On today’s episode of Period Story, I had a very interesting and eye-opening conversation with MaryEllen Reider, the co-director of Yarlap, a wellness device to treat urinary incontinence and improve pelvic floor health.
We talked about the prevalence of urinary incontinence (did you know this affects 1 in 4 women!?!), the need for better pelvic health education and of course, MaryEllen’s first period story. Listen to hear how MaryEllen’s dad helped her understand what was happening and how he bought her first menstrual products.
Thank you, MaryEllen!
Get in touch with MaryEllen:
Le’Nise On today’s episode of Period Story, we have MaryEllen Reider. She is a co-founder and director of marketing for a company called the Yarlap, and she’s doing really amazing work educating about the importance of the pelvic floor. I want to just get into our conversation by starting off with the first question that I ask all of my guests: Tell me the story of your first period.
MaryEllen So my first period was a little bit, I guess everybody’s different, but I didn’t get mine until I was 16, so I was kind of later than the rest of my friends. The rest of my friends were in middle school or whatever, and I was nearing the end of high school and I got my period. But we never talk about it, ever. I don’t remember talking to my friends about, especially in middle school and high school. Nobody talked about your period because it was thought of as kind of disgusting, gross, dirty.
And when I got my first period, I remember thinking I can use panty liners like an adult. And turns out that panty liners don’t help on your first few days of your period. And I thought then I thought, Oh my gosh, I’m bleeding, something’s wrong with me because I’m bleeding through all of these things. So I went to my dad, actually. He was also the other co-founder of Yarlap because he always talked to us about our body parts and that body parts are just body parts. There’s no shame if something’s wrong, tell me. And we figure it out. Go to your doctor. We figure this out. So I went to him and I said, Something’s wrong. I’m bleeding. It’s not stopping, help. And well that freaked my dad out because that’s not what you want to hear. And then I slowly told him it was my period. I’m bleeding through panty liners. I don’t know what to do. I mean, he goes, OK, well, we’ll just go to your doctor anyway, just so you have appropriate information. And then he proceeded, while I was at my my doctor getting this full rundown of what I probably should have gotten in my health class. To be honest, I was getting the full down run from her doctor, Dr. Burke. I remember her. I remember it because it was so I remember thinking, Oh my gosh, I’m never going to get over this, this mortifying. And she’s telling me all about what was happening with my cycle and everything and while I was doing that my dad went to the grocery store and bought one box, every tampon and every pad and put it into the box and came. And he was like, You’re going to find out what is comfortable for you and what fits for you and whatever you don’t need, we’ll figure out what to do with the rest. And that was that was my first period story, and I remember it because. I think he had like six bags, six grocery bags of of absorbent pads, tampons. This was way before the Diva Cup or anything like that, just literally just pads and tampons. I remember seeing all of them and I remember I play soccer. I played soccer very intensely, so I was like, I’m going to do the one with the girls with sports and the tampon with the sports. And I don’t need pads because no. And I just remember I remember that so intensely, because then I told my my friends afterwards that my dad was the one that helped me with my period. And they all were. They were like traumatized and I don’t know why. I was like, It’s just my dad. But turns out dads are the ones that back in 2003 or whatever. They weren’t the ones telling, telling their daughters about periods. I guess I was. That wasn’t the norm, but it was at our house.
Le’Nise Well, this is actually the first time I’ve heard a story where the dad was so involved, and I think it’s beautiful and it really should normalize this idea that your, both set of parents in a heterosexual relationship should be able to talk to their daughters about menstruation. So why do you think why was your dad so comfortable with this? Where did this all come from?
MaryEllen Yeah. So my dad is a medical device engineer, so he creates these devices to help with muscle tone and muscle rehabilitation. And he has. So he’s what you would think of as like a stereotypical engineer, he’s very practical everything. And so when we were growing up, it was just parts are parts, and it’s all. I hate to say this because it takes the humanity away for people, but by no means means if, but. Our body is essentially just a machine, and to keep it running smoothly, you have to label the parts correctly. And so for us, there was never like a coochie or of a vajayjay or a pee pee, a booty hole or anything like that. It was penis, vagina, vulvovaginal area, anus, rectum. Sometimes you’d call it a butthole. I always thought that that was a hilarious term. And I still do.
