The Diva Team is all for PERIOD Con

The Diva Team loves talking about periods, so let’s start.

Fact: Half the population experiences a period each month and unfortunately, many do not have access to period care.

Solution: PERIOD: The Menstrual Movement. PERIOD is the largest youth-run NGO in the menstrual health category. PERIOD was founded by Nadya Okamoto, a dynamic young woman with a desire to change the conversation around periods. PERIOD’s mission is to celebrate periods and provide products to those in need.

On November 18th in New York City, PERIOD is hosting the world’s first youth-run activism conference surrounding menstruation: PERIOD Con 2017. Diva International is proud to be supporting the event as the Diamond-Level Sponsor and even more thrilled that our CEO, Carinne Chambers-Saini will be the event’s keynote speaker.

It’s a beautiful thing when two inspiring and driven women come together with the same mission in mind- to provide a better period experience. Both Nadya and Carinne recognize that access to period care is a necessity, not a privilege.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to interact with young leaders who are making positive changes in their own communities. All in all, we’re beyond excited to be at PERIOD Con in just a few weeks,” Carinne Chambers-Saini.

The conference is an opportunity for each PERIOD Chapter Leader to learn how they can further the Menstrual Movement in their own communities. Each Chapter Leader is working towards raising awareness about PERIOD by hosting fundraisers and distributing period products to those in need.

Carinne was encouraged to learn that PERIOD’s high school and university chapters are led by inspiring young activists making positive change in their own neighborhoods. As a thank you to these leaders, Carinne wanted to provide each Chapter Leader with the opportunity to win 1 of 25 PERIOD Con entry tickets. Applicants were asked to fill out an online application and the winners were chosen by Diva. Carinne, along with the Diva Team cannot wait to meet the applicants at PERIOD Con!

“It feels like a dream to work with The DivaCup in this capacity,” says PERIOD Founder and Executive Director, Nadya Okamoto. “I, personally, have used The DivaCup since my second menstrual cycle when I was fourteen years old, and dreamed of partnering with The DivaCup. It’s quite a statement for such a company to so heavily be investing in both the leadership potential in the next generation, and the Menstrual Movement overall.”

PERIOD Con is based around the three pillars of PERIOD’s mission, which are Service, Education and Advocacy. Diva’s mission is to provide solutions for menstruatoras with an emphasis on excellence in menstrual care, environmental care, production and sustainability. The opportunity to align these goals with PERIOD’s mission is a privilege in of itself for Diva.

If hearing about PERIOD has sparked your interest, it’s not too late to get involved. Whether that means telling someone you know about the work they’re doing or applying to start a chapter in your community- anything helps.

Spread the word and let’s continue to talk about periods!

-The Diva Team

Finding the Right Gynecologist

finding the right gynecologist The DivaCup

 

Your gynecologist and you share a special relationship – and not just because they are checking out your vagina regularly. Your gynecologist is someone you trust with your health so it is important that you find the right gynecologist for your body and your health concerns.  For this reason, it may not be as simple as calling up the first gyno’s number you see in the phone book. There are many factors that play a part in finding the right gynecologist and the tips below are a great place to start.

Make a “Must-Haves” List

Every gynecologist should meet certain requirements, no matter who you decide on. Every gyno should be certified and educated, experienced with a number of years in the industry under their belt (hehe) and, depending on your body specifically, you can also look for gynos that have a certain expertise. For example, if you are living with endometriosis, you may look for a gyno who focuses on patients with endo.

After these initial must-haves are checked off the list, you should consider the following:

  • Is gender important to you? Everybody has different preferences and experiences, so think about whether you would feel more comfortable with a female or a male gynecologist. This can help you narrow down your list significantly from the get-go.
  • Where are they located? Obviously, you will want to know how close or far your gyno’s office is from where you live and the implications that may have. If you’re willing to have a gyno that is further away, keep in mind that you may not be able to get in for emergency appointments. Take into account your drive time, whether there is public transport stops close by or whether parking will cost you an arm and an ovary.
  • What is included in your health plan? Be mindful that there may be gynos or treatments not affiliated with your benefit package or health plan and ones that are, which may limit your options when it comes to coverage.
  • What are their values? Finding a gyno that shares your views and values is too often overlooked and is actually super important. Whether you are into alternative methods of birth control or really like a gyno with a sense of humor, these are important things to determine before you sign over your vagina to them.

Ask Around

Obviously, walking up to a stranger and asking who they recommend for your vagina may not be the most effective, but getting referrals is an easy way to narrow down your search. You could speak with your regular physician about gynecologists they recommend and get a referral appointment that way, or you could ask family, friends and trusted co-workers if they would recommend their gyno. It’s also important to ask if there is anyone they wouldn’t recommend, which could save you a lot of trouble in the long run.

Do Your Homework

Remember, this is your health so don’t just take someone’s word and leave it at that. Do a little homework and look up your gyno candidates’ credentials, ensure they are properly certified and maybe even look at reviews online from trusted websites.

