Belfast obstetrician Jim Dornan now provides a ground-breaking remedy for women suffering from a wide range of gynaecology issues arising from childbirth and ageing. The renowned surgeon talks to Una Brankin.
‘Now I have a fourth string to my bow, a non-surgical approach to addressing gynae issues’
Professor Jim Dornan was known for decades here as ‘the baby doctor’ and remains very well regarded by his patients for his care and attention through pregnancy and childbirth.
The charming obstetrician, who happens to be the father of heart-throb actor Jamie Dornan, retired from his pre-natal work four years ago, but is now focusing on post-reproductive gynaecology, treating the problems that can arise from childbirth and the natural ageing process.
“I’ve matured with my patients and I’m familiar with the issues that affect them later in life, after the reproductive days have come to an end,” says 68-year-old Jim.
“Women always lived longer than men and now we’re all living even longer.
“Women can reasonably plan on getting to 90 now, rather than 70, but after 50, they have much reduced naturally produced oestrogen, which can leave its effects on the body in general and indeed the genital area in particular. And 50 to 90 is 40 years, after all.”
A father-of-three, Jim specialises in ThermiVa, a non-surgical method of vaginal rejuvenation, at his private practice at the 3fivetwo clinics in Belfast and Holywood.
The award-winning treatment uses non-invasive radio-frequency to repair the stretching of the vagina and loosening of the pelvic floor caused by childbirth, as well as the unwanted effects of menopause, such as excessive dryness, thinning of the vaginal wall, pain and urinary incontinence.
It’s particularly beneficial to women experiencing leaks prior to using the bathroom and during exercise, reduced sensation during sex combined with the inability to orgasm, and decreased lubrication.
“Women are often more genitally aware these days, yet gynaecologists, in general, haven’t always perhaps been addressing these issues properly,” says Jim.
“Some birth canals can almost return to normal after childbirth, but around a quarter of mothers complain of feeling a looseness after childbirth.
“That can be for many reasons including genetics, and perhaps delivering bigger babies than in previous generations and it can result in some incontinence, amongst other problems.
“The muscle tissue at the neck of the bladder sits just above the vagina, which usually functions better in younger woman when it has tone, elasticity and body. If the tissues have aged or been damaged, then the urge to urinate is often greater, which has women running to the loo in the middle of the night, as well as causing leakage when jogging or straining, perhaps even when laughing.”
Although ThermiVa has cosmetic benefits, Jim stresses that it is carried out for functional purposes — the tightening of the inner and outer muscles and structures of the vagina, providing enhanced vaginal muscle tone, strength and control.
A simple, slim hand-held device, known medically as a ‘wand’, delivers warm radio-frequency energy inside the vagina to revive damaged or aged tissue.
It is also gently applied to labia and vulva tissues to restore normal tissue tone and function.
“It’s very similar to the rejuvenating facial treatment Thermage (espoused by Gwyneth Paltrow), in that it uses heat to stimulate collagen renewal and production in the genital tract tissues, both inside and outside, just as the beauty treatment does to the face,” Jim explains.
“The idea of using Thermage in the genital tract was introduced by Dr Red Allinsod from the United States — his passion was driven by the desire to save marriages.
“He believes that with men having access to Viagra, women are in danger of being left behind.
“He believes that rejuvenating the genital tract can help relationships.
“It’s an interesting view. I think it’s important indeed to talk to our patients, about the benefits of performing antenatal pelvic floor muscle training and postnatal exercises.
“Sadly, despite this, a lot of women have been left damaged by the vaginal birthing process.”
Jim credits his wife Samina, a fellow obstetrician, for encouraging and supporting his work every step of the way.
The Crawfordsburn couple now have five grandchildren, including two by Jamie and his wife, actress and singer Amelia Warner.
Both believe passionately in preparing women better for childbirth.
Jim says: “We really need to give women more information on what lies ahead, how damage can be avoided or minimised and emphasise the choice agenda. As they say in South Africa, ‘It’s better to build a boy than repair a man’ — the same can be said for women.
