The Diva Team was first introduced to the wonderful team of Women’s Health Foundation at the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology Annual Conference. Since then, we have been in conversation about all things period and pelvic health. Check out our latest conversation with their Director of Communication, Molly Kirk Parlier.
1. How did the Women’s Health Foundation (WHF) come to be?
After giving birth to her son, Missy Lavender experienced multiple pelvic disorders. Motivated by the prevalence of female pelvic disorders as well as lack of public attention, Missy founded Women’s Health Foundation (WHF) in 2004. The organization has sought to bring sensitive and stigmatized women’s pelvic health issues out of hiding and into the light. Today, WHF is made up of individuals united in their goal of connecting, educating and supporting women who struggle with pelvic health issues.
2. What exactly is pelvic health?
We describe pelvic health as anything including the bladder, bowel, uterine and vaginal organs, as well as the pelvic muscles and structures. Pelvic health issues are typically underappreciated yet critical health areas for women.
3. Why is pelvic health an important topic for women and girls to learn about?
Basic bladder and pelvic health education at a young age is virtually nonexistent. These basics are needed to prepare women for life events that affect their bladder and pelvic health, including pregnancy, menopause and the effects of aging. This may allow them to take preventative actions and make suitable health behavior choices to improve their bladder health sooner, thereby potentially avoiding and preventing dysfunction.
Female pelvic disorders, such as urinary incontinence, are common affecting approximately 33 million women (1 in 3); yet many women remain uninformed about basic female anatomy and pelvic muscular and organ function related to their own pelvic health. This lack of knowledge and understanding also leaves women ill-prepared for common life events related to the pelvis such as menarche, sexual activity, childbirth, menopause and the effects of aging. This deficit in knowledge is prone to impact the future health of women and girls.
4. Can you share a bit about why you’ve included a section called “myth busting” on the WHF website?
This section came about due to the wealth of myths we were hearing from our girlfriends, mothers, and sisters. There are so many common myths related to pelvic health, particularly with young women, such as not being able to get pregnant on your period. We felt this was the best way for us to get the RIGHT information out in the world.
5. What steps can young girls take to improve their pelvic health?
We have so many poor potty habits as youngsters which can have a big impact on whether or not you may be at-risk for a pelvic floor disorder later on. Probably the most important “myth” to bust is hovering over the toilet seat. We teach our women and girls to “build a nest” of toilet paper on the public toilet seat, and sit all the way down. This helps to completely eliminate urine from the bladder as well as allow the muscles to completely relax. If you’re worried about germs, think about this: there are more germs on a computer keyboard than a public toilet seat?
Currently we’re putting the finishing touches on two books: Riding the Potty Train, a potty training primer for little girls and their parents and Below Your Belt: How to Be Queen of Your Pelvic Region, for young girls ages 9-13 who are in the first stages of menarche. These books will help young girls (and their mothers) how to achieve ultimate pelvic health and wellness.
6. Since starting the organization, what has been the most interesting thing you have learned about pelvic health?
It’s incredibly difficult to list just one! But, I can tell you the healthy bladder tip that has been more affective and has changed my own life: I stopped “just in case” peeing. I was taught (like many others) to urinate even when I didn’t have to, “just in case” before a long car ride, etc. This behavior actually shrinks your bladder capacity over time and sends a signal to your brain to go, even when you have plenty of room left in your bladder. As soon as I stopped just in case peeing, I was able to go much longer without urinating – which has made all the difference on long car trips. You can learn more about our healthy bladder tips on our website.
7. How can people get involved with the work of the WHF?
There are so many ways to support our work, by volunteering in our office or making a donation. We also encourage women to share their story with us. This helps to eradicate the stigma many women feel and may get them to open up to someone about their issues. You can submit your story for others to read here.
You can also become a Total Control Program instructor, which is our evidence-based pelvic fitness program. The program is hosted nationally at various fitness clubs, hospital wellness centers, and YMCAs. Learn more here.
Molly Kirk Parlier
As Director of Communication for the Women’s Health Foundation, Molly Kirk Parlier primarily focuses on health curriculum development, health content development, event planning, and public relations. Additionally, Molly is “head blogger” for Women’s Health Foundation’s community blog and has contributed articles to a variety of print and digital health publications including EmpowHER, Neighborhood Parents Network, and the Healthy Women Community. In September of 2008, Molly accompanied a team of physicians to the remote mountainous region of Nepal to assist in a medical mission for women suffering from uterine prolapse. Molly recently completed coursework towards her Masters in Community Counseling.