Make a Consultation Appointment

Narrow down your top choices and make a consultation appointment with each of them. This won’t be an exam, but rather a chance to sit and get to know your potential gynecologist. Don’t leave any stone unturned. Prepare a list of questions you have, from the general to the very specific, and ask each candidate their thoughts. It is important to ask about things that are important to you, whether it is alternatives to the pill or STI testing, so you can get a feel for how you and your potential gyno will groove.

Follow Your Gut

You know yourself better than anyone so don’t feel ashamed of turning down a gyno that seemed perfect on paper but that you just aren’t sure about. There is no shame in putting yourself, your comfort, or your health first. So if something isn’t sitting right with you, keep shopping around. Mindy Lahiri may not actually exist but the perfect gyno for you definitely does.

You Aren’t Stuck

Remember, this doesn’t have to be a permanent relationship. If you end up deciding to go with a gyno and later on find that things aren’t working out the way you had hoped, whether that is because you two have different values or wait times are too long, you are allowed to find a new gyno whenever you see fit.

Are you ready to #GetToYourGyno? Don’t be nervous – you are taking a big step in the right direction for your health. What are some tips you have for finding the right gyno? How did you know when you found her/him? Share your experiences with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!

 

Guest Post: Your Pelvic Floor and The DivaCup

Ah, the magnificent vaginal canal. While many may not use the word magnificent to describe the vagina, we at Diva know how important the vagina is to a women’s health, reproduction, and overall daily comfort. Whether just learning about puberty, or a woman well-versed in all things vagina (and period), there is still lots we can learn from the experts.

Keri Martin Vrbanac is an expert pelvic health specialist who is on a mission to help women find support for their pelvic region (and with The DivaCup). We sat down with Keri, bringing her some case studies that our Consumer Care Team often see from women who are finding some challenges with using a menstrual cup. For some new users, and also some long-time Divas, finding continued success with the cup can take some time as the vaginal muscles (the muscles that hold The DivaCup in place) may require additional support.

The below are just snapshots of the many ways pelvic health physiotherapy can help women find better success with The DivaCup and in turn, better vaginal and pelvic health!

Scenario 1:

I’m a runner and a yoga enthusiast. At 19, I wanted to change my period care routine to a better option so I invested in The DivaCup. I purchased the Model 1 as I am under 30 years old and have not had children. Unfortunately, my experience thus far has not been great. I’m having a really hard time with insertion and rotation. It almost feels as if the cup is too big for me. Please help!

Keri: It is possible that your pelvic floor muscles are hypertonic, or in other words, too tight. Some women with hypertonic pelvic floor muscles may experience pain when using any internal menstrual products or may have pain with intercourse. The only way to know the status of your pelvic floor muscles for sure is to visit a pelvic health physiotherapist in order to have an assessment completed. If it turns out that the floor is too tight, your therapist will educate you on how you can remedy the problem and perhaps return to comfortable use of The DivaCup.

Pregnant person

Scenario 2:

I used The DivaCup for six years before I became pregnant. Fast forward a year and a half and my period has returned. I’m using the Model 2, I am 33 years old and my cup just doesn’t seem to stay in place very well. I am also experiencing leaking; something I have never had an issue with before! I used the Model 1 for a number of years and then switched to the 2 when I turned 30. Could it be that I need the smaller size again?

Keri: There is a possibility that your pelvic floor muscles have become weak following your pregnancy/delivery and are no longer strong enough to hold your cup in place. It is possible for you to strengthen those muscles through proper exercise, but before you begin any form of pelvic floor muscle exercises, you should visit a pelvic health therapist to determine if your pelvic floor is tight or weak, or both. Kegels are not for everyone and in some cases can actually cause more harm than good so consulting with a specialist before incorporating these kinds of exercises is important.

Scenario 3: 

I am 38, don’t have kids and am using The DivaCup model 2. The cup is easy to insert and rotate, but after a few hours, it begins to move up. Around this same time, the cup also starts to leak. I’m sure I am inserting the cup correctly, but when it moves up it makes it difficult to remove. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Keri: Your pelvic floor muscles may be hypertonic or too tight. Trying the smaller sized cup may help, but as there is a small difference in the size (Model 1 is 1/8″ (~0.3 cm) smaller), it may be that your muscles need to be elongated or relaxed. Sometimes a smaller pelvis can also affect the tone of the musculature but not always. The only way to know the status of your pelvic floor muscles for sure is to visit a pelvic health physiotherapist to have an assessment completed.

Scenario 4:

I’m 26. I do no have kids and have been using The DivaCup model 1. The cup is amazing. As a nurse I can go an entire shift without worrying about leaks… until I go to bed. While sleeping it seems as though the cup moves lower and begins to leak. Do I need the bigger size? Why is it that it fits fine during the day, even on my painful heavy days, and not at night?

Keri: Just like the rest of the muscles in our body, the pelvic floor muscles will relax when we are resting. Our pelvic floor muscles do not have to work as hard when we are sleeping because we do not require as much support. Position changes throughout the night may cause a shift in the position of the cup as well. Supported sleeping with a pillow between your knees may help maintain a more restful position and prevent frequent position changes.