But for us, it was always just talk about your body parts. It’s OK, everybody poops. Everybody farts. Everybody keeps half the population bleeds once a month, theoretically, and that’s just the way it is. That’s OK. There’s no shame in it. There’s shame in being shamed. So I’m very grateful of having that. And I know after doing stuff with the Yarlap, I very. Aware now that that was not that is not the norm, it’s still not the norm, especially for women and especially for women with dads who talk to them openly about their periods like I did. That’s very much not the norm.
Le’Nise Yeah, I really appreciate that pragmatic approach because I’ve got an eight year old son, and I’ve always been kind of really straightforward about the naming of the body parts and just kind of like, it’s a penis, because over here in the UK, the euphemism is, they call it a willy. Like, that’s the kind of the kids in North America like pee pee. But over here it’s a willy, and I’ve always said, it’s your penis. You may use a proper name and that and that kind of stuff. Although now that he’s gone to school, they his friends, they like joke a lot and they call the body parts different names. But he knows what they’re supposed to be called. And I think that’s really important. Especially, you know, if there’s any trauma happening that children should be able to say the exact name of anything that is happening to them. So what you are saying about your dad is really refreshing. So you then told your friends and they were traumatized because they didn’t get the same sort of education that you got, but just kind of working it back a little bit. You got your period when you were 16. But did you know exactly what a period was because your dad had done that education on the kind of menstrual health side as well?
MaryEllen No. So that didn’t put my like my menstrual health stuff didn’t really hit until I got my period, and that’s why I was such a big shock. I was like, I had heard the term, and I know like my friends had cotton balls. Turns out those were tampons, and I knew that it made them uncomfortable. They never talked about it. They would sometimes joke when they would exchange tampons or pads in the hallway, and I wanted to be part of that club, but I knew that I didn’t want to be in the pain that they had described, but I didn’t know. Anything about biologically what was going on are really like the basics of what was going on until I got my period. And then it was like a quick run through like a one on one brief five minute thing from my dad. And then we drove off to the doctor’s office and I got a forty five minute description with a 3D anatomical like womb. And then there were charts and all these other things, and I just remember her talking about the female body. But then I remember her also talking about the male body, and I remember thinking, How does this affect the male body? And I, she was giving me a full Health class in forty five minutes. She was like, why didn’t I? She’s like, I’m surprised that more people don’t know about this in health class. I thought, I’m a good student. We don’t. We aren’t taught about this in health class I would have remembered because this is terrible. This is not stuff you forget. And I think that that was definitely the first moment where I remember thinking, Wow, why don’t we ever talk about what is fundamentally going on with our bodies? And I was at age 16, so.
Le’Nise So you got your period, you got this education from your dad and your doctor. And then what was your relationship like with your period after all of this happened?
MaryEllen I think of her as a, I love her. She annoys me. She’s kind of the best friend that you’ve had since you were born and you have this deep fondness for her. But also at the same time, I have this thought, if we met now, we’re not like you. You know what I mean? And I I I like her. I know when I know everything is running smoothly. When she arrives on time, I know that my diet’s OK. My exercise is okay. I’m hydrated when it aligns within my time frame. But. I know that it’s I get really bad pain and cramps my first two days that are unbearable. I essentially sit on a heating pad. And. That’s basically it. I sometimes worry how that dynamic is going to change when we’re trying to conceive because I’m a little bit on the irregular side. So I’m a little hesitant of how to track her and her welcome party when I’m what I’m doing to start trying to conceive here in the next year or two. Hmm.
Le’Nise When you got your period, was it painful from the very beginning?
MaryEllen Absolutely not no. I remember thinking, why does everybody so angry and upset and have these massive craving for chocolate and sweet or salty stuff? Why? Why are people bending over backwards and why is it portrayed as this awful thing on TV? Why does everybody have heating pads and all these other things? And I think up until about four years ago, I was totally fine. And then the past four years, I. That’s when I learned to kind of dislike her. And so it’s kind of at the beginning, it was just like, whatever. No pain, no sensation. Nothing. And I think a little bit after college, she started to get a little bit more painful. Maybe that’s my body telling me maybe to work out a little bit more or change my diet or something, but I and I guess when I was younger now, no discomfort, no pain, nothing like that. I couldn’t understand why it was portrayed that way.