“And then we must also bring the good news that all is not lost. There is hope, and we don’t always have to resort to surgery.
“ThermiVa is not for everyone but it can definitely help many with vaginal looseness and help address many mild to moderate urinary and bladder problems. The effects of one treatment can be permanent for some; others need top-up treatments. Most benefit from three 20-minute treatments, one month apart, and then with an annual maintenance treatment session thereafter.
“The internal treatment tightens the birth canal and the external application helps rejuvenate the skin appearance.
“For these indications it’s already very popular in the US, Eastern Europe, Australia and the Far East.”
Costing from £795 per treatment, ThermiVa doesn’t come cheap, but Jim hopes that it will eventually become available on the health service.
“In the past I could either counsel women, apply hormone treatment or offer surgery,” he concludes.
“Now I have a fourth string to my bow, a non-surgical approach to addressing many gynae issues.”
For further information about ThermiVa call Joanna Crowe tel: 028 9068 8872 or email one2 firstname.lastname@example.org. ThermiVa is a 3fivetwo Healthcare treatment carried out at the Maypole Clinic in Holywood, Co Down and Kingsbridge Private Hospital, Lisburn Road, Belfast. 3fivetwo Healthcare is part of the 3fivetwo Group. ThermiVa was awarded Best Feminine Rejuvenation Device in The Aesthetic Industry Awards 2016
Former BBC NI broadcaster Diane Harron, now Eakin, was one of the first to have the ThermiVa treatment with 3fivetwo Group in Holywood. Diane says:
It’s a funny thing — women discuss almost everything personal — their husbands, lovers, partners, work worries, their illnesses, their children, teenagers, grandchildren. But not, it seems, their leaks.
I nearly laughed out loud when I went to try this treatment, as I discovered that the long thin bit of equipment (rather like hair tongs, only thinner) which is inserted inside the vagina, is called a ‘wand’.
What can you do when the gynae doctor is waving this around, calling it a wand, and you are thinking ‘magic wand’, and trying not to laugh — as you know that if you do, you’ll leak all over his nice clean paper towels on the bed.
On the day of the treatment at the Maypole Clinic in Holywood I got talking to a woman in the waiting room who had just had the treatment.
A heavy dose of ‘same-boatness’ became obvious and I found myself discussing the most intimate details with her. She was a mother of two boys who have grown up and left home.
She was chicly dressed and confident, in her early sixties and an enthusiastic runner, the latter of which was causing all sorts of leaking problems.
I spoke to another woman who had had twins. She had suffered a prolapse of the womb and was still suffering.
She wanted to avoid surgery and other remedies hadn’t worked for her, so she was trying this procedure to see if it made a difference.
The man with the magic wand is Prof Jim Dornan MD, a very serious baby doctor and gynaecologist.
He recommends that patients have three treatments, each one month apart, and then once a year to keep up the improvements. While I’m not sharing all my intimate details, I can say the most obvious improvement after my first treatment is that for the first time in decades, I have been able to sleep through the night without getting up to pee at 3am or 4am.
If you have a baby still waking for a feed twice a night, you will understand the pleasure I’m having from this. (Another notable improvement is only for me and my husband to enjoy).
The treatment lasts 30 minutes. On occasion, the wand seemed to get a little warm and when I flinched, the machine was turned down and I was comfortable again.
I had a desperate urge to urinate all through the procedure, so I was lying with white knuckles and tensed vagina muscles for 30 minutes, which probably did wonders for my pelvic floor but lessened the enjoyment of what would otherwise have been a surprisingly comfortable procedure.
I have now had my second treatment and the feeling of needing to pee throughout was gone.
I am feeling the benefit, and as a result am going to discuss leaking and urinary urges and dry vaginas at every opportunity with my female contemporaries — we need to have this conversation.
There is a sea-change out there and we need to do this — for ourselves.
What women used to accept as a prevailing condition no longer has to be such a gloomy forecast.”