Scenario 5:

My period has returned after having my fourth child. I’m 39 years old and using The DivaCup model 2. The cup doesn’t seem to want to stay in me. It falls so low that it is essentially falling out. I am really frustrated that I’m not finding success with the cup. All my friends rave about it.

Keri: It is possible that you have a bladder or uterine prolapse which means that one or both of these organs have lowered into the vaginal canal. With less space available, The DivaCup may be pushed downwards. A pelvic health physiotherapist can diagnose a prolapse and work with you to decrease its impact on your life.

Pelvic floor and working out

Scenario 6:

As a gym enthusiast I love lifting weights, I also love The DivaCup, except when it leaks. I find that when I go through my weight routine, the cup begins to move out of place and leak, almost as if the seal has been broken. Could my muscles tense so much that they are breaking the seal?

Keri: Yes, your pelvic floor muscles could be tight OR they could actually be weak. With weight lifting, we increase our intra-abdominal pressure and this in turn causes a downward pressure on our pelvic floor muscles. A pelvic floor physiotherapist can determine the status of your floor and tailor your program to address this issue as well as provide tips for safe exercise and maintaining your pelvic health.

Keri Martin VrbanacKeri Martin Vrbanac

Keri is a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist and the owner of A Body In Motion Rehabilitation in ON, Canada. Keri has been practising physiotherapy since 1997 where she graduated with distinction with her Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy from the University of Toronto. Keri’s career as a physiotherapist has brought her to Australia, the United States of America and back to Canada where she has settled in Conestogo with her husband and her two amazing little girls! Keri’s passion for pelvic health is contagious and she continues with ongoing education to fuel her passion and remain current. Keri is a member of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association, The Ontario Physiotherapy Association, The International Pelvic Pain Association, The National Vulvodynia Association, and The Association for Continence. You can contact Keri at abodyinmotion@theboardwalkmedical.com.

Endo What? A Documentary on Endometriosis

EndoWhatPosterEndometriosis is a painful and debilitating disease in which endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus and it affects more women than you think. In fact, an estimated 176 million women around the world have endometriosis. How can this disease be so wide spread and yet barely talked about? The documentary Endo What? is looking to change this by presenting accurate information straight from the experts about this disease. The only film of its kind, Diva International Inc. was proud to partner with the Endo What? team as a sponsor. With its world screening tour continuing throughout March (aka Endometriosis Awareness Month) we thought we would share a bit about the experience! We recently got the chance to speak with Shannon Cohn (Director/Producer) and asked her a few questions:

What was the turning point that led to this documentary’s creation?

We’ve been working on the film for 4 years, but it’s been over 20 years in the making. That’s how long I’ve had symptoms of endometriosis. When my 2nd daughter was born 4 years ago I started thinking about how little things have changed since I first had symptoms at 16. Women still go to an average of 8 doctors for 10 years before they are diagnosed. They are still told it’s in their heads, that pregnancy and hysterectomy are cures, and that pain is normal. All is this is completely false. I thought: What if there were a film to help stop this vicious cycle? A film to put power in the hands of women. This is that film.

Why Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is the most devastating and common disease that most people have never heard of. It affects 1 in 10 women or 176 million women around the world. The only way we’re going to stop the devastating narrative of the disease is to talk about our pain, our symptoms and get the right information out there. Only then can we act on it and make empowered decisions about our health, about our lives. This film and the one that follows are our contribution to changing that narrative once and for all.

What steps went into setting up and creating this documentary?

When I first decided to make this film, I started reading and researching everything I could get my hands on. Books, articles, journals… everything. It became clear to me that 95% of the information out there is incorrect. For example, endometriosis lesions are not simply misplaced uterine tissue. The lesions are similar to uterine tissue, but not exactly the same. Also, thorough excision surgery from a qualified surgeon is the cornerstone of good treatment and the true symptomatic profile is not well known, not well-taught. Endometriosis is not just “killer cramps.” It can just as often present with GI or urinary symptoms. I had a ton of GI symptoms and had multiple colonoscopies & endoscopies, CATscans, MRIs, ultrasounds and nothing ever showed up. I tried every diet under the sun and continued to have symptoms. It turns out it was endometriosis the entire time. Yet it’s incredibly hard to find that information amid the plethora of misinformation, politics and egos vying for attention and notoriety.

We started interviewing the world’s top experts, not just surgeons, but researchers, scientists, nutritionists, therapists and more. It was important to me to take a nuanced, multi-disciplinary exploration of the disease to give women the most complete tool they can use to take control of their health.

What do you hope to achieve with this documentary both long term and short term?

In the short term, I hope the film is widely-seen by women with endometriosis, their loved ones and the medical community including OBGYNs, pediatricians, primary care providers and gastoenterologists.  I hope women are empowered by the film and can starting being proactive in their own healthcare. I hope health care providers start to realize that endometriosis is more complex than they’ve been taught. Beyond that, I hope that we can get a copy of the film to every school nurse so that teenage girls may be treated when they first have symptoms rather than go 10 or 20 years like I did and so many others. Further, we plan to partner with local organizations in countries around the world to get copies of the film to lawmakers & put endo on national agendas.

