There are many benefits to seeing a pelvic health physiotherapist yet many women don’t know that they exist.
A pelvic health physiotherapist (also known as a women’s health physiotherapist) is a health professional specially trained to assess and treat conditions of the pelvic floor.
These health professionals play an important role in postpartum recovery.
Recently published ‘Returning to running postnatal – guideline for medical, health and fitness professionals managing this population’ recommends that every woman should have the option of pelvic health physiotherapy postnatally.
A pelvic floor assessment at about 6 weeks postpartum (or anytime thereafter) can greatly improve women’s long term health and fitness outcomes.
Pelvic health physiotherapists can also help women who haven’t had babies as well as men and children with pelvic health concerns.
What pelvic health physiotherapists treat:
- conditions commonly experienced in pregnancy including pelvic girdle & back pain including sympheseis pubis dysfunction and sacroiliac join pain
- bowel and bladder conditions including constipation, urinary and faecal incontinence
- painful sexual intercourse
- pelvic pain (including hip and low back pain)
- hypertonic or tight pelvic floor muscles
- diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles)
- pelvic organ prolapse
- complications related scar tissue from c-section, episiotomy or perineal tearing
A check-up with a pelvic health physiotherapist prior to returning to exercise postpartum is very important to assess the readiness of your pelvic floor to manage the demands of exercise. They can also provide feed back to help you learn how to do pelvic floor exercises effectively, and avoid excessive tension in those muscles, which can in turn increase pelvic floor symptoms.
What does a pelvic floor examination involve?
An assessment of your pelvic floor involves an internal examination (if you are comfortable with one being performed).
This type of exam is different to that performed during a smear check or by your G.P. where a speculum is used.
The physio will explain what’s involved to you prior to the examination.
A gloved finger will be used to gently check your pelvic floor internally.
If you don’t wish to have an internal exam there are other ways a pelvic health physiotherapist can help you.
An assessment may be performed externally.
Answering some pelvic health and lifestyle questions alone can be very valuable in providing information that the physiotherapist provide you with advise on.
(Please know that here is nothing a pelvic health physio hasn’t already seen or heard.)
What to do if you have concerns
If you have pelvic floor symptoms discuss them with your healthcare provider and request a referral for a pelvic floor physiotherapy assessment.
It may be possible for you to return to the hospital where you gave birth for an assessment (contact them directly to find out what is available to you).
Alternatively you may refer yourself to a physiotherapist in private practice without a GP referral.
If you are pregnant, postnatal or experience pelvic floor symptoms while you exercise it is important to work with a fitness instructor who understands your needs so that you can continue to enjoy exercise safely.
The information herein is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice and is for information purposes only. Please seek advise from a qualified medical provider.