Share MayFlowers: Do we really need another health awareness month?

National health observance months and international awareness campaigns exist for a large number of causes (for example, flowers_handsCardiovascular health – February, Leukemia and Lymphoma Awareness – September, Breast cancer/breast health – October).  Such a month-long emphasis on awareness, education and dialogue has been lacking in the broad but interconnected continuum of female pelvic and obstetric health.  In support of this, please consider the following points:

  • Nearly 80% of women in the US have at least one pregnancy resulting in childbirth in their lifetime.
  • There are an estimated 4 million live births in the US annually.
  • Collectively, pregnancy and childbirth are the single greatest factor in lifetime risk of developing urinary incontinence, and developing urinary incontinence for the first time while pregnant is the single greatest predictor in ongoing postpartum urinary incontinence.
  • Urinary incontinence affects 13 million Americans, 85% of whom are women and it is estimated that 50% of women will have urinary incontinence at some point in their lifetime.
  • Chronic pelvic pain disproportionately affects women 4:1 with research indicating that its prevalence is on par with that of chronic lower back pain and asthma.
  • Despite reports of 1 in 3 women experiencing a pelvic floor disorder, prevalence of all forms of pelvic floor disorders – pelvic pain, urinary and fecal incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse – is believed to be underestimated due to delayed or neglect of care seeking and reporting.
  • Shame, embarrassment and misinformation about the causes and treatments for pelvic floor disorders are widespread.

Our Share MayFlowers campaign addresses all of these points and more.  Through the lens of ‘female pelvic and perinatal (obstetric) health’, we promote engagement, education and dialogue on a range of delicate issues and weave them together throughout the female lifespan to break down the barriers that exist for women, their providers, and our communities.  We are supported by a vast and growing network of international pelvic health providers, advocates and community members.

Conceived and backed by experienced physical therapists and other pelvic/obstetric healthcare providers, Share MayFlowers launched in 2012, promoting new content every day in the month of May on www.sharemayflowers.org and through Facebook and Twitter streams.  We distributed cornhusk flower accessories (primarily in the Boston area) and promoted the wearing of these ‘MayFlowers’ throughout the month as a visible and tangible symbol of our campaign.  Since June 2012 we have maintained a blog at www.sharemayflowers.wordpress.com, where we continue to engage on a range of issues with female pelvic and perinatal health as our north star.  If you explore our past posts, you will see that when we say ‘continuum’, we mean not only throughout the lifespan, but also across cultures, socioeconomic levels, and human rights.

I believe that we can make the MayFlower the pink ribbon-equivalent for pelvic and maternal health.  I believe that there is cause for this and that by doing so, women and girls will be empowered in their own health and rights.  And that, my friends, will make the world a better place.

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