What challenges have you had to overcome when creating this documentary?

Truthfully, navigating the political minefield surrounding endometriosis has been the biggest challenge. When I first started making the film I was unaware of this reality, but quickly learned there are a lot of politics, egos and power plays involved in endometriosis advocacy and care. Unfortunately, I think this is one reason that the field hasn’t advanced as quickly as it could. We navigate it by continually asking “Would this ultimately benefit a woman with endo?” If the answer is no, then it doesn’t happen. Beyond that, of course there are financial challenges as we funded this film on our own, filming whenever we could and editing as we went along. The endo community rallied in a tremendous way last fall in helping us raise funds to execute a large scale outreach campaign of the film and that’s what is about to happen now. It’s really happening & we couldn’t be more excited. Change is coming. Believe it.

The Diva Team would like to congratulate everyone on the Endo What? team for creating a truly amazing documentary that attests to the struggles women with endometriosis face.

For more information on this important film or to buy tickets to one of the stops on the Endo What? world tour, please visit: www.endowhat.com

shannon-imgShannon Cohn
Director / Producer
For over a decade, Shannon has produced award-winning feature films and TV series for Discovery Channel and NatGeo. Before that, she practiced international law and was part of the legal team that prosecuted Enron. She went to film school at NYU and has a law degree from Vanderbilt. She’s also a woman who lives with severe endometriosis. In her case, that means over 20 years of debilitating pain, miscarriages, multiple surgeries and misdiagnoses. She started thinking about how little things have changed since she first had symptoms at 16. Women still go to an average of 6-8 doctors for 8-10 years before they are diagnosed. They are still told it’s in their heads, that pregnancy and hysterectomy are cures, and that pain is normal. She started thinking. What if there were a film to help stop this vicious cycle? A film to put power in the hands of women. This is that film.

 

Be Heart Healthy

Whether celebrating love (romantic or platonic), or simply focusing on some much needed love of self and self-care, there is no denying that February is all about the heart. Though you may spend much of this month giving and sharing of your heart, how much are you doing for your heart itself?

Did you know that according to the Heart and Stroke Association, heart disease is still the number one killer of women in the United States and is seen to be the cause of 1 out of every 3 deaths of American women? An estimated 43 million women in the US are currently affected by heart disease, which is about 27% of American women. That seems like quite a lot!

So why are we not talking about it more?

This should not surprise us, when an even higher percentage of women in the United States menstruate but menstruation still seems to sometimes be difficult to talk about, and guess what? It’s not only our silence on the two topics that are linked!

Menstruation and Heart Health

Do you know that there may also be a connection between menstruation and heart health? Researchers have been looking into links between menstruation and heart health for some time. There has been much talk about the link between menopause and overall cardiac health as the risk of heart disease is certainly higher for women after menopause. A recent decade long study at University of Oxford even suggested a link between when a woman first starts menstruating and heart disease in later life. In addition to this, Dr. Susan Rako MD in her book, No More Periods?, attributes menstruation to other heart health benefits, including: 1) the reduction in blood pressure during half the normal menstrual cycle and 2) the reduction of stored iron which can also help reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack.

Be Still My Healthy Heart!

So how can you live heart healthy? Well most importantly, make sure that you are doing your regular health checkups and talking with your primary healthcare provider. Also it is never too late to make those small lifestyle changes that can improve not only your cardiac health but your overall health as well. Of course, we are talking about making healthier diet choices and finding more ways to incorporate exercise and activity in your life.

Heart Healthy Eating

We’ve all heard about the heart healthy benefits of EFAs (Essential Fatty Acids like Omega 3 and Omega-6) which can be found in delicious foods like fish, flaxseed, hemp seeds, walnuts, chia, etc. Incorporating some of these into your diet can be easy as well as yummy. Who doesn’t like a good fish fillet for dinner? And if you are vegetarian, adding some flaxseed oil or hemp seed to a smoothie or salad can be a simple fix too.

Try this Heart Healthy Recipe!

OMC (Oh My Cod!)

Ingredients:
1 lb  filet of cod
2 Medium Tomatoes – diced
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper cut into strips
1 yellow onion – diced
2 cloves of garlic – minced
2 sprigs of fresh parsley – chopped fine
2-3 cilantro leaves – chopped fine
1 Tbsp of capers – sliced to release juices
I tsp of Lime juice,
Virgin coconut oil
Coarse salt and fresh pepper to taste

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375 C

Sauté onion in coconut oil until the onion starts to yellow. Then add all vegetables and sauté for about 5 to 10 minutes on medium heat adding water as needed. Add herbs and continue cooking for on medium heat until tastes are blended. Add salt and pepper to taste. Apply a 1/3 of the sauce to the bottom of a medium-sized glass baking dish, and then place the cod filets on the sauce, spooning the remainder of the sauce over top and squeeze the lime juice over the filet.

Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes until the fish has a flaky texture and is opaque white throughout.

