When it comes to female pelvic health, Missy Lavender, co-author of Below Your Belt: How to be Queen of your Pelvic Region, says “we are more than our periods below the belt.”
Despite that, studies conducted by Lavender and her team at the Women’s Health Foundation, show that young girls, and women alike, are woefully unaware of much of how their pelvic regions work, beyond menstruation.
With these statistics, Lavender was inspired to change that. “It is time we shift from thinking of period to pelvis,” she says.
In Below Your Belt, Lavender and co-author Jeni Donatelli Ihm focus on teaching girls aged 10 to 14 about their pelvis. “This is the age where girls are excited to learn about their bodies, and they’re starting to get their periods.” It’s the same time the new Ontario Curriculum for Health and Physical Education begins addressing issues of puberty in new ways.
“We thought it was so critical to address what goes on below the belt,” Lavender explains. “If you don’t go there, women get into bad habits. They start putting bits and pieces of information together, but it’s not comprehensive.”
The book aims to improve pelvic health by first having girls understand it. “This area shouldn’t be off limits, girls should know how everything works and how everything affects everything else.”
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Breaking the pelvic region into six areas: bladder, bowel, uterine, vaginal and muscles and structures, the book explains everything that goes on between the belly button and top of the thighs, helping girls not only understand how everything works, but how to take care of their pelvis, what to do when something goes wrong and where to go and who to see about it.
The book is intended to be a discussion point between the girls and their parental figures. “Get it young,” Lavender suggests, and “read it together.” The book should stay in the girls’ room and given that many grown women “don’t know this stuff either,” Lavender says it’s a way to not only teach, but learn together, adding that the associated website has additional resources for parents.
“Knowledge is power and power is control,” the co-author says about learning about the pelvis. Her hope is that by arming themselves with this knowledge, girls will make healthy choices for their bodies, their personal hygiene and their sexuality. And from a health perspective, will give them the knowledge they need to seek help if something isn’t right. “How do I know if something’s wrong if I don’t know anything?” she asks.
Lavender also hopes the book, in conjunction with efforts by the Women’s Health Foundation, will provide females with a voice about their pelvic health. “Our wish is to have peer education efforts who will be pelvic health champions,” she explains. “Getting the conversation started is always the biggest challenge…don’t be afraid to start early, use credible sources, answer the questions, use real terminology and don’t get stuck in your own nervousness, cultural or religious upbringing.
Below Your Belt: How to be Queen of your Pelvic Region by Missy Lavender and Jenifer Donatelli Ihm; publisher Women’s Health Foundation $18.96 US