The cornerstone of all health education for girls is their reproductive system. Tweens and teens learn about their periods, a multitude of wonderful products, a little hygiene, and the biggies: pregnancy and safety from STIs. Surprisingly, there is very little explanation about the rest of what goes on “down there.”
Or not so surprisingly…
Women’s Health Foundation’s (WHF) new book, Below Your Belt: How to be Queen of your Pelvic Region (BYB) has just published, and girl, it is exciting! While there are terrific books out there on changing bodies and having periods, the 10 chapters in BYB hone in on the big picture – pelvic health and wellness, not just the reproductive system (although the story of ovulation and of the hormonal rollercoaster are not to be missed).
WHF’s most recent study about pelvic health curriculum in schools was also recently published in the “Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology.” The study which informs the book, shows that education can connect a girl to her pelvis and create a much better understanding of her body and the power of the pelvic region. Missy Lavender, WHF’s Founder and Executive Director, refers to this area of a woman’s body as the “Center of all Centers.” Muscles, structures, digestion, elimination, and reproduction each require care and understanding that go far beyond menstrual care.
Take bladder and bowel health: Nearly half the girls in the research study already experienced light bladder leakage (called little bitty leaks or “giggle pee”), and almost all experienced constipation frequently enough for it to be a normal part of their lives. Without understanding how the two are linked and how to improve bladder and bowel health, these girls will most likely experience issues their mothers and grandmothers may be dealing with, before the effects of life stage events like pregnancy and delivery or menopause.
BYB presents pelvic health information like no book before it – actually no book like it has been published before! Enter the Queendom:
A history of the crazy things women have experienced over the years starts off the book and asks the question, “What is pelvic health anyway?” and “Why does it matter?” It can be hard to talk about these topics so the definitions of taboo and norm are explored. WHF intends to change that; after all, you can’t fix what you can’t talk about. Then, as a guided tour or queen-in-the-making training, Chapter Two looks at each bone, muscle, and organ in the pelvic region and shows what it look like, what it does, and what it’s for – with an eye on wonder and the recognition of beauty.
Next come “Pee and Me” and “Constipation Consternation,” a look into bathroom behaviors, nutrition, what to do, and what not to do, to start to instill that “ounce of prevention” tenet into a young reader’s thinking.
Pelvic fitness is a highlight of pelvic health. As such, the Pelvic Pyramid, a series of complex muscles deep within the pelvis and spine, is introduced for the first time. Adult women who have not yet experienced pelvic ill-health aren’t even aware of these. BYB teaches that with conscious knowledge of these muscles girls (and boys!) can “stand taller, kick farther, spin faster, and be strong in any activity in which they participate. Working these special muscles involves visualization more than movement. Corsets and candy necklaces make that happen. “Keep It Strong, Sister!” shows ten easy exercises for strength, flexibility, and wellbeing. Threaded throughout BYB are yoga poses to help with everything from easing constipation and cramps to mood elevation.
Have you ever heard of the Princess of Ovulation? Anatomically correct and functionally accurate, BYB still finds a way to make the lesson of ovulation memorable, if not charming. The period chapter, “Practical Matters,” talks about the basics: Pads or tampons? It looks at period tracking, cramps, hormones, and garnering help from parents, school nurses, and healthcare providers. How a young girl confronts her reproductive years – those in which she has a period – comes down to attitude and health. BYB makes it as clear as possible as it champions the Truth (the number of years a woman has a period for instance) and the Magic (the connection it creates throughout generations of women in her family).
As queen training wraps up, pelvic care is looked into – it’s pretty simple, actually. Don’t use feminine sprays or douches. Don’t use soap and water in around the vagina – it’s a self-cleaning oven that requires no assistance from outside substances. On the other hand, UTIs and vaginal yeast infections do happen, and in this chapter, girls learn how to recognize the difference, why they may occur, and how to get help.
Coronation, the end of the book, asks the question, “What do you now know that you didn’t before?” And, that is the crux of the study, right there. What did the girls know? Not much. How much did they learn after the program, and how likely were they to head into their older teen years and young adulthood with an appreciation for their remarkable center of all centers, now that they knew what it was? Measurably so, and with confidence and pride!
Below Your Belt: How to be Queen of Your Pelvic Region can be purchased on Amazon.