Le’Nise And then so four years ago, did is, can you pinpoint something that happened that may have changed the way you experience your period?
MaryEllen Four years ago, I would say no. The only thing that comes to mind is I was often on with birth control for a really long time, and the cold turkey was about five years ago, six years ago. I mean, totally done. And I remember I got insane, chin acne, that I couldn’t get rid of, and I still kind of have it just intense acne on my chin, down on my. My, my cheeks. My t-zone are like my forehead was fine, which was really annoying. And. I think it was really hard, if not impossible, to track for about two years afterwards. And then about four years after we were kind of regular, it was fine, everything. That’s the only thing I could honestly say might have been a difference. My diet kind of always been the same. But that’s been it. And that was that was tough. Now I remember thinking, this is not who I am behaviorally.
I was so mean. I was so mean. And I remember thinking, this is the words that are coming out of my mouth like I couldn’t. I couldn’t take them back. But like as they were, I feel like I was out of my own body and I was just watching me burn bridges and I just thought, This is, you need to go away, you need to not see anybody until you figure this out. You are not a good person right now. And finally, kind of. Finally was able to balance that out.
Le’Nise And this was before your period or during your period?
MaryEllen During, it was like the two days before. And then I was delightful afterwards, but I mean, it was just like the two days before was terrible. The first two days were terrible. That’s like a solid week out of my month. I was a monster. That is not OK.
Le’Nise No, no. Have things gotten better in?
MaryEllen Absolutely. Yeah, yeah. Now I’ve now replaced anger with cravings for peanut butter. So now we got I think I am single handedly keeping Jif peanut butter in business. But one week out of the year I am, I will eat jars of peanut butter. But I’m I like to think that I’ve been told that I am very pleasant now.
Le’Nise Well, that’s a big, big shift going from mood changes to cravings for peanut butter. So what is it like protein, fat?
MaryEllen Salty. I think it’s probably the protein and the saltiness. I’ve never really been a sweet flavor. I’ve always been a salty, like a savory over sweet person. And I think just during my period, especially the first two days and then the first two days of actual bleeding, I I am all over anything savory. Especially if it’s covered in peanut butter.
Le’Nise And it is just peanut butter, or is it almond butter or so?
MaryEllen It’s just peanut butter and I I will tell, I tell my partner all the time. I will I’ll message him and say, I need you to bring back peanut butter, peanut butter, covered pretzels, peanut butter like noodles because what he’s like, OK, well, I mean, we we know she’s coming soon. And two days later, without fail, there she is.
Le’Nise Wow, that’s I mean, you’re not alone with having these really intense, savory cravings, but it’s really interesting how it’s very specific to peanut butter. I want to just go back to what you were saying about the birth control. Can you talk a little bit about why you got started on it? Was it was it the oral contraceptive or was it another type of birth control?
MaryEllen I always did the oral contraceptive, the little packet with the circle. And then, you know, sometimes it changed the packet of square packet and it went left to right for the placebo at the very end and I changed around. I changed the dosages. I did it because I had really bad acne. I would get hormonal acne and I couldn’t get it to go away no matter what. It was just it wasn’t for period pain. It wasn’t for sexual purposes. It wasn’t anything like that. It was purely for an acne purpose.
And I had a really bad mood swings any time I changed it or I changed the dose, the higher it was, the more irritable I became. And it got to the point where I was still not myself and I was at the lowest possible dosage and do not do this. I am not a medical professional, so I cannot diagnose but do not do what I did. And don’t take yourself off. I don’t test to see if it’s better off. Don’t take yourself off randomly. Go to a doctor and figure out a good way to do this. Don’t be my 20 year old self and try to do a self trial. That’s a terrible idea, but that’s what I did, and I took myself off and I was awful. After six years of being on it and then I went back on it, still terrible, and I basically did everything that I’m pretty sure a doctor would tell you not to do to take yourself on it, putting yourself on, take yourself off, And. Then I took myself off to cold turkey, and it took a while for me to balance out my mood. But oh my gosh, did I love her, like this girl who was not on on? Oh, I loved her. She was awesome. She is awesome. I I don’t feel intense negativity. I feel a lot of things. It’s wonderful. The journey to do that? Talk to your doctor. Don’t do what I did. It was a tough journey.
