The Belfast-based businesswoman tells how talking to some of her closest female friends about the health issues they faced after giving birth persuaded her to go public about having a non-surgical vaginal rejuvenation treatment, writes Stephanie Bell.
A leading figure in fashion and PR in Northern Ireland has attempted to shatter the taboo on the damage which can be caused to women’s bodies by childbirth.
Cathy Martin (45), who has a six-year-old daughter Valentina, has posted a series of videos on social media explaining a revolutionary new procedure called Geneveve which she herself underwent in a private clinic last week.
The non-surgical vaginal rejuvenation treatment carried out at Cosmetech Maypole Clinic in Holywood aims to treat vaginal laxity, help with stress and urinary incontinence and increase sensation and sexual satisfaction.
The treatment, which costs £2,295, has been transforming the quality of life for hundreds of women who have struggled for years with a variety of issues caused by giving birth.
Cathy, who enjoys a high profile on social media and through her company CMPR, was invited to be part of an online campaign to inform women of the treatment and how it works after posting a very successful video of herself having a mammogram two years ago.
Over 55,000 people on social media viewed the video of Cathy getting a mammogram and encouraging women to check and look after their breasts. The response was so overwhelming that Action Cancer’s phone system crashed over the course of a weekend.
Initially approached by Cosmetech Maypole Clinic’s consultant gynaecologist and subspecialist urogynaecologist Dr Patrick Campbell to undergo the procedure, Cathy was naturally hesitant about going public on an issue that is so personal.
But then the Belfast Fashionweek director, who lives in Holywood, spent some months discussing it with her circle of girlfriends — and was shocked to discover just how many of them were suffering from symptoms.
She says: “I didn’t really think it was for me and I wasn’t sure if I could go public about something that is so private.
“The consultant Patrick had seen my mammogram video and he asked if I could help him to educate people about issues on incontinence and laxity down below.
“I was hesitant and decided to do some research of my own.
“I spent a few months talking to lots of friends over dinner and coffee and I was surprised and horrified by how many of them said they had been affected by childbirth.
“I don’t wee when I laugh or when I go to the gym, but was surprised how many of my friends do.
“What I found was that for most mums, thankfully, birth means a baby — but we need an honest conversation about what birth can do to some mothers because it can also mean wounds and tears, and for some it can mean uncomfortable sex, incontinence or prolapse symptoms that last for years afterwards.
“I learnt that lots of women were struggling in their daily lives despite pain and degrading symptoms. And they felt they couldn’t talk about it — even to their husbands.
“I think there is almost an acceptability that it is okay to be damaged because you had a baby — and this is wrong. For example, I had one friend tell me that she suffered post-natal depression and total disconnect from her baby for a year, which she now believes was because of physical damage incurred in childbirth. Others’ marriages and relationships suffered because they didn’t want to have sex anymore as it was too painful or just not pleasurable.
“I realised it was a big issue affecting women in their 30s and 40s and with the vaginal mesh scandal, and all those horror stories that came out around that, I thought it would be good to get word out that there is a pain free and very quick one-off treatment available.”
Cathy posted her first video a few days ago on Instagram where within 24 hours it was viewed over 5,000 times. She also posted it on Facebook.
She followed it up with a second video of herself at the clinic before and after she underwent the procedure.
Vaginal tissues, just like the skin, change over time. Childbirth and ageing are two of the most common reasons why collagen support fibres lose their strength, leading to vaginal laxity (looseness), often associated with stress urinary incontinence.
Millions of women suffer silently with these problems, often resulting in loss of sexual sensation and satisfaction, loss of confidence and embarrassment.
Called Geneveve, the procedure is painless and takes about 45 minutes. It uses radio-frequency deep-heating energy to stimulate the body’s natural collagen formation process.
Cathy says that while she feels fortunate not to have any incontinence issues after the birth of her daughter, there are other benefits promised by the treatment which she feels aren’t talked about enough.
She says: “I do have a strong enough pelvic floor but I would have bladder issues getting up to go to the toilet during the night.
“There is also the benefit of the tightening of the vagina which means that you benefit sexually too — and that’s no bad thing!
“It is taboo to talk about sexual pleasure, but it’s a fact that if you are experiencing sexual pleasure in a loving and fulfilling relationship, you will be happier and more content in your life. It is good for your overall physical and emotional wellbeing.
“And yes, I am not afraid to say there are benefits to looking after yourself sexually.”
Cathy, who is in a long term relationship, found the procedure painless and said there was no discomfort.
A small treatment tip, about the size of your thumb, is inserted just inside the vaginal opening. The tip is rotated as it alternately cools the surface and heats the soft tissue beneath.
Treatment takes about 30-45 minutes and it is a few months before you feel the full benefits as it takes time for the body to respond by generating new collagen and elastin in the vaginal opening. Women feel the full effect of the procedure after 90 days.
Dr Patrick Campbell says: “Research has shown that 90% of women treated with Geneveve report statistically significant vaginal tightening and sexual satisfaction. This research was carried out in four different countries and included women who were given a placebo (dummy) treatment. This study has provided firm evidence that Geneveve is an effective treatment for vaginal laxity.”
Mr Campbell adds that Geneveve is also proven to be an effective treatment for urinary incontinence too, with recent research from Canada reporting over 90% improvement in symptoms of stress incontinence, with a further study about to get under way in the US.
He adds: “Many women are now hesitant about undergoing invasive surgery for stress incontinence so I am delighted to be able to offer this safe and effective treatment option to women who attend my clinic. The treatment is painless and delivered in a single session which takes between 30-45 minutes. There is no down-time so women can get back to their normal activities straight away.”
Not everyone might be suited to the treatment. Your consultant will determine if Geneveve is right for you given your medical history.
However, you should not consider Geneveve if you have an implantable pacemaker or an automatic implantable cardioverter/defibrillator (AICD) or any other implantable metal device.
Cathy is now waiting for the treatment to take effect and will be posting a video on the results that she experiences.
She says: “I’m not sure it is going to be as popular as the mammogram video but I hope lots of women do watch it.
“These crucial women’s health issues are all too common but remain taboo with many women suffering in silence and afraid or embarrassed to seek medical help. But if I can help to start an open and honest conversation to show women that they are not alone, and that it is good to share their experiences and seek help with healthcare professionals, then great.”
Geneveve costs £2,295 and payment options are available. To find out more details visit www.drpatrickcampbell.com or to book a complimentary assessment call the Cosmetech Maypole Clinic on 028 9042 3200