Being a woman in Pakistan comes with it loaded baggage of intense scrutiny and 24 hour surveillance by a society that ends up conditioning us to take up as little space in the public sphere as possible.
However, as we grow to internalize these increasingly damaging messages, this scrutiny and criticism starts becoming more internal till it becomes that ever existing voice in our head that tells us how to act, how to behave and most importantly, how to deal with emotions such as pain.
It is a well established and universal fact that women’s health issues especially those having to do with their symptoms and pain are seriously ignored and sidelines by health practitioners and society in general. In everything from menstrual pain to heart ailments, women’s pain is just not believed.
That is why very real issues such as Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Disorders are practically unknown although they are one of the most common disorders in women.
According to the online MSD Manual, “Pelvic floor disorders involve a dropping down (prolapse) of the bladder, urethra, small intestine, rectum, uterus, or vagina caused by weakness of or injury to the ligaments, connective tissue, and muscles of the pelvis.”
The pelvic floor is basically what holds all female reproductive organs in place including the bladder and the rectum as well. The trouble arises when the ligaments or muscles in the pelvic floor become so weak that other organs such as the small intestine may even begin protruding downwards and eventually may even be felt outside the body. This is a very serious medical condition and it affects 1 in 3 women worldwide, so why is it barely ever talked about?
Well, for obvious reasons, this is a very sensitive and touchy subject for most women, especially here in Pakistan because we are simply not used to discussing issues that might bring any shame or attention to our bodies. The major reason for pelvic floor related issues is giving birth and as mothers, women often cannot come to terms with discussing that their pregnancies or their children might be the cause of their discomfort. This is also why other pregnancy related issues such as postpartum depression are also brushed off.
This is why most women sometimes have little or no control over their bladders after they’ve had a child. This can be both physically debilitating and psychologically painful.
Other causes include being obese, having had some physical trauma to the pelvic region or even as a side effect of aging. Some of the many symptoms include major bowel strains, pain in the pelvic and genital area, discomfort while engaging in sexual intercourse, urinary issues and muscle spasms in the region among others. However, if left un-diagnosed and untreated, this may even lead to colon damage.
There are several ways to correct this issue including many pelvic exercises, surgery and medication, however, unless there is greater awareness regarding the issue, this may remain unidentified till the damage is done.
There are not enough efforts to spread awareness about this exceedingly common yet dangerous disorder and that is not good for any of us. The first step is to try and end the stigma attached with issues such as these and this can only be done if women start sharing their stories and health practitioners start engaging people in healthy and informative conversations.