But oh my gosh, I love I love this. And I’m not on it and I can track who I am regularly. My cycle regularly. I do all of that. I have a little handicap that you that I mark on the month to month basis. Is a monthly calendar really tiny, but I can. I can track on the day, usually anywhere between twenty six to thirty two days. But again, I’m not the most regular person, but I I would not for my own purposes and my own body. I’m not going to ever go back onto pill or IUD just because it was not. I wasn’t really proud of who I was, and I think that that was more of a a mood thing of how it changed that the level within me and I know that I’m probably a total outlier. A lot of my friends adore their IUD. I love it. Rave about it. Whenever we catch up, they’re talking about their updates. I have a very, we’re obviously very open. But but for me, I’m I’m the only one that’s completely off out of my core group of six. And the only one that’s off, four of them have IUDs. Three of them love it. And. But that’s that’s this is my story. So I just don’t I do not like I was. I love who I am now. I know how it’s like with monthly spikes of. Intense negative mood swings, intense negative feeling, because by the time I felt like I was stabilizing out of that. It would be like. Five days until the next period, and I don’t want to have five days of normalcy for the rest of my vague, unpredictable, so I took myself off of it.
Le’Nise Well, you know, you’re you’re this is not something that is unusual. I do hear this a lot. Mood changes due to hormonal contraception. So it’s really important that you’re sharing your story and sharing the impact that this had on you from a mood perspective. But you know, if you are listening to this and you’re thinking, Wow, this is me as well, I want you to know that you’re not alone. This is actually more common than a lot of people realize. I just want to say something. Go back to what you said about your menstrual cycles because you said that they’re between twenty six and thirty two days. Mm hmm. That’s actually quite common for it to be not like just bang on twenty eight days every time. So you mentioned that you might have irregular cycles, but in my work as like a women’s health specialist, an irregular cycle to me would be going from having one menstrual month, being 21 days and then the next one being 40 days. Like you’re looking at like for me, that’s like an irregular cycle, like a really big differential. Whereas what you’re talking about is like four, maybe five days. And I think, you know, that’s not to me, that’s not an irregular cycle. That’s more your body reacting to things that are happening to around you. Maybe one menstrual month, you’re more stressed or you have a lot going on that might change the length of your cycle. So I obviously don’t work with you. I just wanted to give you that little bit of insight.
MaryEllen No, I love it. I think that this is one of the first few times that somebody said that normal. Thank you!
Le’Nise Just to go back to what you’re saying about hormonal contraceptives. So you were you got your period at 16 and then at 20, you took yourself off of the pill. So you that mean that you went on it and you were on it for six years, so you were on it from when you were 14.
MaryEllen So I guess it was four years, four years or so because it was I remember thinking, Oh, I’m on my period. I get to have birth control because that’s what everybody did, and I don’t know if that was. I think that that might be something that was very generational because. It was if it felt like we were kind of made to feel a little weird for doing that. And I remember going to high school when everybody was birth control. And I live in a I lived in a. A small little town in Ohio and everybody was on birth control, so it wasn’t like a city versus rural situation. And a lot of them were on it for the same reason I was on. It was a hormonal acne situation. A lot of people wanted it to balance out their period. I remember I had friends who like you said they would have months go by and they didn’t have a period or they would have months go on and they wouldn’t stop having periods and. I remember everybody was on it for a different reason, one or the other, but I think for me when I went into high school. I was the odd one out because I hadn’t had my period yet, and I wasn’t on birth control because there wasn’t need to. Why would I be on birth control when nothing’s going on anyway? But I was the odd one out. I felt like everybody who I knew in my circle. And I’m not saying I was a popular kid. Please don’t take it that way. But. It was a small school of about two hundred and fifty people and half of those were girls, and they’ve known each other our entire life, and it’s a small town. And I think that everybody was on. Everybody was on it, and that’s OK. But. I remember thinking, I’m an adult, this is weird. When I got my first packet back, when I first filled it. And it was on that for about four years straight, I guess. And then took myself off and then took myself off cold turkey and that was bad. Don’t do that, please. Please don’t do that. I was. That was rough. That was rough.