Activity and Exercise

The other piece to the puzzle is injecting a bit more activity and movement into your life. More often than not, it becomes all too easy to be more sedentary. If you work at an office job you may be sitting at your desk all day, and even in our off time the entertainment offered by television, the internet, and our smart phones, make it all too simply to sit on the couch instead of getting up and moving around.

Though you may not be able to get out to a gym, some simple things like opting to climb the stairs instead of taking the elevator can make a world of difference. Another great idea, during the work day is to set an alarm on your phone to get up every couple of hours and do 5-10 squats. Roping your colleagues or cubical buddies into joining you can make this a fun way to break up the work day while getting you up and moving.

A fun idea for getting yourself moving while not letting it get monotonous is to make yourself an activity challenge jar. Write yourself some activity challenges on slips of paper and keep them in a jar. You know yourself so make sure your challenges are not too easy but also within your ability while still being slightly challenging. Then 2-4 times a day pull out an activity idea from the jar to do on the spot.

Here are some ideas to get you started, no equipment necessary!

  • Do __# of squats holding each squat for a count of 15.
  • Do __# sit-ups.
  • Hold a plank for __# seconds.
  • Do __# burpees.* Remember the number of repetitions or for holding a position will be unique to everybody and make sure to keep it reasonable, discussing all increased activity with your doctor.

Finding fun ways to get more active and eat better will benefit your health in many ways including the ways of the heart.

You’re in our hearts!

diva team signature

 

Research Opportunities and The DivaCup

PrintA few weeks ago, The Diva Education Team had the opportunity to visit The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Long Island, New York. Diva International Inc. has committed to provide menstrual cups for the Feinstein institute’s ROSE Study (Research OutSmarts Endometriosis) in an effort to help advance the care and knowledge of a disease that affects 1 in 10 women.

You may be wondering: What role does The DivaCup play in all of this?

One element of the study includes asking participants to provide a sample of menstrual flow through the use of The DivaCup. The DivaCup easily collects flow, is super comfortable and if women choose, can be used as their preferred femcare option after they’ve submitted the sample.

For those not familiar with endometriosis, approximately 5.5 million women and girls suffer from endometriosis in North America alone. Endometriosis occurs when the endometrium, the tissue that lines the uterus and is shed every month, grows outside of the uterus on other organs or structures in the body. Symptoms can range from painful menstrual cramps to incapacitating abdominal and pelvic pain and infertility. While the severity of endometriosis varies, the more extensive forms of the disorder can cause severe pain and disability. In addition, approximately 40% of infertility is associated with endometriosis.

Pink science equipment microscopeThe team at the Feinstein Institute are welcoming and enthusiastic about the work they are doing. Everyone we met was positive about the study and thankful to have the opportunity to play a part in the research. Bringing years of research and experience together, the team is diverse, dynamic and excited for what can be achieved through the aid of The DivaCup. We met with Peter K. Gregersen, MD and Christine Metz, PhD  the lead investigators on the study, along with the researchers, nurses and medical school interns.  We got to tour the lab (where we saw some fascinating cell samples in the microscope collected from menstrual flow using the DivaCup) and had the opportunity to talk through the many advances the team has already made in the study.

All in all, the trip was both inspiring and educational.

The goal of the ROSE study, which has received funding from the Endometriosis Foundation of America, founded by Dr. Tamer Seckin, is to investigate the cause of endometriosis and bring improved diagnostics and treatments for women living with the disease.

Current diagnosis relies on pelvic exams and ultrasound imaging coupled with laparoscopic surgery. Women with more severe endometriosis often require surgical intervention to relieve symptoms and it is not uncommon for a woman to require repeat surgery. Hormone treatments may be effective in many women, but can have unpleasant side effects. Improved diagnostic methods and better tolerated and more effective medical therapies are needed.

Researchers involved in ROSE are using several approaches to study endometriosis. These include efforts to better understand the genetic basis of the disease and relate this what is occurring at the cellular level in the disease, with particular emphasis on the role of stem cells and the immune system.

They are receiving great feedback and response, but the study is hoping to receive hundreds of samples each year and needs your help! Women both living with and living without endometriosis in both Canada and the United States can participate in the ROSE study to help find answers for those who are suffering.

To learn more about getting involved visit the ROSE Study webpage.

 

Feinstein Empowering®The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research
Headquartered in Manhasset, NY, The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research is home to international scientific leaders in many areas including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, psychiatric disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, sepsis, human genetics, pulmonary hypertension, leukemia, neuroimmunology, and medicinal chemistry. The Feinstein Institute, part of the North Shore-LIJ Health System, ranks in the top 6th percentile of all National Institutes of Health grants awarded to research centers. For more information, visit www.FeinsteinInstitute.org.

{Guest Post} Take Care of Yourself. Take Care of Your Vagina.

All right girls, let’s talk about a few things. Don’t blush, I’m a gynecologist. If you can’t talk to me about it, who are you gonna ask? So, let’s talk about the vagina. This is your girl part. I have heard some crazy names for “down there” but let’s not forget … It is the vagina. And it is yours. No one else’s. So, it is up to you to take care of it. Luckily, it’s not hard. The less you do, the better.

