Nuffield Health: From Pregnancy to Menopause – How Physiotherapy can support Women’s Health

Specialist physiotherapy treatment can help identify and support a variety of women’s health issues, from pregnancy through to menopause. Hayley Saunders, a specialist pelvic health physiotherapist at Nuffield Health Bristol Hospital, explains how.

Many women experience a multitude of pelvic symptoms which can impact them in a variety of ways during their lifetime. For many, the expectation is that they just need to “put up with them” when this isn’t the case.

Some of the more common symptoms that women can experience are:
• 1 in 3 women experience urinary incontinence during their lifetime
• Pelvic organ/vaginal prolapse is experienced in up to 50% of women who have had children
• In women who have not had children, up to 60% will have some significant bladder/bowel or pain symptoms
• Around 20% of women aged 18-50 will complain of chronic pelvic pain
• All women will at some point go through the menopause.

These symptoms can be tolerated for years as they are seen as a “normal” part of being a woman. Embarrassment is often one of the biggest barriers to seeking help, and many are unaware that there are effective treatments available, including physiotherapy.

Where are the pelvic floor muscles?

• The pelvic floor muscles run between the legs from the pubic bone to the tailbone. They’re a supportive ‘hammock’ of muscles that line the pelvis and are made up of superficial and deep layers.
• It can be difficult to locate and contract your pelvic floor muscles at first, so speaking to a specialist pelvic health physiotherapist can be useful to identify where these are.
• Try to imagine you’re trying to stop yourself from passing urine or wind by squeezing and lifting the muscles upwards and forward towards your pubic bone.

How can physiotherapy help?

Pelvic health physiotherapy can help empower women to feel as though they can take back control of their own bodies, enabling them to live the life they want in helping them improve or cure their symptoms.

Nuffield Health is the second largest employer of physiotherapists in the UK after the NHS, and our team includes over 60 specialist pelvic health physiotherapists nationwide. In the South-West, our clinics based at Bristol, Cheltenham, Weston-super-Mare, Taunton and Exeter can help you with a range of conditions including:

• Pregnancy-related musculoskeletal conditions
• Pelvic girdle pain
• Pelvic floor weakness
• Overactive pelvic floor muscles
• Incontinence
• Diastasis rectus abdominis (tummy gap)
• Pelvic pain
• Pelvic organ prolapse
• Bowel dysfunction
• Sexual dysfunction

Postnatal support
As a specialist pelvic health physiotherapist, I see a range of clients with different issues and at different stages of life. Following pregnancy, many women are concerned about aches or pains and have questions about how they can safely return to sport without any risk to their pelvic floor.

At our Bristol Hospital, we can offer a postnatal body check, including postural, abdominal and pelvic floor assessment, which will give you back confidence for both body and mind following the birth of your child. This is also known as a Mummy MOT®. As a certified Mummy MOT® practitioner, I can also help with a personalised treatment plan and individualised advice.

During pregnancy, greater strain is placed upon your pelvic floor muscles. Regardless of whether you have a vaginal delivery or caesarean section, these muscles will need targeted strengthening to help reduce or avoid stress incontinence after pregnancy. It’s never too late to start, but the earlier the better for management.

Physiotherapy can also address some of the many side effects of menopause, including physical aches and pains, vaginal symptoms and bladder or bowel control issues.

Our physiotherapists are passionate about helping women resolve their problems, improve their quality of life and help them return to the life they love. The service we offer is highly confidential and respects the often-sensitive nature of these problems.

Like more advice or support? For further information or to book an appointment, call Nuffield Health Bristol Hospital’s Physiotherapy team on 0117 906 4887.

Nuffield Health Bristol Hospital
3 Clifton Hill, Bristol BS8 1BN