Le’Nise So you’ve been on a real journey with hormonal contraception, with your period and the changes that you’ve experienced where it was fine and then now it’s painful. You have moods. You used to experience mood changes and now it’s now it’s the cravings for peanut butter that are quite intense. For someone listening to you and who who who is on the same journey that you have been on with hormonal contraception and now trying to conceive or on that in getting ready to think about that next step, what would what will your message be to them?
MaryEllen Don’t panic. Because I’m very prone to going to WebMD or the Mayo Clinic and just spiraling, don’t do I’d, like to a point where my doctor tells me, you know, please don’t do that. If you have any questions, call me and we’ll discuss it. But I would just say, don’t. It’s so easy to self-diagnose and panic. And especially now with the Yarlap, with the pelvic floor, I’m now very firmly on that boat of don’t panic, don’t self-diagnose. It’s OK. Whatever’s happening we can, we can work within the parameters given and. You know, with all of this and a lot of my friends who have already had their first kid and and the few that have let me kind of be part of their personal journey and see how difficult it can be, it’s not always as depicted on social media where it’s it’s flawless and it’s beautiful and. Easy. It’s not, that’s a facade. So. I think my thing would be. If you’re within my world, don’t panic. Don’t freak out. Don’t write yourself off. It’s OK, it’s OK.
Le’Nise So just switching gears a little bit, I want to just go to the pelvic floor and this is an area that I personally didn’t actually learn that much about until after I had had my son. And then I started learning about the different exercises that you needed to do. Of course, you know, like you learn about Kegels and, you know, like that’s kind of permeated into the cultural conversation about pelvic floor. But I didn’t have a true education until I actually really needed to strengthen my pelvic floor. So can you tell listeners why that pelvic floor is so important?
MaryEllen So just like you, I didn’t know about the pelvic floor muscles until I started doing stuff with Yarlap, with my dad, so that wasn’t until I was about twenty four. So about. Six years ago, and only because I started working in it did I realize what was going on and even my own friends if I wasn’t standing on a soapbox, you know, yelling about the pelvic floor. I don’t think you would know about what’s going on at the pelvic floor because we we aren’t taught about it. Ah, no, really where it’s located until we have a child or we have bladder leaks. And then it’s kind of an, Oh, did you know that this body part existed? Were you aware that these muscles are in your body and they’re in everybody’s body? Did you know that? And the most common answer is no, I had no idea. So. I’m in the same boat with the pelvic floor muscles, it’s just we never discussed it and we never talk about it, even though they are. Basically, the foundation to hold for women, your bladder, your uterus, your visceral organs into their natural position, and for me, not knowing about that was mind blowing. Even when I got the health class discussion from my doctor who he didn’t talk about it. We still didn’t talk about the pelvic floor muscles because I and I’m not sure why. I don’t know why we don’t put more emphasis on these muscles, especially for women, because it’s more of a laundry list of what does it affect them as to what doesn’t affect them for women?
Le’Nise And OK. And so it’s a really important muscle. Can you talk about some of the effects that not taking care of it, not through lack of awareness or not pointing any fingers, but some? What are some of the effects of not taking care of it?
