You’ve heard and probably even said: “I have to pee every two seconds!” It’s an exaggeration for most, including myself — but not so far from the truth, either. For two years, I have had the constant sensation that I have to pee. When I told folks about it, they would giggle and tell me it’s what happens when you have a baby. For a while, I thought the gaggle of gigglers was right. My son had been a behemoth of a boy, weighing nearly 10 pounds, but that couldn’t be it. I was 15 months postpartum, and up until now, everything post-baby had been aces.
There had to be something else going on.
I made an appointment to see my general practitioner, and between her MD and WebMD, we theorized this was a garden-variety UTI. Two doses of antibiotic later, it wasn’t a UTI. Then we thought it could be the run-of-the-mill kidney stone. A CAT scan shot that theory down. Then we got into the really scary territory of ovarian and bladder cancer. After a battery of tests, two urologists, and a series of probes in all my probey places, the answer modern medicine had for me was, "You're fine. Do a Kegel."
I wasn't fine, and I didn't need a Kegel. A bagel, maybe but not a Kegel. Beyond carbs, what I needed was for someone to listen to me, to hear the words I was saying and not write me off as a Kegel case. After months of whining, crying, peeing, Zoloft, and feeling dismissed by nearly all of my doctors, someone finally heard and answered me.
That person wasn't my gynecologist or my urologist; it was my chiropractor.
After hearing of my symptoms and the various interventions I’d already had, Dr. Abigail F. Eaton, who is a Webster-certified chiropractic physician specializing in women’s health, told me that it was probably pelvic floor dysfunction.
Up until this point, NO ONE had said the words pelvic and floor to me. The pelvic floor could have been a type of Italian marble for all I knew. Not only does the pelvic floor exist, but there are physical therapists who specialize in its dysfunction and issues like mine. Specialists like M.S. Nancy Anderson, founder of Ab Rehab and the Birth Recovery Center, who told me that she hears from women with my symptoms daily.
They’ve had experiences like being dismissed, unseen, untreated, or worst yet mistreated.
“This old school protocol of ‘just do Kegels’ as a one-size-fits-all pelvic floor fix has stuck around too long,” says Anderson. “Many women are misinformed and are creating MORE dysfunction because of it,” she adds.
According to Anderson, one of the most common and overlooked pelvic floor issues is a hypertonic pelvic floor.
“A hypertonic pelvic floor simply means increased pelvic floor tone or tension,” says Anderson. “Since this muscle is tight, it often has a difficult time contracting,” she adds.
Symptoms of a hypertonic pelvic floor can include pain with intercourse, leaking, difficulty inhaling into the pelvic floor, pelvic pain, constipation, and — last but not least, sound the trumpet — urgency.
Every doctor in the greater Indianapolis area was telling me to strengthen, but what I needed to be doing was releasing.
I was a victim of a pelvic floor mistaken identity. People looked at me and saw a hyportonic-kegel-needy-floor, when they should have noticed a hypetonic-take-a-chill-pill-kinda-floor. It happens all the time, but it doesn’t have to, say the experts.
“I think women sometimes feel dismissed by their providers when they express concerns about their body,” says Dr. Eaton. “I wanted to be a physician who listened, showed compassion, and provided solutions to women seeking answers about their health.”
For me, Dr. Eaton didn’t just listen; she acted. She set me up on a course of chiropractic care, massage therapy, and referred me to a pelvic floor physical therapist. I still have flare ups from time to time, but I’m much, much better.
Once I can get my floor to relax, it will then be time to talk about rebuilding and strengthening.
“It’s really important if you are dealing with a hypertonic pelvic floor to release the tension FIRST,” says Anderson. “This will almost always reveal that you also have a lot of pelvic floor weakness, but we can’t strengthen the pelvic floor until we can fully access the pelvic floor, and we can’t access it until we can get a full release and contraction,” she adds.
When I am ready to start bulking up, I will be looking into programs like Anderson’s Ab Rehab, which guides patients like myself in safely building a strong and functioning pelvic floor.
“It’s never too late to do Ab Rehab and heal your core and pelvic floor,” says Anderson.
My advice to women like me is ad-vo-cate. Keep pushing till you find an expert who sees you and hears you. Do your due diligence, and run the traps, but when the answers come up empty, keep asking the questions.
“Listen to your body and trust your instincts,” says Eaton. “Keep in mind, pelvic floor issues are not ‘normal,’ they are ‘common,’ and you do not have to live with them,” adds Anderson.
Being a miss doesn’t mean you get to be dismissed. Remember it, live it, stitch it on a pillow. You deserve to be heard, and you deserve to be able to take a two-hour car trip without having to make ten potty stops. Keep talking. You will find the right person who will listen, just like I did.
Angela Hatem enjoys piña coladas, getting caught in the rain, and obviously soft rock. Born and raised in Homestead, FL and adopted by Indianapolis, IN, Angela enjoys her single life with her son, alongside all of her not so single friends and family. She tries to find the funny when it’s possible, when she can’t find that she looks for money under couch cushions.