We recently met Samantha Montpetit-Huynh and her daughter Reine for our #LetsTalkPeriods campaign, in support of Menstrual Health Day. After talking with Sam about her pelvic health journey, it was clear that women everywhere could benefit from learning that pelvic health is about so much more than doing kegels.
Here’s a bit of our filmed interview with Sam. Give a watch and read on to learn more about her about her work as a core and pelvic health coach, and find out what it could mean for you.
You specialize in pelvic health—what does that mean? What exactly is the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is the three layers of muscles from the front of the pubic bone right under to your sit-bones and bottom of your spine. These muscles support your pelvic organs: your uterus, rectum, and bladder. It’s called the pelvic floor because it inserts into your pelvis and works together with the abdominal muscles. People often think “these are my abdominals, they have nothing to do with my pelvis” but it’s not uncommon for people to have abdominal surgery and then become incontinent. Your bladder and intestines and other parts can actually fall down through your vagina (it’s called pelvic floor prolapse). It’s actually really common, but it’s not normal, just like you should not be peeing because you laugh too hard. All of this stuff that has been normalized is not normal. There is no help, there’s no research, and you wonder why incontinence products are a billion dollar industry.
Tell us about your work as a trainer and pelvic and core health coach.
I’m a mom and I’ve got two kids. My body has changed over the years, so what I used to be able to do ten years ago, I can’t do anymore. So the work I do is more from a functional aspect, not so much about looking for a six-pack. As a trainer, I work primarily with other moms, focusing more on the rehabilitation and foundation-building aspect. Over the years I’ve realized how much pelvic and core health affects people, especially moms, not just on a superficial level but on a functional, emotional, and mental level. Women don’t talk about it and it kind of becomes brushed under the rug until [it escalates to] surgery or something.
Throughout your twenties, you suffered from fibroid tumors and out-of-control periods, which ultimately led to a hysterectomy. Can you tell us about your experience?
I had an abortion when I was twenty-one, and that’s when they first found the fibroids. [I went on birth control to regulate my periods] and a few years later, I had a myomectomy to have the fibroids removed. Over the years, through the two pregnancies, the fibroids came back (they grew with all the hormones). I had four fibroids about five to seven centimetres each. My periods started getting heavier and heavier.
One day, this was about five years ago, I felt this gush. There was blood everywhere. I went to the bathroom and I could feel things dropping out of me. I was passing blood clots like mouse droppings. I started freaking out. I called my family doctor and she told me to go to emergency. I started crying. I had hemorrhaged so bad and had bled so much that I thought maybe it was time for a hysterectomy.
I did some research. [I learned that] when you do have a hysterectomy, everything inside you can move around and your intestines can actually fall down into your vagina cause there’s nothing holding them up. So I wanted to remove only my uterus and leave everything else (my ovaries, my cervix, etc.). I found one surgeon out of only ten in Canada to do the procedure laparoscopically with no major surgery. They left my cervix and ovaries and everything else is still there.
Was it difficult for you to accept that you'd no longer be able to have kids or were you okay with it at that point?
I was 42 and I had two kids, so I was okay with it. But in a way, I did grieve a little bit. But time helped me get through it, and people called and sent flowers. I talked about it. I was impressed that people were able to check in with that part and knew that it was a time to grieve. It’s not just an organ, it’s a lifeline.
What do you want women to know about their pelvic health?
It’s just as important as any other aspect of their health. Get your pelvic floor assessed once a year. Something like incontinence, which is the most common pelvic floor dysfunction, is not life-threatening but it’s life-altering. Women, and especially moms, don’t always look ahead, they just put a pad on and do what they can. A little bit of leaking turns into a lot of leaking and then all of a sudden they feel something falling into their vagina. So much of this stuff is preventable.
What can we do to prevent incontinence or pelvic floor prolapse?
Exercise. See a pelvic floor physiotherapist. Every single person on the planet, but especially women, should see a pelvic floor physiotherapist. Go at least once a year to get it checked. Incontinence is obvious [when it’s happening], but pelvic floor prolapse is often silent until it’s a serious issue.
What should we be telling our girls about pelvic health?
Educate them. I would be very open. I never called a vagina a “flower” or whatever; I call it what it is. I’m teaching my girls to do their kegels. I tell them they should “pick up their blueberries.”
Sam is the co-founder of Bellies Inc., an ab wrapping system that helps to restore the pelvis area after childbirth. She also provides online training and pelvic health coaching. For more info or to reach out to her with questions, visit www.samcoretrainer.com.
To learn more about our partnership with Period.org for Menstrual Health Day, click here.