MaryEllen Yeah. So some of the effects can be pelvic board pelvic floor dysfunction. So that can include urinary incontinence, which is involuntary bladder. So when you laugh, sneeze, cough and you pee a little bit? It can be sudden urges to go to the bathroom. It can also be on the other side where it’s super tense. The muscles are very tense all the time and it can make intercourse, penetrative intercourse extremely painful and not even penetrative intercourse. It can just be inserting anything including a tampon that we’re talking about. Menstrual cycles that can include that you just can’t do it because it hurt so much. Your body’s so tense. It’s just it’s not feasible. And that could be on that spectrum of pelvic floor dysfunction, of not having control or proper tone of those muscles. And it can kind of, I think when we think of pelvic floor dysfunction, your pelvic floor not working. Most of us draw a blank of what that even is. So, you know, the two most common are super tense or pelvic floor weakening, which leads to bladder leaks and. I think that what bites us in the rear is that we don’t talk about these enough business. And then when we do, it’s kind of like, Oh, I didn’t know. Well, how are you supposed to do it when you didn’t know that it existed? Don’t put that. Don’t put that burden on yourself.
And then we’re told to do Kegel exercises, and we wish there was a study. That so that even with written instructions, women do them incorrectly over 50 percent of their of over 50 percent of the time because we end up using our rear ends and our thighs are. Our abs or something like that, and if you’re engaged in a different set of muscles, you’re not engaging the pelvic floor in its entirety, and if you’re not doing a proper workout of the muscle, how are you going to get the benefits that you’re reading about? So it’s kind of why they do these exercises. Good chance not going to do them around the block the by and. It felt like we were setting ourselves up for disaster or failure, more like we were setting ourselves up for failure because by the time we find out that these that these muscles exist, we already have the issue. So it’s not a preventative measure for a lot of people. And then when we do, it can’t be a treatment method because we don’t know how to work them out. We’ve never seen them and we end up engaging the wrong muscles. And that’s kind of how we as Yarlap came into fruition, how we kind of created a space for pelvic floor awareness that. We didn’t want to create this area of shame and burden for women, we wanted to be kind of a safe space of shelter for like, do you not know what’s going on? Hi. We’re here.
Le’Nise Talking about the pelvic floor itself, so that you mentioned there’s a spectrum where it’s super tense or it’s weak and that can lead to incontinence. So how we normally think about incontinence in the sense of like older older people and then now that I am a mother, there’s another side of incontinence that we hear about, but across the population, and I know you probably can only speak to US figures. But how how common is incontinence?
MaryEllen One in four women.
Le’Nise Wow, one in four women?
MaryEllen One in four women, and that’s what blew my mind in the United States is one in three. And the AARP and the University of Michigan came out with a study a few years ago that it’s almost one and two after the age of 50 in the United States, but we never talk about it because. I’m drawing a blank. I don’t know why we don’t talk about it, if there was any other issue, any other medical issue that affected this many women. And was this common universally? It would be plastered everywhere. It would be at the front of stores. It would be at the he’ll be at ATM machines. It would be a disclosure. ATM machines. But we don’t talk about it because we’re afraid of being a butt of a joke or we’re afraid that it’s not. You can’t treat it because I didn’t have it when I was younger and. There’s a lot of myths and miscommunication about it. And it kind of breaks my heart a little bit because. We believe as women, we believe those myths that we’re alone and that there’s nothing you can do about it, you just kind of live with it, suck it up. And that’s a lot of the health issues. That’s not just incontinence. I feel like that’s a lot of things for women in general. PCOS right off the top of my head. Suck it up and live with it until really, really recently. And that’s one in 10 women. So I I don’t understand why. For women, we aren’t more vocal about what is going on with our bodies because it’s important and your health is important and you are important and your quality of life is of the utmost importance. So. I mean, the one in four figure should blow your mind, the one in three in the United States should blow your mind. One in two over the age of 50 should blow your mind.
Le’Nise My mind is blown, my mind is blown. I’m, you know, you we we get told that it’s a lot of things, as you say with women’s health, we get told that we need to live with these long, painful periods, mood changes, incontinence. And you know, I’ve spoken to older women who are dealing with incontinence, and they just think that it’s just part of life. It’s part of this natural decline that we go into as we get older. But it doesn’t have to be like that. You know, you don’t have to stock up on Depends or in the UK, the brand is Tena. You don’t have to stock up on these things. There is a lot that you you can do. I want to just go back to the other side of the spectrum, which is having a very tense pelvic floor. What can. What’s because we we often don’t think about that, but what can cause that?