The vagina is what we call a closed pouch. It just kind of dead ends. Your cervix is at the top of the vagina and is actually the lowest point of your uterus – a thick muscle wall organ that keeps your baby safe and warm during pregnancy; and gives you cramps and bleeding and feels like it is fighting a war in your gut during your period. The vagina is a thin skin canal with ducts that allow for normal vaginal discharge. Some discharge comes from the cervix; some comes directly from the walls of the vagina.

Discharge is normal. Say that out loud …. “Discharge is normal.”. 

Discharge may vary from clear to white or yellowish. This will depend on where you are in your normal monthly cycle. Around the time of ovulation (when your ovary releases a little egg and you are most likely to get pregnant), your discharge will be thin, clear, sticky and sometimes there is a lot. This usually happens about 2 weeks after your period has finished.  Just before you start your period, you may notice a thicker, white / yellow discharge. This is all normal. There is no set amount for what a “normal amount” of discharge is. Some people just make more than others. It will change with age and with seasons and your diet and water intake and medicines you take and alcohol intake and so on.

Get to know your cycle!

Get to know your cycle!

When should you worry about discharge? If it has a funny color (greenish tint) or a funny smell (fishy is not normal). If you have any other symptoms like vaginal burning or itching or spotting or irregular bleeding. Then, you need to call your doctor. Don’t panic. It may not be a sexually transmitted infection. Yeast and bacterial infections are very common and are not from sexual contact. They just happen.

The vagina has normal healthy bacteria. Just like your gut, and your skin. When this normal bacteria is over producing or under producing, you may develop a yeast infection of bacterial infection. This is also why it is so important that you not douche. There is no reason for it. I promise. The vagina keeps itself clean. When you douche you are doing more harm than good by washing out all the good bacteria.

If you are prone to getting yeast infections or bacterial infections, be sure to ask your doctor for vaginal cultures. Sometimes we get an infection that is resistant to our most common medications. Sometimes we really do need to be tested for gonorrhea, chlamydia or trichomonas. Staying healthy, eating a good diet with whole foods, stop eating sugar and processed foods, take a probiotic supplement, or eat fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, etc, will all help maintain a healthy immune system and a healthy vagina.

What’s a normal period? This is a tricky question, because there is a lot that is considered “normal.” most women have a period about once a month. Normal period cycles may be anywhere between 21 and 38 days. Even your own cycle may vary a few days every month. If you are pretty close to having a period once a month, this means you are most likely ovulating. This is important when you want to have a baby. Taking birth control pills may give you a regular, predictable period, but it prevents ovulation, so you won’t get pregnant. Normal bleeding is about 30 – 60 ml the entire week you bleed. Periods typically last 4 – 7 days.

But, if yours is a little shorter or a little longer that’s okay.

Bleeding is usually heavy for 1 – 3 days and lighter the rest of the time. Period blood is not just blood. It is the lining of the uterus that is shedding (which had built up because of hormones getting ready to host a pregnancy. If the pregnancy doesn’t happen, the tissue lining of the uterus sloughs off). So, period bleeding may be bright to dark red, tissue or stringy, mucousy, little clots, large clots, pinkish, brownish. All of that is normal. When should you call your gynecologist?? If your periods last more than 10 days; if you know you lose more than 80ml a cycle; if you are 18 and have not started your period yet; or if your periods are extremely irregular and unpredictable.

One option for period care is  …  The DivaCup.

DivaCup on BagThe DivaCup is a silicone menstrual cup that you place in your vagina during your period. It may sound crazy, but I’m telling you, it is such a good alternative! You can leave it in for 12 hours. So convenient! Wash it with soap and water (they make a special DivaWash that is safe and helps to maintain the integrity of the silicone). It is reusable every month. Less waste. Eco-friendly! It is easy and comfortable to use for all activities … Yoga, travel, camping, water sports, cross fit, running, hiking, jumping, etc. Without sounding all dramatic, The DivaCup will change your life. Change. Your. Life!

A few things I’ve learned after using The DivaCup myself (and what I tell my patients) … It sits low in the vagina. It should sit right at the entrance of the vagina. It won’t be hanging out of the vagina, but it is low. The tip at the end of The DivaCup can be trimmed, but watch their guidelines on your cup. You don’t want to cut the entire end off. It may seem awkward at first, but just shove it up there.

There are two popular ways of folding your cup for insertion … The “C” fold (like the letter “C”, fold it in half) or the “Push Down” fold (like the number “7”, a diagonal fold). You will naturally just figure out what it is easiest for you. Once it’s in, rotate it around and feel the edges. You don’t want it to be folded at all. You want the cup fully opened. If you have problems with leaking, this is the most likely due to positioning and talking with your doctor or contacting The DivaCup can offer you some helpful tips! Few, few women may need to empty their cup earlier than 12 hours. It is not recommended that you keep it in longer than 12 hours without emptying and rinsing it. To remove it, grab the base and gently pinch it and sort of rotate it out. If you’re careful, it won’t even make much mess. Empty the contents into the toilet and wash with the DivaWash and water, then, reinsert. Once your period is over for the month, you can boil your DivaCup in water to give it a more thorough clean, but this is optional. Over time, your DivaCup will naturally discolor. No worries. And, The DivaCup should be replaced every year or so.

