From a young age, women are conditioned to be secretive about their ‘private’ body parts and any issues they may face in the pelvic area. Umhlanga physio, Candice Langford is breaking the ice and making it her mission to help women talk about these concerns in an open, normalized and light-hearted way with her Instagram page, Nuture Your Vagina.
Some things are a little harder to talk about than others. Pelvic floor weakness, incontinence and sexual dysfunction are topics usually whispered about behind closed doors or, even worse, not spoken about at all.
But 29-year-old Umhlanga pelvic floor physiotherapist Candice is changing that – both through her popular Instagram page and her private practice in Umhlanga.
Candice studied physiotherapy at UCT after realizing she wanted to pursue a career that would allow her to help people in a hands-on way. While studying she found herself being pulled towards women’s health. After seven years of studies and a year of community service, she opened her practice, called Umhlanga Physio for Women.
“Women’s health is so interesting and diverse and so many things are connected in ways we have no idea about, especially regarding pelvic dysfunction. As women, our bodies go through numerous changes and there are many possible issues that can arise through each phase of our lives, whether it’s puberty, pregnancy, post-partum or peri or post-menopause.”
Candice changed her practice to Nurture Your Vagina after starting her Instagram page, which became popular very quickly. “The Instagram page is a space where I can connect with women in various ways and link them to brands and professionals that work towards a common goal. I started it with an intention to educate and empower women, because I feel like there is often a gap in our education and women don’t know enough about their own bodies. I wanted a place to talk about and expose ‘taboo’ subjects in a confident, normalized manner.”
Although Candice keeps her physiotherapy practice and Instagram page separate, both are focused on helping women understand and overcome issues and live their best lives.
She treats various types of patients at her practice. These include: postpartum moms wanting to return to exercise or those with concerns about urinary leaking, rectus diastasis and painful intercourse; sexual dysfunction patients with various areas of concern (this, Candice says, is an area she has become passionate about, as conversations about intimacy are often considered taboo and brushed under the rug); and pelvic floor weakness patients who present with a variety of symptoms such as incontinence, pelvic pain and constipation, amongst others.
“There are so many ways to improve pelvic vulva vaginal health, including small changes like eating the right nutrients, stress management, mental health, correct hormone levels and even changing your soap or underwear! If I can use my Instagram account to influence just one woman to seek help for the urine that she leaks every time she laughs, so that she can literally ‘laugh out loud’ without the fear and anxiety of leaking, then my job is done and I am one happy woman!”
Candice shares a few simple lifestyle changes that might make all the difference for you:
Exercise – the WHO recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity a week. Our bodies are beautifully connected and the pelvic floor does not function in isolation. Doing a variety of exercises exposes your pelvic floor to stimulation which will improve its function.
Get to know your bits – prioritize your womanhood and spend time getting to know and understand your body. This may seem intimidating to some but simply studying an anatomy image or using a mirror to ‘have a look’ could disempower the grasps of taboo, reduce feelings of shame associated with female anatomy and help you feel more confident to go for that pelvic floor assessment that you have been putting off.
Track your period – your menstrual cycle takes you on a journey from puberty, your childbearing years and your transition into menopause. Menstrual health is a vital sign of health and should be given the attention it deserves. Use tracking apps online to help you understand the 21-35 days of your menstrual cycle and familiarize yourself with changes in your body.
Think about your lifestyle – sometimes it’s the small things that may be impacting your all-round womanhood. The way we live our lives impacts our physiology, the hormones we produce, our menstrual cycles, our fertility, our transition journey into menopause.
Get help when you need it – when you are unsure about your pelvic health, seek help. Reach out to a professional who will put your mind at ease and guide you on a path to conservative management. Symptoms such as pain during sex, urinary incontinence and constipation are common, but that does not make these symptoms the new ‘norm’. I speak to women daily about symptoms that they have endured for far too long, often due to a lack of awareness, fear and feelings of shame. Ask questions, dig deeper, empower yourself through education and join me in breaking down taboo in the women’s health world.
Text: Leah Shone