Erectile dysfunction. Prostate cancer. Urinary hesitancy. With men's health there's not an issue out there that isn't talked about. And yet, when it comes to the business of lady parts, we suddenly seem to get very shy indeed.
Over the past two months I've been involved in launching FemiLift, a non-surgical laser treatment that tackles vaginal rejuvenation. We're not talking for aesthetic reasons - this isn't a solution for creating "porn star" designer vaginas. FemiLift deals with the tightening of the vaginal canal to deal with problems associated with sex and urinary incontinence. The technology has been hugely well received within the industry, and our case studies and initial patients have come back to us say that it has, in short, changed their lives.
But British media won't touch the subject.
For weeks we've called journalists and emailed editors to tell them about FemiLift. With all of our other innovations beauty editors frequently jump at the chance to inform their readers of the latest developments in non-surgical cosmetic enhancements. And yet with this, we've watched helplessly as the tumbleweed has blown across the yard, having been met with a stony silence.
Collectively, my team and I have wondered if it's an anti-women attitude that has limited coverage. One national newspaper commissioned an interview with one of our patients -- a woman totally transformed by her procedure. They took photographs of her, wrote up a piece about how potentially problems such as stress urinary incontinence and sexual displeasure could be alleviated, and at the last minute the feature was pulled. Interestingly, the freelance journalist who wrote the piece is female, the sub-editor of the health section is female... and the newspaper editor who "hated it" is a man.
Last week The Mail Online finally launched the first piece of national press about FemiLift, and instantly our phone lines went nuts. We had hundreds of calls from women up and down the country who told us that they've often thought they were the only one with lost sensation during sex, or who wet their knickers from laughing too much. That isolation is crazy when you consider one in three women suffer from stress urinary incontinence.
So strong were their stories, their impassioned pleas for help, that I'm on a mission to shout about talking about vagina more than we currently are. It's baffled me as to why the British press has been hesitant to talk about a natural and common problem that now has an accessible, non-invasive solution.
Of course, Lily Allen recently opened up this dialogue. With her satirical "Lily Allen has a baggy p****" balloon declaration in her latest video Hard Out Here, mothers across the internet have suddenly opened up about the trauma inflicted on their intimate parts after childbirth. Sally Peck said in the Telegraph that, "British mums salute [Lily Allen] for admitting the vaginal earthquake that is childbirth."
With, apparently, 90 per cent of women experiencing vaginal trauma through childbirth, it is essentially every woman we know who might need some help establishing pelvic floor strength after birth. Postnatal care in France includes priority on la reeducation périnéale: physical therapy designed to retrain the muscles of the pelvic floor, but in the U.K. it's a totally neglected issue.
In an article on Slate.com, American Claire Lundberg discusses how it is implicitly understood that women will want to have sex again after childbirth, as well as ensuring safety in subsequent births. France is one of the only countries to offer anything like this: making post-childbirth vagina a talking point so that the female population is all the healthier for it. The ten to twenty sessions afford by French government help with incontinence reduction and pelvic pain, and let women know that not only should they not be ashamed to talk about the issue, but that they must.
British women have no support for this at all. We get a six-week check-up and off we go: like Lundbery says, "...meanwhile... [people] may still be experiencing a variety of symptoms that, while not medically serious, sure are annoying, embarrassing, and strange, and not at all conducive to reinvigorating her sex life."
Unless we continue to force open the taboo on the subject of tighter vaginas - for whatever reason it might exist, from sexism and misogyny to embarrassment and isolation - the women of Britain will not get the help they need so recapture the feeling of sexual confidence and satisfaction so many have upsettingly lost.