MaryEllen A lot of it could be trauma. Your body’s reaction to tense up. And I’m not saying psychological trauma, can be physical trauma as well. But it’s just like any other body part, it can just be you were formed like that, and that’s OK, and you just need to learn how to properly relax those muscles. But a lot of a lot of the instances can be from trauma related instances and your body’s just tense all the time as a protective measure, and so you just got to learn how to relax those muscles. But again, that’s so much easier said than actually done. The theory is so much easier than the implementation and, and in that vein, we have a lot of women who have hypertense muscles and they can’t experience the pleasure of. If they would like to do penetrative stuff or they don’t have the option to use tampons or anything like that because it’s excruciating pain and there are therapists, pelvic floor therapists to do that stuff kind of stuff. To help with either incontinence from a weak and pelvic floor or hypertense pelvic floor or having hypertension or having a weakened pelvic floor, there’s all sorts of different resources and tools that are available for this. And I think that that is another another major gap is that we don’t talk about it and because we don’t talk about it, people don’t know the information and they don’t know that the information can lead to resources and tools that can help you get rid of it. And I think that that is is something. Very near and dear to my heart that like I, if possible, I would hire a blimp and just with skywriting and write it all over the world. But. I think that there is an information gap where we assume that, well, this is just part of life and then we don’t look deeper into it and we don’t find the tools and the mechanisms to help with the actual issue and then treat it. The treat, the issue. We, you know, we sometimes treat the symptom by getting absorbent products or anything when it could be just toning up a muscle or learning to relax the muscle and getting the tools to get rid of the root cause rather than the symptom.
Le’Nise So awareness is a big is a big part of this. How can we? How can we increase education around pelvic health?
MaryEllen Break the stigma around it. I think that we’ve come really far, we still have plenty of work to do when it comes to the menstrual cycle, but we can now we now talk about it openly and we we joke about it. It’s not at a point where everybody feels comfortable doing that. But I think it’s more. Acceptable, then, to look at people and be like, I peed myself. And I think that if we kind of do take within the same vein that we have with the menstrual cycle and break that stigma and nurture a conversation that helps, knowing that you’re not alone, knowing that you’re not the only person in the world who suffers from this is a huge. A huge step forward. And that knowing that there is something there to help you get rid of it is also very key. Yeah.
Le’Nise So to that point, let’s talk a little bit about about the Yarlap because these sorts of products are really powerful and you have a country like France where after you give birth, you get prescribed pelvic floor therapy. But in the UK, that doesn’t happen. So people are women are scrambling around trying to figure out a solution. And so you and your dad have created a product which is could be a solution for many, many women who are experiencing pelvic floor dysfunction. Tell us a little bit more about it.
MaryEllen Yeah. So it’s actually funny that you say that about France, because that is. Perfect. Where my dad actually was on the team to help design the device for pelvic floor muscle rehabilitation for the national health care system in France. And in Germany, Scandinavia as well. So. He kind of knew he knew what needed to be done and then created an over-the-counter one for the United States and also for the for the UK as well. And. There is just this gap, and we fell we fell into it ourselves before we created the Yarlap. It was a big moment is that we had a family member. Well, family member, but not a family member, a dear friend that had urinary incontinence to the point where she knew she had 15 minutes. She had 15 minutes of freedom, and she had to go to the bathroom and it was like clockwork. And it got to the point where she wouldn’t leave the house. And then she became secluded, which led to a whole array of things. And. Destroyed her social life, all this other stuff. And my dad goes, well, there’s stuff in the in in France and in Europe that you can just go and get it and it will be covered. So there’s probably something like that in the United States where you can just easily go and get it. Well, no, it’s not because it’s the United States. And so then we we created something that we knew we had the we had the resources, the quality. We had everything that we could do to bring something that would work. To the United States, it could be easily accessible. And that’s the key that it was easily accessible and that it worked. And. I think that there are so many things out there that you want to look for something that is good for your journey. If you have pelvic floor muscle control and you can do the workouts, but you’re not sure if you’re doing them properly or if you’re engaging in the correct muscles, there are an array of tools, right? There’s like there’s eggs, biofeedback tools and all these other things. But if you’re if you want something done for you and you just sit there or you have no ability to control those muscles at all, those tools may not be of use for you because they could engage the wrong muscle, right? You can end up using your your butt again to hold everything in and just clench and to squeeze. And if you’re using your butt, you’re not using your pelvic floor muscles. And so you’re not going to get the benefit to have a rear end. That looks amazing, but you’re still good, but you’re still going to have these leaks because you’re not engaging the pelvic floor muscle.
