It’s Time to Break This Taboo in Women’s Health

Thanks to the sharing of personal experiences and some entrepreneurial innovation, pelvic floor health is getting the attention it deserves.


Pelvic floor health, a critical yet often neglected aspect of women’s well-being, is finally receiving the attention it deserves in Canada. This newfound focus is propelled by personal stories of struggle and the emergence of innovative solutions — including a Canadian-developed rehabilitation device — signalling a paradigm shift in Canadian healthcare.

Unpacking pelvic floor health

The pelvic floor is a key set of muscles at the bottom of the pelvis. They’re important because they help hold up organs like the bladder, uterus, and rectum. If these muscles get weak or hurt, often because of things like getting pregnant, giving birth, or getting older, problems like incontinence, organ prolapse, and pain can occur. These issues can impact women’s daily lives and self-esteem.

In Canada, pelvic floor health has long been a taboo subject, shrouded in silence and embarrassment.

Carrie Anna McGinn’s story, as shared by CBC Radio, encapsulates the experiences of numerous Canadian women facing pelvic floor issues post-childbirth. McGinn’s battle with urinary incontinence and pain during intercourse is representative of a wider, yet often unspoken, health crisis. She poignantly notes, “I kept thinking maybe this is in my head […] or maybe it will get better, or maybe it won’t.”

Her candid account sheds light on the internal conflicts and societal pressures that many women confront in silence. McGinn addresses the cultural side of this issue, saying, “There is still a taboo that exists about pelvic floor health, and talking about things like incontinence and pain during sex.”

This lack of open discussion contributes to widespread ignorance and can discourage women from seeking necessary help.

Innovation and entrepreneurship

Addressing these challenges head-on, Rachel Bartholomew, a cervical cancer survivor from Kitchener, Ontario, founded Hyivy Health. Inspired by her own experiences and the shared struggles of other women, Bartholomew developed the Hyivy Floora, an innovative pelvic floor rehabilitation device.

This ergonomic dilator represents a significant improvement over traditional models. As Bartholomew explains in an interview with The Toronto Star, “I was like, ‘something needs to be done about [traditional rehabilitation devices…]’, no wonder everyone hates this.”

The Hyivy Floora improves pelvic floor rehabilitation by using air to gently expand, making it less painful than traditional hard, stick-like dilators. It also has heat and cold options for extra comfort and connects to an app for easy tracking. The ergonomic design is more comfortable and user-friendly, aiming to make pelvic health care less intimidating and more effective for women.

The Hyivy Floora’s journey through clinical trials at institutions like McMaster University and Kitchener’s Grand River Cancer Centre is a critical step in bringing this Canadian innovation to the forefront of women’s health. These trials are essential for establishing the device’s efficacy and safety, ensuring that it meets the rigorous standards required for medical devices.

Alongside these technological advancements, advocates like Sarah Baribeau, who runs a gym for pregnant women and new mothers in Quebec City, are working tirelessly to raise awareness. Baribeau points out the general lack of knowledge about the pelvic floor among her clients, highlighting the need for more widespread education and open conversations about these health issues.

The investment gap in women’s health

Bartholomew’s efforts also draw attention to the broader issue of underinvestment in women’s health research. She criticizes the current state of women’s health understanding and treatment, advocating for a more modern and inclusive approach.

“The understanding of women’s health is so archaic,” she said in her Q&A with the Toronto Star. “We’re set up to fail women’s health from the very beginning.”

The evolving narrative around pelvic floor health in Canada is a testament to the resilience and innovation of those who have long been ignored in this area. Through the efforts of individuals like McGinn and Bartholomew, and advocates like Baribeau, pelvic floor health is transitioning from a taboo topic to one of open discussion and action.

This change points to a time when women’s healthcare in Canada, including care for pelvic floor health, is not just a hope but a real thing. The continuous conversations, studies, and new developments in this area are important steps to make sure every woman gets the healthcare and attention she needs for her total health and well-being.

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Adam is a passionate advocate for women's and infants' health. With a Master of Science and a current Ph.D. from the University of Toronto's Department of Physiology, he has dedicated his academic and professional career to understanding and improving health outcomes for women and newborns. Adam's research is driven by a deep commitment to empowering women through education and by promoting the incredible advances in women's health care. As a proud Canadian, he is eager to shine a light on the contributions and progress made in his home country, aiming to inspire and contribute to a healthier future for all women and their families.