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APA calls for physiotherapists to provide standard care for prenatal women

Photo: APA calls for physiotherapists to provide standard care for prenatal women
The Australian Physiotherapy Association is calling for women’s health physiotherapists to be included in the care teams for all pregnant women, to reduce the risk of complications and improve outcomes for women and their babies.

The call follows the release of new guidelines in the UK recommending the addition of physiotherapists to care teams there, particularly for women expecting twins or triplets.

Cath Willis, chair of the APA Women’s, Men’s and Pelvic Health group says physiotherapists with experience in women's and pelvic health can provide thorough assessment and evidence-based management of conditions such as incontinence, prolapse, pelvic girdle pain and abdominal muscle separation that women may experience after pregnancy and childbirth.

“Physiotherapists also assist with issues related to lactation, such as engorgement and mastitis.
“Women will also benefit significantly from a consultation with a physiotherapist who can assist them with returning to many different types of exercise after childbirth - this may vary from yoga to walking to running or even weightlifting.

“In the past, physiotherapy may have been utilised more in ante natal education or for women with more significant pain or incontinence.

“Moving into the future, we would like to engage in a preventative approach by making access to an experienced women's and pelvic health physio achievable for every pregnant or postnatal woman around Australia.”

The proposed changes would mean women’s health physiotherapists would join obstetricians, midwives, GPs and sonographers in multidisciplinary teams looking after all pregnant women during pregnancy and postnatally.

Currently in Australia, access to obstetric physiotherapy care is available to women in some areas but not in others, meaning many thousands of women every year are missing out on getting individualised care to help support them and their recovery after birth. 

Ms Willis says there is high level evidence to support the benefits of pelvic floor muscle training for women of any age with incontinence and prolapse, which involves assessment and education by a well-trained physiotherapist.

“The importance of providing this education and care during pregnancy and postnatally is that we hope it will prevent incontinence at this important time in a woman's life.

“Looking after a new baby can be mentally and physically draining in its own right - we don't want further stress caused by incontinence or pain. Just as important is the role of physiotherapy in getting women back to exercise and movement that they love, and we know that this provides multiple health benefits for mums and children.”

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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications (www.stellacomms.com) and a children's author.