Six years after giving birth to her daughter, Dr. Tamar “Tam” Boyd found herself on a weekend backpacking trip with a friend in the Olympic Peninsula. Many downed, old-growth trees posed climbing challenges to the two, but Dr. Boyd was an active runner and confident in her abilities to maneuver over the fallen logs.
“We were going up and over huge Douglas fir and Cedar trees and I felt like a tampon was falling out of me, but I wasn’t wearing one so I stopped.”
Unable to see anything of concern, Dr. Boyd asked her best friend Katie to check.
“It’s a pink bulbous thing,” relayed Katie.
The two proceeded to quickly remove all the weight out of Dr. Boyd’s backpack and hike with a sense of urgency for the next two days before getting to the car. The “pink bulbous thing” turned out to be Dr. Boyd’s uterus falling out of her body. Medically speaking, this is known as uterine prolapse and occurs when a woman’s pelvic floor muscles and ligaments are stretched and weakened after pregnancy and childbirth.
While hiking out of the wilderness with Katie, Dr. Boyd did not immediately know what was happening to her body. She was in a state of shock, but the disbelief eventually turned into relief because Dr. Boyd was finally able to understand the root cause for the persistent uncomfortable symptoms she had been experiencing in the six years since her daughter was born. The experience was so profound that Dr. Boyd revised her doctoral studies at Walden University to have a focus on women’s psychology and the social norms surrounding pregnancy in the United States that create what Boyd calls “postpartum neglect.”
In her dissertation at Walden, Boyd referenced a International Urogynecology Journal finding that 50 percent of all birthing women in the United States have general pelvic floor disorder symptoms such as urinary incontinence, vaginal flatulence, chronic hemorrhoids, or pelvic pain. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 4 million women give birth in the United States each year. This means that potentially 2 million women in the United States have pelvic floor disorder symptoms of some kind.
“That’s 2 million women in the United States, and I was just one of them,” said Boyd.
Dr. Boyd felt that if neither she nor her friend Katie knew about the importance of pelvic floor health, chances were a lot of other women would not know as well. She began sharing this information with every woman willing to listen to her with the most frequent audience being women she met on the plane while in route to Seattle for medical treatment as a result of her uterine prolapse.
“I would sit with women on the plane and they would ask ‘why are you going to Seattle?’ and I would say ‘my uterus fell out’ and they would be shocked. It went from needing to tell women my story for my own catharsis to needing to make it my mission to save every woman’s uterus,” said Boyd.
Through her doctoral research at Walden, Boyd was able to demonstrate the important link between women’s physical health and mental health and how that link was not being discussed and treated within the realm of pregnancy and postpartum care. Sharing her story with others became a part of her personal mission to help women through education and, coupled with her new academic path, inspired Dr. Boyd to enter into Walden University’s 2016 Scholars of Change video contest. Out of 50 applicants, Dr. Boyd was one of three students selected to be a Scholar of Change.
Walden University’s Scholars of Change program began in 2009 when the university invited students and alumni to submit short videos showing how they were applying their Walden education and experience to create positive social change in their communities and around the globe.
“Through her personal story, (Dr. Boyd) illustrates how her Walden education is helping support her work and advancing her own mission to provide psychological and physical guidance to postpartum women, especially those in isolated communities,” wrote Walden’s public relations manager Jerry Sweitzer in an email. “Through their videos, individuals like Dr. Boyd inspire and empower others to make a difference in their communities.”
After receiving her doctorate of psychology from Walden University in 2016, Dr. Boyd joined Juneau’s Wellspring Integrative Medical Center where she now stands to assume ownership of the practice Constance “Connie” Trollan has owned and managed since 1990.
“Dr. Boyd and I come from two different disciplines,” said Trollan. “I’m a woman’s health care practitioner and she has a PhD in psychology, yet we want the same kind of care for our patients and we also want caring individuals to deliver this care from Wellspring. [Dr. Boyd] has a niche because she wants to develop holistic care for postpartum moms and new moms, which is something that is usually missing in the medical model in the United States.”
When asked about her personal mission for Wellspring, Dr. Boyd said the integrative medical center will be a one stop shop for women. “My mission is to honor Connie and to keep her integrative family care practice here in Juneau and also evolve [Wellspring] to serve women through their life transitions like puberty, entering college, pregnancy, menopause, or retirement,” said Boyd.
Dr. Boyd’s professional transition to own Wellspring will most likely happen at the end of this year, but Connie will still work at the center part-time. In addition to serving Juneau, Dr. Boyd is also available by phone to assist women throughout Southeast Alaska unable to have in-person care. While all of her current energy is going toward evolving Wellspring, Dr. Boyd has the overarching goal to evolve postpartum care policies within the United States.
“Since the health and well-being of children, families, and ultimately communities depends on the health and well-being of women,” said Boyd, “women’s health must be thought of as a social issue.”
To view Dr. Boyd’s Scholars of Change video entry, visit https://www.waldenu.edu/about/social-change/scholars-of-change.
• Ray Friedlander is a freelance journalist based on Douglas.