Meet The Vagina Whisperer
[This is also an episode of Friday Free Talk on The Tranquility Tribe Podcast on iTunes. Listen here.]
Hey Tranquility Tribe! I’m so excited to bring you this episode of the Tranquility Tribe podcast! Today, Hehe talked to Sara Reardon, also known as the Vagina Whisperer. As you may be able to guess from her nickname, Sara is an expert in all things vagina, which means that this episode is full of super essential and often understated topics!
Who is the Vagina Whisperer?
Sara Reardon is a physical therapist who currently practices in New Orleans. She specializes in men and women’s pelvic floor health, and she is passionate about speaking up when it comes to treatment and prevention of pelvic health issues. By bringing humor to the often sensitive topic of staying healthy “down there,” Sara helps to unpack countless vagina-related topics that many women have experience with but few are comfortable talking about.
In addition to being a physical therapist and a vocal advocate for pelvic floor health, Sara is also the mother of two boys (ages one and two). Sara did not always know that she was interested in pursuing a career in physical therapy for the pelvic floor; when she was at Washington University in St. Louis for grad school, she was actually planning on becoming a physical therapist for athletes. However, thanks to a professor and mentor who inspired her to do a clinical rotation in women’s health, Sara discovered the importance of supporting the pelvic floor and especially enjoys being able to help both men and women with health problems that they might find embarrassing but that are completely normal to deal with.
After grad school, Sara decided to move to Austin rather than return home, as her hometown was still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. In Austin, she worked in a clinic that was specifically focused on men and women’s pelvic health, and she has been involved in that field ever since. Sara’s work even expands beyond the office, as she has friends and family members who ask her questions about pelvic health that they are too self-conscious to ask anyone else. Sara’s eagerness to spread her knowledge and her willingness to help others inspired her friends to give her her nickname, the Vagina Whisperer.
So what’s the big deal about pelvic health?
Many people don’t feel comfortable talking about problems that they may be having “down there.” For some reason, the pelvis and its associated areas and functions are normally taboo topics, causing people to feel uncomfortable or alone when they struggle with pelvic health issues. But as Sara says, the vagina is just another part of the body and there’s nothing wrong with talking about it! By being confident and open about the subject of pelvic health, both Sara and Hehe try to build trust with others so that they can encourage them to open up about problems they might be having, which is essential to enable them to get the help that they need and to make sure that they realize they aren’t the only ones. Sara says she has gained a lot from being pregnant and becoming a mom, which has helped her relate to her patients in a way that she was previously unable to.
Getting down to business
There are many highly-disputed approaches to supporting pelvic floor health, especially in the birth world. It can be overwhelming and confusing to sort through conflicting viewpoints at a time when you are just trying to do the best that you can for you and your tiny human! Sara provides her opinion on the best ways for you to support and strengthen your vag, both pre- and postnatally.
Let’s start with maternity belts! According to Sara, maternity belts can be very helpful during pregnancy. Your body goes through widespread changes while you’re growing a tiny human – your joints relax and your abdomen expands, which can cause a lot of discomfort. But pain during pregnancy should not be a normalcy! Maternity bands can help provide support to your abdomen and back while your body is working hard to grow your new little one so that these changes can be less painful. They can also help you to stay more active throughout your pregnancy, which leads to a better birth experience and faster labor. However, exercising and being active during pregnancy means something different to every mom, so it is important to surround yourself with a strong birth team (such as people like Hehe and Sara) that can collaborate to help you make the best decisions for YOU and make your pregnancy as amazing as it can be.
Now what about perineum massages? The research on their benefit is mixed, so it is helpful to learn about it as an option and decide if it works for you. Perineum massages can be great to help prepare the vaginal tissue for birth by desensitizing the tissue, which can help you get used to some of the sensations you will experience during your birth. On top of that, massages can help you feel more connected with what is going on in that area. This is especially important during pregnancy, when all the changes that you’ve experienced can make it seem like your body doesn’t belong to you anymore. Sara and Hehe recommend beginning perineum massages around 34-35 weeks so that you can be sure to become comfortable with and gain benefits from them before your birth. And if you try it and don’t like it, that’s totally fine too! It’s your pregnancy, so it should be done the way that you want it to.
The pelvic floor undergoes a lot during pregnancy, but there are many different preventative actions that you can do to avoid too much damage. And these prevention strategies are becoming increasingly common as the birth world is focusing more on the benefits that preventative care can bring! Having support people like doulas and physical therapists on your birth team can help you learn about all of your resources and get experienced advice throughout your pregnancy and birth. Being an active patient and seeking out resources that will support you can help you stay connected and make your pregnancy and birth experience as positive as possible.
Sara’s advice postpartum
The “fourth trimester” is a time during which you adjust to life with a tiny human and help your body recover from the amazing feat it just accomplished, and it’s especially important to actively support your body through these months. According to Sara, the number one thing that you can do for your body postpartum is to rest. Allow yourself the time that you need to heal and learn about your post-pregnancy body. Sara also recommends diaphragmatic breathing, breathing deeply with your diaphragm to help quiet your nervous system and relax your stomach and pelvic floor. And as for kegels, Sara says she supports them as long as they are done properly. Kegels can be very useful in strengthening the pelvic floor after pregnancy, but if they aren’t done at the right time using the right muscles, they can cause more harm than good.
It’s normal to experience a lot of healing during the time right after your birth, but if a particular problem isn’t getting better or you feel like something is wrong, it’s important to seek support. Being an active patient and receiving the help that you need early on can help you prevent issues from getting worse and can provide you with peace of mind that you are doing everything you can for your body. And problems can arise even a year after pregnancy, so don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and get help if you feel that something isn’t right. As Hehe always says, trust the process, respect your body. Or, as Sara puts it, trust your body!
If you would like to learn more about Sara’s work and hear even more in-depth ways to support your pelvic health, check out her website at https://www.thevagwhisperer.com/.
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Written by our Guest Blogger, Kyra Shreeve. She is a Biochemistry, Health Policy, and Music student at Brandeis University.