If you’re like most of the population, you probably have no idea what the differences between a Women’s health Physiotherapist and an ordinary Physiotherapist is. In fact, unless you have had an issue with your pelvic floor or have had a referral from your GP to see one, it’s very rare that people I tell actually understand what it is I do. Let me take some time to explain.
Poo’s, wee’s and sex, three things we don’t like talking about when they’re going well, let alone when then going badly. If you’ve ever had a problem with your back you’ve probably told people; who have given you all sorts of advice on what practitioners to see, what creams to use and exercises to do. But you are far less likely to share over coffee about how your vulva pain is playing up or how you’re too scared to run due to the fear of your pelvic organs falling out…or how you can’t skip at the gym anymore without wetting yourself. Pelvic floor conditions are under diagnosed and under treated.
Pelvic floor problems are as prevalent as low back pain!
1 in 3 women experience urinary leakage
1 in 3 women experience some degree of pelvic organ prolapse
1 in 5 women suffer from painful intercourse
As a Women’s Health physiotherapist, I treat all conditions relating to pelvic floor dysfunction, a treat women’s health concerns and integrate my skills and a pilates & yoga instructor to optimise health and wellbeing. This can range anywhere from urinary incontinence to pelvic organ Prolapse, to vaginismus (a condition where the pelvic floor becomes so overactive and painful it makes penetrative intercourse impossible). I treat most conditions relating to bladder, bowel and sexual dysfunction. I also educate, empower and treat pregnant and postnatal women.
So when should you see a women’s health physiotherapist?
If you answered yes to any of the following questions you may benefit from seeing a Women’s Health Physiotherapist.
- Do you leak when you cough or sneeze?
- Do you feel a heaviness or dragging sensation in your lower abdominal region?
- Have you ever noticed a bulge vaginally?
- Do you struggle to make it to the toilet on time?
- Do you ever get a sudden uncontrolled urge that you need to go to the toilet?
- Do you wake frequently during the night to go to the toilet?
- Do you struggle and strain on the toilet to empty your bowels?
- Do you experience pain with intercourse?
- Do you ever leak from your bladder or bowels?
I also recommend all women see a women’s health physiotherapist either pre-conception if you are trying to conceive or during pregnancy as well as early as 4-weeks postpartum.
During pregnancy the weight of your baby places large amounts of pressure and extra stress down on your pelvic floor. This is said to be the equivalent of a 100kg man standing on a trampoline!
Learning how to properly contract and relax your pelvic floor has the following benefits in preparation for pregnancy, birth & postpartum recovery:
- Prevents urinary incontinence in pregnancy
- Prevents pelvic organ prolapse (a bulge in the vagina due to one of the pelvic organs dropping down)
- Prevents tearing in birth
- Improves your ability to properly relax the pelvic floor during labour
- Improves postpartum recovery time
- Reduces risk of postpartum pelvic floor dysfunction
But what does a women’s health Physiotherapist actually do for these problems?
During your consultation you’ll be asked many questions about your symptoms, about your overall bladder and bowel health, about your menstrual cycle and sexual activity. They will also ask you about your lifestyle, exercise routine, goals and what you are wanting to achieve from physiotherapy. All of these questions help your therapist to work out what things might be causing your symptoms.
Your assessment will likely consists of an internal vaginal examination or if your appointment is online your physiotherapist will send you a guide of how to self assess your own pelvic floor with an internal exam. This will allow your physio to more accurately determine the strength of the pelvic floor, assess for any areas of pain or over activity, assess for any signs of pelvic organ prolapse and allow individual prescription of exercises and guidance on recovery if postpartum.