Photo by: Heather J. McClelland
Today she is the owner of NOLA Pelvic Health, a private practice providing pelvic health physical therapy. Sara specializes in the treatment of pelvic floor muscle dysfunction, including pelvic pain, bowel and bladder dysfunction, sexual dysfunction, and pregnancy and postpartum recovery.
The TEDxLSU 2019 speaker is also the founder of a popular online resource for pelvic health education that provides telehealth sessions to support, empower and educate women worldwide. Her open and occasionally blunt discussions of rarely discussed women’s health issues have gained her a substantial international following while serving to shine a light on important issues of wellness.
We spoke with Sara ahead of her TEDxLSU talk on March 23 to discuss her work, her life and what people overlook when it comes to women’s health. Read some highlights of the conversation below.
Where are you from originally?
New Orleans. I actually moved away for 17 years and just moved back here about a year and a half ago. I moved away to go to college at Washington University in St. Louis, which is a small private school. Then I stayed there for graduate school, so I was there for seven years.
Katrina happened while I was there. I graduated immediately after and there weren’t very many jobs here, so I moved to Austin for two years and started doing women’s health physical therapy there. Then I moved to Dallas for eight years, and just moved back to New Orleans in 2017 — with my two kids and my husband.
What attracted you to your field?
It’s something that nobody knows about, and I think it’s a much-needed service. We all pee and poop and may have problems with them. Nobody talks about it. I like working in a field where there’s not a lot known but there’s a lot that can be offered. I think to be able to help somebody with something that’s private and intimate but really affects their quality of life is very rewarding.
You’ve said that women’s healthcare needs a revolution. What do you mean by that?
As women having babies we’ve kind of just accepted that these changes in our body are just inevitable, and that’s really not the case. That’s why as a physical therapist I really advocate that women advocate for themselves and say that this isn’t acceptable that I have painful sex years after having a baby or I pee when I run because that’s just the way it’s going to be. We even see these pantyliner commercials that say “little leaks are part of being a woman.” We’ve accepted that as just our destiny as women, but these problems are addressable. There are things we can do versus letting things spiral down until we need surgery or something more aggressive.
Why is it important to talk about healthcare topics that are considered taboo?
We’re talking about them maybe on walks with our girlfriends, we’re giggling about them at dinner or we’re not just talking about them at all — and they really can have a huge impact on quality of life. It can affect marriages, going back to work, going back to exercise, taking care of children. They’re so impactful yet nobody says anything about them. I think why this message has really resonated with women is because they see that, finally, somebody is speaking up about these things that are universal experiences for us.
Are there other women’s healthcare or child care issues that are overlooked?
I think one of the biggest things is immediate postpartum care. We’re sent home from the hospital after just one or two days, then we don’t see a doctor for six weeks. So that whole time frame we get really no support and no guidance. Then after that six-week check up there’s nothing else for maybe a year. There’s just really a huge lack of support there.
Another thing I think is really challenging is that for new moms there’s a lot of pressure to breastfeed. We’re always like “breast is best” and “you have to breastfeed your baby,” but there is zero education and support for moms. And they struggle a lot of the time. They feel like they’re failing as moms, but it’s really the system that’s failing because they’re not getting the support that they need.
What do you do to unplug from work?
I have two kids, so there’s not a ton of time. I try to do Yoga. I read a lot. I like to hang out with my kids and husband and enjoy New Orleans.
I have a really strong spiritual practice as well — in meditation and Buddhist spirituality. That’s really the guiding principle for the way I try to live.
Do you have any other hobbies or activities?
I like to travel, watch the Saints, workout and spend time with my family and friends and keep life pretty simple. I also do community workshops around New Orleans educating women on pelvic floor health alongside doulas, fitness instructors and yoga instructors.
What’s your superpower?
Making people feel really comfortable talking about potentially awkward things - like pooping.
To learn more about Sara or about TEDxLSU 2019, follow TEDxLSU on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Reserve your seat now to experience her talk, as well as the talks of all of the other TEDxLSU 2019 speakers.