How to avoid damage to the pelvic floorby Elisabetta Pina - 2017.03.20
Over four million Italian women suffer from pathologies associated to their pelvic floor, but they hide it. We spoke with Francesca Chieppa, psychologist and psychotherapist in Milan, who, alongside an obstetrician, has chosen to specialize in the mental and physical rehabilitation of this special patient population.
Question: What is the pelvic floor and what function does it serve?
Answer: It is also called the perineum and it is the base of horizontal muscles in our body. It holds up our gut: bladder, uterus and rectum. It is a true “floor”. It is essential that it remains solid and toned, to avoid prolapse, which can occur after pregnancy. Women are particularly at risk for prolapse of the pelvic floor after they turn 40. With symptoms (from incontinence to vaginal dryness) that can seriously affect self-esteem and the relationship of a couple. Our laboratory works like this: the obstetrician visits the patient and checks the health of the perineum. Then, as Psychologist, I talk to the patient to see if there has been any psychological traumas in her life. Many women, for example, become incontinent after experiencing an emotionally trying situation, such as the loss of a family member. Loss of urine can be a symptom of emotional suffering.
Q: Can you explain what your rehabilitation program consists of?
A: In Italy, unfortunately, there is still a focus on the cure of this pathology from a purely physical standpoint. Women usually find assistance for physical rehabilitation, but rarely is there any psychological support given. We propse 5 group encounters in which the issue is approached with a holistic orientation: from meditation to reiki activation of the perineum, as well as ad hoc yoga exercises and Pilates. Dietary consulting is in the works for the future.
Q: How can we keep the perineum healthy?
A: Rehabilitation exercises are usually taught by an obstetrician. Then, if a woman feels comfortable with her body, she can practice self-massage of the pelvic floor, which consists of inserting her thumb into her vagina, with a precise technique. And by practicing a voluntary contraction of the perineum developed by Arnold Kegel.
Q: Is there any method of prevention?
A: In addition to the exercises already cited, it is very important to walk with good posture, because an incorrect gait can negatively influence the health of the perineum.