| Lauren Peterson
Who is Dr. Lauren Peterson?
I am a wife, mother, and former professional ballerina. I cherish each of those roles. And each role has
contributed to where I am today, a pelvic floor physical therapist.
As a wife, or rather a fiancé, my husband and I spoke a lot about our future. We are both driven by a
desire to help others, and we both thought we would end up as physicians. We also both wanted a
family. As a ballerina, I had danced at a high level, but with that came the ups and downs of physical
health. While studying in Canada, at the National Ballet School, I was introduced to physical therapy and
it had a tremendous impact on my life. It lengthened my career and gave me a much healthier
musculoskeletal system. With the possibility of a two-physician household, physical therapy ended up
right in my lap, and I decided to consider another career path within healthcare.
As a first-time mother, I had a difficult first delivery. Nothing extremely out of the ordinary, but difficult
none-the-less, and it led to some lingering challenges. Immediately after the birth of my oldest son, I
had bladder leaks (technically “Stress Incontinence”) when I would dance, or sneeze, or just pick up my
precious little man. Even as a healthcare provider, I was embarrassed to speak about it with my Ob/GYN.
Afterall, friends and family said it was common and it was just something I would have to live with. With
time, the symptoms resolved on their own. Partially due to naturally healing, and also because of a
strong healthy pelvic floor that I was able to continue to work on after my eldest’s birth.
Baby number two, my beautiful little girl, was different. I began having stress incontinence early on with
her pregnancy. I couldn’t play with her big brother and I couldn’t take Zumba or Jazzercise classes
without peeing myself. I hated it! Fortunately my Ob/GYN was a good friend. She and her partners were
actually looking for a pelvic floor physical therapist and she wondered if I were interested in treating not
only stress incontinence but also pelvic pain. Before having my own issues, it was an area I had not
wanted to get into, but when living in rural northwest Iowa where there wasn’t a women’s health
physical therapist, I decided I would give it a go. So, I became my own first patient. I took continuing
education, I sought mentorship, and I realized that “Leaks Aren’t Normal.” The women in my life who
told me it was just a part of being a woman were wrong, and I wanted everyone to know that.
I spent three years treating patients in Iowa, and I saw all manner of pelvic floor dysfunction, from run of
the mill stress incontinence to pelvic organ prolapse to a married couple who hadn’t been able to
consummate their 5-year marriage because of her dyspareunia. If you haven’t been to northwest Iowa,
let me paint you a picture in one word: Corn. Well, corn and women with pelvic pain. I quickly realized
the impact pelvic pain was having on the lives of dozens and hundreds of women in my area, and I took
great satisfaction from alleviating their pain, improving their quality of life, and restoring the intimacy to
Pelvic Pain is not unlike any other pelvic floor dysfunction, or any other musculoskeletal pain, and it is
not something you just have to live with. The pelvic floor is made up of muscles and bones just like the
rest of your body, and while it is vital to some of the most important functions of your life (if you just
took a breath, don’t forget to thank your pelvic floor), most people don’t pay any attention until it’s not
as healthy as it should be. Your pelvic floor is the foundation of your core and it is responsible for
keeping the internal organs of your abdomen, inside your abdomen. It is also responsible for all manner
of voiding and sexual functioning. Your pelvic floor muscles work like a hammock, and much like the
ropes on a hammock can stretch, the muscles of your pelvic floor can stretch. This laxity, or muscle
looseness, can cause a lot of pelvic floor dysfunction. However, unlike a hammock, the muscles of your
pelvic floor can also become overtightened. Overtightening happens for a number of reasons, but three
to consider right away 1) stress, 2) over working your pelvic floor (i.e., Kegels when your pelvic muscles
are already tight, will just make for tighter muscles), and 3) improper breathing and co-contraction of
non-pelvic floor muscles.
A pelvic floor physical therapist, or women’s health PT, is not going to be in every physical therapy clinic
you walk into. Women’s health physical therapy is a highly specialized area and takes a physical
therapist with advanced training in pelvic floor dysfunction. Beyond physical therapy school, which now
consists of a 3-year doctorate on top of 4 years of undergraduate education, a women’s health physical
therapist is going to receive hours and hours of continuing education, which should include the
opportunity to work with pelvic models (other women who the physical therapist can assess) and often
includes a more senior physical therapist with whom the new women’s health physical therapist can
interact for mentorship. It is lifelong learning, and each patient helps me to better treat the next.
You might be saying, “Dr. Lauren, your issues cleared up after your son, so will mine.” Let me be clear,
before I got pregnant, I had a very strong, healthy pelvic floor. I worked out routinely including exercises
that focused on strengthening my core and properly coordinating my breathing. And as a physical
therapist I had advanced understanding of general body mechanics. I was in a prime position to never
have pelvic floor dysfunction, and yet, while I got better for a time, the underlying issues were not
resolved before I got pregnant with my daughter. A pelvic floor physical therapist, or a women’s health
physical therapist, is trained to deal with the issues you are facing. Yes, these issues are extremely
personal, so finding a physical therapist who can help you with your unique challenges, who can connect
with you on a personal level is extremely important. I would love to help you, but even more than that, I
want you to take the steps to help yourself. Ladies, its time to bring pelvic floor dysfunction out into the
light, and it’s time to take back your pelvic health.
If you are in the OKC area and would like a pelvic floor physical therapy evaluation appt with Lauren, visit her website here: https://www.fyzical.com/oklahoma-city