The Australian Physiotherapy Association is rallying the government to fight for the right for women to access care from women’s health physiotherapist to follow the UK guidelines of care for pregnant women. This can reduce the incidence of issues like pain, prolapse and incontinence.
Currently, in Australia, not all Australians have access to physiotherapy as part of a multidisciplinary team of obstetricians, GPs, midwives and sonographers. However, studies have shown the decreased incidence of incontinence with people who perform pelvic floor exercises during their pregnancy. The majority of pregnant women experience pain of some sort during their pregnancy. The care that can be given by a physiotherapist can allow them to enjoy their pregnancy at best or allow for better function and provide reassurance at the very least. 50% of women who have had a baby will have some sort of prolapse. Why are women not given the information they need to manage theses issues from getting worse especially for when they want to return to exercise or prepare better for when they enter menopause. Women’s health physiotherapists can treat pain in the pelvis, back and ribs, ensure pelvic floor exercises are done properly, abdominal core exercises are functioning optimally, teach perineal massage, check for optimal healing of abdominal separation, caesarean scars and perineal tears, prescribe pessaries for prolapse if required and rehabilitate pelvic floors if sexual intercourse is painful after giving birth. This is amongst many other issues that can arise during or after pregnancy.
Menopause is often another stage in life where pelvic floor symptoms can get worse in respect to prolapse, stress incontinence or urgency. If these women can see physiotherapists before this happens there can be real opportunity to be able to minimise these effects or prevent them altogether. A good time to do this is after having had a baby to ensure that the body has healed itself to work properly in terms of their abdominal function, pelvic floor function as well as lifting and exercising properly to not put undue stress on their bodies.
We should not see pregnancy as a part of a woman’s life where if the body changes for the worse, it has to be this way forever. There are lots of things that can manage or eradicate these issues. The amount of productivity can increase where women can move with more confidence and can have the tools to know how to manage their health better. Mental health can be optimised when we can empower women to take care of their bodies better with the guidance of health professionals. There is certainly a place for women’s health physiotherapists to contribute to this process.