empowered about the treatment options available to you:
Change is possible. There is no one, single treatment recommended as the sole treatment for pelvic pain, but lots of little things can successfully change your pain. These resources are a good place to start:

Listen to Why Mums Don't Jump : The Lowdown on Pelvic Pain

The Hypopressives Coach

Alice Housman, founder of ‘Hypopressives with Alice’ and former gynaecology nurse.

'Hypopressives is a breathwork and movement technique used to improve your pelvic health, and they’re a hot topic at the moment!
If you'd like to dip your toes in, head over to my free beginners playlist on YouTube. You can also book a free call if you're interested in finding out more about our Create Lift Programme®
Remember, if you've tried other treatments but are still getting symptoms, don't lose hope!

Listen to Why Mums Don't Jump: Hypopressives

I hope that's been helpful! You can find more information in The Book, access more resources via this blog, find hand-picked products and services in The Shop and listen to real women's stories alongside expert voices, on the Why Mums Don't Jump podcast.

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Links & resources

I've found it hard to find much in the way of support for people with pelvic floor dysfunction. Here are a few links I've pulled together.
Check out some links

The doodles

Cat Pearson is a doodler, designer and mum based in east London. After crying and laughing her way through Series One, Cat hooked up with Helen to help her bring more positive and honest stories to life through illustration.
Find Cat's website here