Take care of yourself. Take care of your vagina.

Dr. BullockDr. Nicole Bullock

Dr. Bullock, earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from University of Texas at San Antonio and later attended medical school at The University of North Texas Health Science Center, Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine. She did her residency in Tulsa, OK in Obstetrics and Gynecology and is now in private practice in Texas. Dr. Bullock is married to Rob, her high school sweetheart. Together, they enjoy doing CrossFit, traveling, drinking coffee, cooking and having adventures. Dr. Bullock also loves yoga and being creative with arts and crafts. She believes the following about patient care:

I love what I do. It is a true honor to care for my patients. Patients have a particularly special relationship with their OB/GYN physicians. Not only during pregnancy (when you see each other often and then experience a miraculous event together), but even for gynecology visits, there is a trust that is essential between patient and physician. There are few things that make you as vulnerable as a visit to your GYN. Trust and comfort for that patient / physician relationship is foundational.

{Guest Post} What is Pelvic Health Physiotherapy?

Pelvic Health

Pelvic floor dysfunctions are more common than you can imagine and one of the reasons that you may not know this is, ssshhhhhhhhhhh…. we do not talk about them!

Our pelvic floor muscles silently do their job to assist with bladder, bowel and sexual function. They also have a very significant contribution in keeping our core strong and our backs healthy. However, many of us are unaware that these muscles exist and in turn, do very little to keep them healthy and use them appropriately!

Did you know that it is not normal to leak urine when you laugh, cough or sneeze? It’s not normal to have pain when using menstrual products or having intercourse! It’s not normal to feel pressure, heaviness or pain in the pelvic region! And most importantly… Kegel exercises are NOT for everyone and when they are useful, they are often done incorrectly and with the use of all sorts of muscles other than the important ones!

People often ask me, “You do WHAT?”. Pelvic Health Physiotherapists are Registered Physiotherapists who have specialized in the treatment of pelvic health concerns. Like physiotherapists in other settings, our goal is to assist our patients in resuming their daily or nightly activity, as quickly as possible! What makes us different from other physios is our training to assess the pelvic floor muscles directly through the vagina or the rectum. This generally elicits reactions that range from shock to intrigue. Responses are often varied and many are skeptical but that is okay because it gives me the opportunity to discuss a topic that I am incredibly passionate about!! No more whispering… let’s start talking!!!

What does this have to do with The DivaCup and period care? Everything! The pelvic floor muscles are a vital part of DivaCup placement and overall comfort. A healthy pelvic floor will help to create worry-free use of this product that has so many incredible benefits from a “healthy pelvis” perspective.

You can learn more about pelvic health physiotherapy here as well as find support with one today by searching online. If you are within Canada, Pelvic Health Solutions has a list of practicing pelvic health physiotherapists in Ontario and Alberta.

Keri Martin Vrbanac

Keri Martin Vrbanac
Registered Physiotherapist/Pelvic Health Physiotherapist
B.A., B.P.H.E., B.Sc (P.T.)

Keri is a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist and the owner of A Body In Motion Rehabilitation in ON, Canada. Keri has been practising physiotherapy since 1997 where she graduated with distinction with her Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy from the University of Toronto. Keri’s career as a physiotherapist has brought her to Australia, the United States of America and back to Canada where she has settled in Conestogo with her husband and her two amazing little girls! Keri’s passion for pelvic health is contagious and she continues with ongoing education to fuel her passion and remain current. Keri is a member of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association, The Ontario Physiotherapy Association, The International Pelvic Pain Association, The National Vulvodynia Association, and The Association for Continence. You can contact Keri at abodyinmotion@theboardwalkmedical.com.

 

Q & A with 1in10 about Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

As September is PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) Awareness Month, The Diva Team thought to share some insight on PCOS with some help from 1in10:

Sept Awareness 1in10 20141. What is PCOS?

Although those who have heard of PCOS usually think of it as a reproductive disorder, PCOS is not a menstrual or reproductive disorder.

PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) is an Endocrine and Metabolic Disorder affecting at least 1 out of every 10 women worldwide. PCOS is now recognized as the most common endocrine disorder in women. It has been labeled as both a “silent killer” and “the perfect hormonal storm”. While it is important to understand that there is no cure for PCOS, it is just as important to realize that the symptoms of PCOS can be managed with proper treatment.

PCOS causes a wide variety of symptoms that have the ability to be truly devastating to a woman’s health and well-being. PCOS can be diagnosed in all phases of life – it is not a disorder solely affecting women of childbearing years. In the United States alone, over 8 million women of all ages have received a PCOS diagnosis – PCOS is not limited to women of reproductive age or potential.

Because the symptoms of PCOS vary from woman to woman in their display and severity, and because not all women with PCOS have ovarian cysts, organized medicine has considered re-naming the disorder.

