Shanna Sullivan (she/her)Doctor of Physical Therapy
North Bend, Washington
“Hi, Team flossy! My name is Shanna (she/her) and I’m a doctor of physical therapy, and specialize in women’s health! When I’m not in the clinic, I do virtual coaching with pre and post-natal mamas and birthing prep with Your Postpartum Team."
What is the importance of pelvic floor health for sexual wellness?
Sexual wellness is an important aspect of overall health and well-being, yet it is often overlooked or neglected. The pelvic floor plays a crucial role in sexual wellness, and when it is not functioning properly, it can lead to a variety of challenges that can impact our experience of pleasure. We spoke with doctor of physical therapy, Shanna Sullivan, who specializes in women's health, to learn more about the relationship between the pelvic floor and sexual wellness.
What is the relationship between the pelvic floor and our experience of pleasure (solo or partnered)?
A healthy pelvic floor requires good blood flow. Experiencing pleasure helps to increase blood flow to the area, maintain good pelvic floor tone, and even stretching with during postpartum. According to Shanna, "Pleasure can be a great tool for maintaining pelvic floor health. Engaging in sexual activity can help to increase blood flow to the area, which can help to keep the pelvic floor muscles healthy and functioning properly."
What are the most common sexual wellness-related challenges you see with your clients?
Shanna, who works with many pregnant and postpartum folks notes that many of them are afraid to look at or touch themselves after having a baby and it is very common to fear sexual intimacy with a partner. This fear can lead to tension and anxiety, which can further exacerbate the challenges that they are facing. Shanna stresses the importance of seeking support from a pelvic floor specialist to address any challenges related to sexual wellness.
What is the relationship between your pelvic floor and orgasms?
Orgasms help to increase blood flow to the pelvic floor muscles, and even to scars that may be healing from folks who have just experienced birth. According to Shanna, "Orgasms are a great way to maintain pelvic floor health. They can help to increase blood flow to the area, which can help to keep the pelvic floor muscles healthy and functioning properly."
What do you suggest for people who struggle or have never had an orgasm?
Working on a healthy pelvic floor by learning how to breathe properly and coordinate breath work with a lengthening and engaging pelvic floor can help to increase blood flow to the area and loosen any tension that could be making it challenging to achieve orgasm. Shanna suggests that people experiencing challenges with orgasm work with a pelvic floor specialist to address any specific concerns and create a personalized plan.
What are 2-3 techniques or tools you suggest for people experiencing sexual pain?
“...tools like lube, dilators, pelvic wands, and a penetration bumper”
There are many reasons why sex could be painful (note: in most cases, this pertains to penetrative sex, but sex can mean many other things beyond just penetration). Shanna suggests tools like lube, dilators, pelvic wands, and a penetration bumper like Ohnut. These tools can help to alleviate pain and make sex more comfortable.
What do you recommend before, during, and after having a baby for someone hoping to get back to experiencing sex/pleasure?
Most importantly, Shanna recommends not putting any pressure on yourself. Beyond this, working with a pelvic floor specialist to maintain good pelvic floor health and learning how to "connect to your pelvic floor after birth to strengthen, stretch, and heal safely so that returning to sex is successful and fun."
How might someone know that it’s time to see a pelvic floor PT?
If they are experiencing any pelvic pain, leakage, sexual dysfunction, or core weakness. Or if they are pregnant or postpartum. "It is never too early or too late to seek help for pelvic floor challenges. Pelvic floor PT can help to address a variety of challenges related to sexual wellness and overall pelvic health."
Do you ever recommend pleasure products to clients?
Yes! Dr. Sullivan recommends vibrators and lube to achieve orgasms (or whatever products you feel connect you most to your pleasure potential), which can help with blood flow and ultimately healing.
What does pleasure look like for you?
"Being confident in my body and being one with my spouse through awesome intimacy that we both ENJOY!"
Any last words? A place for hopes, dreams, and maybe today’s to-do list - if that helps ;)
“Everyone deserves pleasurable sexual experiences!”
"I would love for more people to be open about their sexual health so that we can help them with their intimacy and pelvic floor dysfunction. Everyone deserves pleasurable sexual experiences!"