'Pelvic Guru' dons costumes and makes videos to normalize taboo medical topics
Dr. Laura Meihofer calls herself “The Pelvic Guru.” Her educational videos, often in genitalia costumes, are growing in popularity with women and men. Her goal is to make it easier to talk about and treat conditions that many people consider embarrassing.
ROCHESTER, Minn. — There are a lot of medical specialists in Rochester, but Dr. Laura Meihofer’ s focus below the belt as well as her upbeat informational videos on Instagram set her apart.
Meihofer, who calls herself “The Pelvic Guru,” is a doctor of physical therapy, a board certified athletic trainer and a registered yoga instructor. After graduating from Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences in 2012, she worked at Mayo Clinic for eight years.
She opened her medical practice as a pelvic floor therapist in 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic started.
To help spread the word about her services, Meihofer turned to social media, posting jaunty videos to inform about prostate issues, postpartum problems, incontinence and other topics that aren’t commonly the subject of conversation let alone a social media video.
As someone who grew up learning from “Sesame Street,” the 36-year-old doctor wanted to use stuffed animals and puppets in her videos. When she couldn’t make that work, she turned to friendly costumes … genitalia costumes.
A typical Instagram reel will feature Meihofer dancing around in a vagina costume while talking about how to do self-exams. And since she treats all genders, she or sometimes her boyfriend also don an inflatable penis costume for other postings.
Q: What do you mean by calling yourself a pelvic guru?
A: I call myself a pelvic guru because I specialize in all things related to the pelvic floor. So oftentimes, people will sort of specialize in just pregnancy or they'll specialize in maybe just urinary incontinence or just women.
What I didn't like about that is it really made people who are often facing some really challenging struggles not feel seen or heard.
I wanted to make sure that kind of everyone felt welcome whether you identify as male, female or are gender fluid. It's sort of like I’m a jack of all trades, but I wouldn't say master of none. Can I say I'm a Jill of all trades?”
There are a lot of different physicians to serve this area. You'll have a urologist. You'll have a gynecologist. You'll have a proctologist, you know. … I really liked being able to serve all of those areas and have anyone, at any point of life, come and be able to ask a question and get an answer.
Q: What are we talking about when you say pelvic floor?
A: The pelvic floor is a group of 26 muscles. They attach at the front of our pubic bone and then they run like a sling or a hammock into our tailbone and sacrum.
These 26 muscles have four major functions. They help to hold our organs up inside of our body. They deal with our bladder and bowel continence. They deal with sexual appreciation. And then lastly, they help to support the spine and the hips.
So these pelvic floor muscles have to be able to contract and lift. But they also have to be able to relax and stretch. And so when someone comes to me, I will screen within those four areas where you can have issues and then I actually assess these muscles to see where they are contracting and lifting. Are they relaxing and stretching? Are they tight and spasming? And then we go ahead and make a treatment plan based on all of that.”
I really think that physical therapists are movement experts. And so after anything sinister gets ruled out, then that's where I really shine.
Q: Is it difficult focusing on an area of the body and topics that many people consider off-limits?
A: The functions they help with are our ability to go to the bathroom, our ability to have sexual appreciation and our ability to not have back pain. I don't quite understand how that's taboo to me. That's why I really love this area. Because to me, those are normal functions just like eating, drinking and walking.
Q: It sounds like your focus is on quality of life. Is that correct?
A: Yes. My tagline is "I want to optimize health through knowledge and movement." So I want people to always understand what's going on and then give them a treatment plan so that they can live a life without limitations.
Q: How long have your patients typically dealt with these issues?
A: I would say on average, people have struggled with conditions anywhere between five and 10 years before they finally get to me. And that's why I've pushed so hard with search engine optimization and social media. Oftentimes, the providers were not sending the patients to me, because they would forget about me or they didn’t know I existed. So now I'm able to go straight to the consumer and show them if you're having any problems in this area, give me a call.
People call me and they say, "Well, no, I don't have any urinary incontinence." and then they say "I do leak when I cough, sneeze and laugh." I'm like, "That is urinary incontinence." Though it is common, It's not normal and we need to fix it.
Q: When you are doing videos for Instagram, who do you see as your audience?
A: I think my growth has been a lot slower because I want to target everyone. I want to target men. I want to target transgender individuals. That's something I'm extremely passionate about. I want to target women. Every two weeks I cover a new topic. This week, I've been covering sexually transmitted infections, and teaching people how to examine themselves.
And I actually had one of my reels go viral. And I got 143,000 views. My boyfriend was dressed in an inflatable penis costume.
Q: Is your goal to normalize the discussions about these conditions that many people are uncomfortable talking about?
A: If you really think about it, our genitals are hysterical. They're funny. They're weird. … They do weird secretions. They make weird noises. If we can't laugh about it, and if we can't explore how that varies and is different for people, then how can you really get to the root of the matter?
I want to provide information that is easy to understand and accessible. I absolutely refuse to do clickbait. I refuse to do anything that promotes "fear culture" or shame. I want to make things funny, fun, interesting and cool.
Q: Do you know the age range of your viewers?
A: My audience on Instagram is in the 25 to 35 market. I like that age range. Because I'm really passionate about helping those young people know about the pelvic floor. So as they age, they know what's coming their way. Everyone knows about diabetes, so we know the things we have to do to avoid it. But for the pelvic floor, no one talks to us about that, because it's often times embarrassing.
Q: So what’s the story with the genitalia costumes?
A: I got them both off of Amazon. I would say my personal vibe is that I'm a little bit quirky and goofy. I didn't like how online much of this stuff was sometimes oversexualized. I grew up with "Sesame Street." I just thought, "How can we make this fun?" Our genitals are funny. They do weird stuff. I thought why not play that out with these short little videos?
In the medical field, oftentimes, we, as medical providers, give our information to our patients, like we're standing up at a pulpit. What if instead this was something that you could see on the side of the road? You know, like the guy in town that waves his flag on Second Street.
You know what, I'm the lady in town that wears a penis costume. That's just gonna be my M.O.
Q: How did you decide to pursue this line?
A: I have an athletic training background. I wanted a little bit more of a challenge. When I did my clinical rotation, I found that because these topics are so private, and painful, you had to get people to trust you. … I found that, for whatever reason, I have disarming qualities. I apparently talk to people in a very approachable manner. And I helped provide people with hope and joy, again, and I loved it. I was like, "I want more of this."
I'm a bit of a workaholic as a result, yeah, but it's so darn rewarding.
I feel so privileged and blessed when someone chooses to come in and share their story with me. I don't take that lightly. I think it's a huge responsibility.
Q: Do your parents watch your Instagram videos?
A: Yes. My dad and mom are email subscribers. My 77-year-old dad asked me to email the Instagram video to him, because he does not know how to work Instagram. I show them every single reel I make. We talk about it openly.
They're so proud of me, but they think it's just so funny, you know. My dad loves to go to all of the ladies in their condo complex and Arizona and talk about what I do. … He hands out my business cards, just like candy. … It's hysterical seeing my dad go out and talk about this. He loves making people squirm.