My name is Emma Brockwell and I am a Women’s Health (WH) Physiotherapist (sometimes known as a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist). I spend a lot of my time assessing ‘vaginas’ but there is much more to my job than this. So, what exactly do I do? Why do I do it?! And more importantly, how can I help you or someone you know?
WH Physiotherapists specialise in the assessment and treatment of all things pelvic, pregnancy and pelvic floor related. Our aim is to prevent pelvic and bladder dysfunction, pregnancy-related pelvic pain and to enhance post-birth recovery. We all have the same aim – empowering women to understand their own symptoms and guide them on the road to recovery.
If you have been pregnant, you know that your body changes very quickly. To accommodate these changes your posture alters, muscles get lengthened, muscles get weakened (thanks to that beautiful baby growing big and strong) and then…. you give birth. Whether you have a ‘textbook’ vaginal delivery, perineal tear or C-section, the birthing process places incredible demands on your system and often causes trauma and injury.
Here are the facts! The majority of women will suffer from one or more of these symptoms after childbirth, urinary and / or faecal incontinence, Pelvic Organ Prolapse, Diastasis Recti (tummy separation), back pain and painful sex.
I hear so many women tell me that whenever they jump on the trampoline with their toddler that they ‘do a little wee’ so now they just watch through the netting and accept that ‘its just part of motherhood.’ Some women tell me that they can no longer run because ‘when I run, I wet myself’ (women also tell me that they also carry on running despite weeing and just wear a pad in case of an accident!) So many women accept these as the ‘norm’ post baby and I often wonder why this is. Some women are embarrassed so don’t talk about it, some don’t prioritise themselves and many don’t realise that it doesn’t have to be this way.
I am passionate that all women see a WH physiotherapist post-baby. Why? Because ALL of these symptoms are treatable and shouldn’t be accepted as the ‘norm’. A WH physiotherapist can help you stop leaking when you run for the ball that your little one has just kicked to the other end of the park. We can help you if you if have difficulty controlling your bowel movements or if you have heaviness or a bulge in your vagina (common but not absolute signs of prolapse). We can help you have pain free sex again. HURRAH! We can help you if you have back pain. We can help you strengthen your tummy if you have a tummy gap (mummy tummy). We can help you return to the exercise you love safely and effectively! Most importantly, even if you are one of the lucky ones and have no problems post-baby, we can still help you prevent symptoms.
Your postnatal check (which is recommended from 6 weeks post birth) will involve a head-to-toe assessment. We look at your posture, how you move and how strong your global muscles are. We assess your tummy and yes (!) ideally, we assess your vagina. Amongst other things, a vagina assessment gives us an idea of how strong your pelvic floor is and whether you have a prolapse. We also look at any scars from childbirth, perineal or C-section. With all that information, we formulate a rehabilitation programme that will improve symptoms you may be experiencing, enhance your healing and help you feel like YOU again.
Ladies, I will say it again…and again…and, well, again. It IS common but it is NOT ok to leak urine, have painful sex, put up with a prolapse or have a tummy gap. These symptoms need not be embarrassing, and with time and guidance can get better. If you or anyone you know is struggling with these issues, the best thing you can do right now is pop along to your GP and ask for a women’s health physiotherapy referral. It could very well be the best thing you do today…..so what’s stopping you?