Do You Speak Pelvic Floor? Guide to Anatomy Part 1: Female Genital Anatomy

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Fiona McMahon PT, DPT Pronouns (She, Her, Hers)

Do you speak pelvic floor? I do. There is so much going on in the pelvic floor, that unless you are thinking about it every day, it can be difficult to find the right words to describe exactly what you are feeling where. Today we are going to focus on individuals with female anatomy.

Your Genitals: Your 3 V’s

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When we refer to female reproductive organs many times we say vagina to describe the whole kit and caboodle down there. The truth is the vagina is just part of it. There’s much more going on.

Vagina: The vagina is the passageway from the uterus to the external world. It can expand to accommodate a penis, toy, or allow for the passage of a baby. It can do this shape-shifting because it has folds called rugae, which can stretch out like an accordion to allow the vagina to stretch as needed. Neat, huh? We call the opening the introitus, but we may also interchange it with simply, “vaginal opening”. Either is fine. The introitus can be an area of pain with penetration, so in Pelvic Floorland, we use that term a lot.

Vulva: The vulva is usually what people are referring to when they say vagina. The vulva encompasses all the external genitalia. Including the labia majora and minora (the lips), clitoris, vagina, and urethra.

Vestibule: The vestibule is the area in between the labia minora (small lips) and vagina. This is another special area, that can become painful with certain conditions

Other Vulvar Components

Urethra: This is the exit of the urinary system and is where pee comes out. Between the anus, vagina, and urethra there are three holes “down” there.

 

clitorisClitoris: This part is pretty cool. The clitoris provides sexual sensation. Did you know it averages four inches in length! Externally we can only see a small bit of it. We call that part the glans. Covering the glans, is the clitoral hood, which helps to protect it. Most of the structure of the clitoris is not viewable from the outside. Branching off the glans and traveling underneath the labia are the bulbs of the clitoris and the cura. These elements are erectile and fill with blood during arousal.

Labia Majora: The labia majora are the outer pair of lips when looking at the female vulva. They protect the delicate tissue of the vulva.

Labia Minora: The labia minora are the smaller set of lips and are contained within the labia majora. The labia minora can come in all different shapes and sizes and still be completely normal. Some women have long labia minora which extend past the labia majora, while others may have shorter labia minora which stay tucked within the labia majora. Variation is normal between women.

Having the words to describe where the pain it can be useful to both your pelvic floor physical therapist as well as your doctor. Stay tuned for future additions of “Do you speak pelvic floor?” where we will discuss male genital anatomy as well as the muscles of the pelvic floor itself.

Pelvic floor physical therapists are specialists in this area and have been added in the last decade, to urological and gynecological guidelines as the first line of treatment for various pelvic and sexual pain and weakness disorders.

ACOG Guidelines on Pelvic Pain:

https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Chronic-Pelvic-Pain?IsMobileSet=false

AUA Guidelines for Pelvic Pain

https://www.auanet.org/guidelines/interstitial-cystitis/bladder-pain-syndrome-(2011-amended-2014)

PH101: Something’s Wrong with my What?

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Image via PlayBuzz

On March 16, 2017 at 7pm we will be kicking off our spring semester of pelvic health education class, we call Pelvic Health 101 (PH101). In our first class we will be introducing you to the pelvic floor muscles, where they are, what they do, and how they relate to the health and function of your bowel, bladder, and sexual functioning. We will also be covering how things such as alignment, posture, muscle tone and nerves can affect your symptoms. This course is a great starting point to help you understand your pelvic floor and pelvic floor symptoms.

Please join us at our office at:

110 East 42nd Street, Suite 1504

New York, NY 10017
Register at: pelvichealth-101.eventbrite.com

Here is our line up of this and future classes:

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Calling All Ladies!

By Stephanie Stamas

As a pelvic floor physical therapist, the number one question I get asked is, ‘How did you get into this type of therapy?’ (usually in a very confused tone) I never have a good answer for them – I don’t have a good story or personal experience. In fact, when I first heard about pelvic floor therapy I said to myself – there is NO WAY I will ever do that. But it stuck in the back of my mind and less than a month later that I was signing up for my first internal examination course. I was terrified on my way to the course, anxious about getting so up close and personal. But much to my surprise I left feeling totally empowered! I walked away from the course confident in myself as a woman and ready to dive into working with this population. When I’ve asked other therapists about their experience, I get such similar responses! Why is this?

My theory is that women know so little about their own anatomy. Growing up we’re taught that things are weird, complicated and sometimes even ugly “down there.” It’s portrayed as a forbidden zone of the body that the less you know, the better. Ladies – this is not true! How are we supposed to love ourselves  and grow into the best of ourselves if we don’t even know the basics of our body? I think all this course offered me was just basic knowledge about the female body. But with that knowledge came power and confidence, and this is the confidence that I desire for all women around me.

So ladies, I’m dedicating one whole Pelvic Health 101 lecture just for you! We’re going to dive deep into the vulvovaginal anatomy, get into the nitty-gritty about hormones and periods, discuss good vulvar health tips and start feeling comfortable in our own skin! New spots have just opened up for this class so sign up here before they’re all gone!