Raise your hand if your doctor ever mentioned anything to you about re-educating your vagina. If you’re like me, then you kept your hand down and probably raised your eyebrows. I mean c’mon. Why would a doctor need to re-educate you on your own lady parts?
However, it turns out that re-educating your vagina is actually a thing. And we Americans could learn a few things from the French.
It’s Time To Talk About It
Without a doubt, women go through A LOT! Pregnancy, childbirth, menopause and more causes our pelvic floor muscles to weaken over time. Pelvic prolapse can lead to everything from unexpected bladder leaks (i.e. incontinence) to discomfort while doing the do. It’s like one day your vagina is your best friend and the next it’s a stranger. These changes take us from being comfortable to uncomfortably awkward and it doesn’t help that nobody talks about it!
However, the national healthcare system in France does talk about it and the results are astounding.
What Is Perineal Re-education?
Perineal re-education (or, re-education of the perineum) is essentially physical therapy for your lower lady parts. It helps the muscles regain strength to do what they’re supposed to. You know, pee when you want to and not when you don’t (among other things).
In France, the state pays for 10-20 sessions of what they call “la rééducation périnéale” and it’s practically mandatory. The sessions take place 6-8 weeks following childbirth with the goal of preventing bladder leakage problems later in life.
Childbirth has a traumatic impact on the perineum and I hate to break it to you, but our precious parts aren’t the same afterward. Perineal re-education helps French women snap back.
What Happens During Perineal Re-education?
To tell you the truth, perineal re-education is probably unlike any other learning session you’ve ever had in your life. It’s extremely intimate and a little uncomfortable. The session is even more awkward when your newborn baby is staring at you, but thankfully, they won’t remember.
The first session involves the patient answering a number of questions, such as:
- Did you have a complicated delivery?
- Are you experiencing bladder leaks?
- Does it feel like your organs are drooping?
After you’ve answered those questions, you’ll be asked to bare it all. And I mean really, bare it all. No gown, just you and a towel. Once you’re naked, you’ll either go through manual re-education or biofeedback. Most sessions involve a combination of the two.
You’re Going To Do What!?
During a manual re-education session, the physical therapist will stick two fingers into your precious part and talk you through different exercises. For instance, they’ll ask if you can contract your vagina and pull their fingers up and in. They’ll then rate you on your perineal powers. Oh boy!
You’re Sticking That Where?
If you’ve had multiple children, then you’ll probably be prescribed a vaginal probe. It’s basically a vibrator with electrodes that’s inserted into your vagina and hooked up to a computer. Once inside, it starts measuring the strength of your vaginal contractions and you can even see them for yourself on the computer screen! Different video games are included to help you strengthen muscles that you didn’t even know existed. Who said you couldn’t have fun while tightening up?
Trust the Process and Reap The Reward
Although perineal re-education sounds a little uncomfortable, French women swear by it. Think of it this way, you’ll have a perineum that can withstand the harshest of battles. Your perineal powers will help you combat leaks from even the most aggressive of sneezes. And some even say it enhances your sex life!
Let’s Get (Re)Educated
One thing we can learn from the French is how to tone up and have no shame in doing so. Playing video games with your vagina is only as awkward as you make it, right? It’s only embarrassing because we don’t talk about it, but it’s time to change the conversation.
Up to 80% of American women who have vaginal deliveries experience tearing of the pelvic skin and muscles. Without proper perineal re-education, those women may develop pelvic prolapse, which feels like your whole lower half is going to fall out.
While our government does not pay for this service, we can still implement some snapbackk strategies from our French friends. People are getting hip so perineal re-education sessions are popping up in various parts of the United States. If there’s not one local to you, then consider yoga or pilates classes as an alternative. And of course, doing Kegels or other pelvic floor exercises while cooking, cleaning, and working is an option too!
Have you experienced perineal re-education? Tell us all about it in the comments! And then go grab your trial for bladder leak products delivered to your door from Lily Bird.
By Jessica Thomas, MPH