So maybe those aren’t correct for you. You want to use an enemy as a neuro muscle electro device that sends a signal into your pelvic floor muscles. And there are just different there’s different arrays and there are dialators for super tense pelvic floor muscles. There are an array of tools, but you want to find out what works for you and what is beneficial for your journey. Because if you have a tense pelvic floor muscle, getting something that is going to do the pelvic floor muscle workouts and clench for you is not what you want. You want something that’s going to help you learn to relax those muscles. So it’s really important that you find out where you are on this spectrum of tone and then go find a tool that is appropriate for you because you don’t want to be backpedaling and not getting the correct tool for your problem. So you want to find out what, what, where exactly you are on this spectrum of tone.
Le’Nise So if you are wondering where you are, so if you don’t have the obvious, some of the obvious signs where you have bladder incontinence or you have like a super tense like you can feel it or you have issues inserting tampons or issues having penetrative sex. Would you say that the best way to get a sense of where you are is to see a pelvic floor specialist like that sort of therapist?
MaryEllen Or your GP, whoever does your. Exams, if that’s your OB or if that’s your gynonow or whomever can tell you where, how, how, how you are in your tone, where you are, if you have any. If you’re good, if you want to use devices that are as a preventative measure or as a treatment measure, it’s a good if you have the luxury of going to a licensed health care professional. That is your best bet.
Le’Nise OK, great. So if you if someone’s listening to this and they’re on this journey and they they’re feeling scared, they’re really worried about the symptoms that they’re experiencing, whether it’s either end of the spectrum or somewhere in between. What words would you give them to give them a bit of support?
MaryEllen Go to your doctor kicked out of the door and say, Hey, this is what I’m feeling, because just taking that action step of making the appointment or even going to your friends or your family or your partner, or look yourself in the mirror and say, I have a problem, I’m going to go fix this. It’s is a huge, massive step and you should be so proud of yourself for taking that step because you’re trying to improve your quality of life by no longer having this health issue. And you should never feel alone, isolated or ashamed ever about taking control of your own health. So anybody who makes you feel any type of negative way for taking control of your own body, for taking control of your health? They are the ones that should be embarrassed. They’re the ones that should be ashamed for making you feel that way because you’re amazing for doing this for yourself. This is the ultimate form of self-care. I know that we are not throwing that term around for creating a bubble bath and lighting some candles. And that is a form of self-care for people. But I personally believe that this is the ultimate form of self-care is to take control of your health. And if you are doing that and. And you are going to make an appointment or you’re you know, you’re talking to people about your pelvic floor health or your bladder leaks or whatever, and you’re about to start this journey, know that this is so amazing and you are so great for doing it because not a lot of people do. And they just sit and suck it up, even though they’re not happy about it and their quality of life sucks. And you are doing something good for yourself and you’re putting yourself first and you’re taking control of your health. That is amazing. I do not ever, ever feel alone, ever.
Le’Nise Fantastic. I think those are really important words. If listeners want to find out more about you and Yarlap, where can they go?
MaryEllen They can go to www.yarlap.com or they can find us on Instagram or Facebook. Instagram is I live and breathe on Instagram, so Instagram is a great place to be at. We’re at @yarlapotp. And you can send us messages, comments, whatever you want and we’ll get back to you as soon as we possibly can. And usually that’s within like an hour or so, and so we’re pretty quick to respond.
Le’Nise Great. Well, thank you so much for coming on the show today.
MaryEllen Thank you so much for having me. So nice to talk to somebody about taboo subjects that somebody who’s not embarrassed to talk about them as well so that was really nice.