Common symptoms of PCOS include, but are not limited to: weight fluctuations, acne, hirsutism (excess body hair), skin tags (Acrochordon), absent or infrequent menstrual periods, hair loss at the scalp (Androgenic alopecia), dark skin patches (Acanthosis nigricans), depression and/or anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, ovarian cysts, and difficulty conceiving a child.

2. How does PCOS affect the menstrual cycle?

Because the majority of the outward symptoms of PCOS affect the hair and skin, most women have trouble connecting those symptoms to an Endocrine (hormonal) disorder and fail to seek help. Most women receive a PCOS diagnosis after their cycle either becomes extremely irregular (less than 4 periods a year) or stops all together – or if they have trouble conceiving a child, but they may have been living with PCOS for years without knowing it.

Our hormones impact every process that goes on inside of our bodies – and our bodies have pretty specific “optimal” ranges for each hormone. When one or more hormones deviate from that range (either lower or higher), as is the case with PCOS, the body recognizes this and fails to operate the way it should.

Take insulin, for example. Insulin is such an important hormone that the levels of insulin in your body can affect multiple processes. When insulin doesn’t (or can’t) do its job, it sets off a series of events in the body that impacts not only your blood sugar levels, but your weight, the condition of your skin, your hair cycle, your menstrual cycle – and more!

Failure to receive a diagnosis, and therefore failure to treat, PCOS can have a devastating effect on a woman’s health. PCOS has been linked to several serious health conditions, including (but not limited to): Thyroid Disease, Autoimmune Diseases, Heart Disease, Diabetes, Endometrial Hyperplasia, NAFLD (Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease), Chronic Kidney Disease, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Stroke, Heart Attack, Gestational Diabetes, Preeclampsia, Infertility & Cancer (Endometrial, Ovarian, Uterine & Breast).

myPCOS Ad 1in10 20143. What support is there for women experiencing PCOS?

If you are suffering from PCOS, it’s important to know that you are not alone and that there is support available to you!

1in10 provides online support via myPCOS – a private, members-only social network for women with PCOS, webinars, outreach programs, PCOS Awareness Month events, and free educational literature and tool kits available for downloading and printing on our website.

4. Can you share a bit about 1 in 10?

1in10 is a grassroots non-profit organization for women with PCOS, founded and run by women with PCOS, grounded in 3 core principles – education, empowerment and hope. We firmly believe that educating women about their bodies will empower them to take control of their health, and give them hope for the future.

5. What can the Diva Community to do help draw awareness?

While September has been recognized as PCOS Awareness Month, 1in10 feels that it is vital to raise awareness year-round. After all, PCOS is a disorder that impacts the entire body. It is important that women get the facts about PCOS, understand how it can affect them throughout their entire life, and also how it may impact the lives of their children and family members.

By promoting healthy lifestyle choices, encouraging women to be educated about how their bodies work, and staying on top of the latest medical research we believe that all women will be empowered to become their own best health advocates.

6. In addition to medical care, what alternative treatments are available for women?

The most important thing a woman can do to help manage her PCOS is to make healthy lifestyle changes. Hormone levels can be positively (or negatively) impacted by nutrition and exercise, so it is important to move your body and give it the fuel it needs to run properly. By being conscientious of the food you eat (particularly carbohydrates) and making sure you exercise, you can help to minimize your PCOS symptoms and get your hormones back on track.

For women who are seeking PCOS treatment outside of traditional medicine, we recommend that you research all forms of alternative treatments available to you before undertaking any of them. There are hundreds of herbs and supplements on the market for reproductive health and/or infertility, but not all of them will truly help women with PCOS. Remember – PCOS is both a metabolic and endocrine disorder, so it is important to really research the ingredients in a supplement to find out exactly how it may impact your hormones.

Aside from supplements, acupuncture can be a great mechanism for relaxation and reducing the stress of PCOS. In times of stress, our bodies increase production of the hormone cortisol. Increased levels of cortisol impact your blood sugar, blood pressure, heart rate, immune response and digestive processes – which can all affect your PCOS symptoms.

No matter how you choose to treat your PCOS, the important thing to remember is that it does need to be treated! Depending on your hormone levels (as detected and evaluated by blood work) and symptoms, you may have success with diet and exercise alone, with safe supplements, or you may need prescription drugs. Remember to talk to your team of health professionals before beginning any diet or exercise program, and before taking any new supplement – and remember to always evaluate your progress by your blood work.

1in101in10

1in10 is a grassroots non-profit organization founded in 2011 by a group of women with PCOS who are determined to make a positive impact on the lives of women just like us.

What sets 1in10 apart from other PCOS organizations is our commitment to education based on medical research and scientific evidence. We believe that support without education is what has been missing from the PCOS community, and we are on a mission to change that! As an organization, and as women with PCOS, we have adopted 3 core principals – education, empowerment and hope.

Our Mission: 1in10 empowers women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome by providing knowledge, resources and support. It is our goal to promote public awareness of PCOS by providing current and medically approved information. We encourage those suffering, and those who know someone suffering, from PCOS to unite and join together as a Cysterhood.

Q & A with Molly Kirk Parlier from Women’s Health Foundation

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.

Women's Health Foundation1. 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 ParlierMolly 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.