Did you know that physiotherapy can help with more than just niggling aches and pains?
We believe in the importance of empowering all Mama's through their journey, both during pregnancy and postpartum so we spoke with Courtney who leads the Mums and Bubs program at Vector Health Rockhampton to ask all of your burning physio questions!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and Vector Health?
Thank you so much for asking us to contribute to this blog!
Vector Health and Performance was established 12 years ago by Glenn and Miche Hansen. At VHP our mission is to transform people’s physical capacity and self belief by delivering unrivalled care to our clients.
The women’s health arm of VHP was born after the birth of their first daughter where Miche realised the importance of providing exceptional, family friendly care to the women of Central Queensland. As our team has grown, we have been extremely fortunate to expand our services in all areas of pelvic health and physical performance with our Mums and Bubs - First Steps program being the corner stone to helping women through the initial stages of motherhood.
My name is Courtney, and I am a physiotherapist at Vector Health. I am also lucky enough to run our Mums and Bubs program, which is always the highlight of my week!
Vector Health Physio - Courtney Finlay
I completed my degree in Rockhampton, and whilst at university was lucky enough to have one of my practical placements at the Mater Mother’ Hospital located in Brisbane. I quickly realised the access to Women’s Health healthcare and services during the post-natal period in a regional area, was far different to a metropolitan area. I am so passionate about being able to provide a welcoming, safe, comfortable, approachable and educational space through our Mums and Bubs program. It is a space for women to feel empowered with the knowledge of the human body and the changes they experience during the pregnancy, birth and postnatal period, as well as be able to move their bodies safely and assist them in returning to their movement goals.
What are your top 3 tips or tricks for Mama's during their third trimester?
- Try to keep moving as best that you can
- Understand how breath and pelvic floor work together as this can greatly change your birthing experience.
- Treat yourself to a pregnancy massage, slow down and try to enjoy this final stage before your bub arrives.
Are kegels really all they're cracked up to be?
Pelvic floor exercises, or “kegels” are commonly spoken about during the antenatal and postnatal journey. There is a large emphasis that is put on this, as our pelvic floor plays an important role in supporting your baby during pregnancy, and also holding up our lower abdominal organs such as the bladder and bowel. Think of your pelvic floor as our body’s internal hammock, but made up of muscle! Throughout pregnancy, the baby is bouncing around on this hammock and stretching it, which it is designed to do. Furthermore, during a vaginal delivery, this pelvic floor hammock is stretched beyond 3 times its normal length during birth. How amazing is the female body!
It is important to note that not all pelvic floors are the same. Some women experience a tighter pelvic floor for a various number of reasons, known as being overactive. On the other hand, we can also have a weakened or under-active pelvic floor, or can be somewhere in between this. This is why it is important to have a one on one consult with your Women’s Health physiotherapist who can help identify this for you and where you sit on that scale. From there, we teach you how to activate your pelvic floor properly and what that should feel like, and then provide some recommendations and pelvic floor exercises for you based on your presentation.
Is it essential to see a physio post-birth? Or when would you recommend someone see you?
As physiotherapists who specialise in the human body, we think that it is important to see a physio post-birth, as pregnancy and birth is such an incredibly huge change to the female body, both structurally, functionally and hormonally. In the post-natal period, most women go for a 6 week check up with their gynaecologist, but this is usually the only post-natal care or intervention they receive. There is no further guidance for returning to physical activity, how to engage your core and pelvic floor correctly, and minimal guidance on when to go back to any level of physical activity. A women’s health physiotherapist can provide this education and guidance through programs like Mums and Bubs and beyond, to educate you around what is and isn’t normal during the post-partum period. The most common thing we see in the post-natal period, is women experiencing urine leaking, known as urine incontinence especially when they cough, laugh or sneeze. During pregnancy, this is okay as our pelvic floor hammock is working a lot harder and being stretched with a baby. The common misconception is that in the post-natal period this is okay also – however that is not the case. Urine incontinence post-natally is not normal and is something to be addressed with a women’s health physiotherapist, who can assist you with some pelvic floor rehabilitation.
In saying this, technically speaking, it is not essential to see a women’s health physiotherapist post-birth. If you have had a smooth pregnancy journey, an atraumatic birth with no interventions, and experience no complications and bladder/bowel problems post-partum, you do not have to. However, as mentioned earlier, as the pregnancy and birthing journey are such huge structural and hormonal changes for the female body, it is always something we recommend.
What is something you see time and time again that you wish Mama's would come to you earlier for?
It honestly breaks my heart when I hear women choosing not to participate in their children’s everyday activities because of the fear of wetting themselves. It is terrible to think we accept that just because you have had a baby, that when you cough/sneeze/jump or run that you have a little wee accident. It is so often a simple fix that will prevent further complaints later in life. There is so much that we as women’s health physiotherapists can do to assist you in this journey! Never be afraid to ask!
What are your top 3 exercises for during the pregnancy journey?
Everyone’s journey through pregnancy and each pregnancy for the expectant mum can be very different. Each trimester will have its challenges, so listen to your body and adapt your expectations around exercise accordingly.
The current guideline from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetrician and Gynaecologists encourages pregnant women to be physically active most days of the week with the goal of achieving 150-300 min of moderate activity and 2 muscle strength training sessions per week.
If you are an expectant mum new to exercise then any movement, that feels good, is definitely better than not doing anything at all! Walking, getting in the pool and doing some hydrotherapy and stretches that focus on the opening up the pelvis and thoracic spine can be very relieving from that aches and pains that can come with pregnancy.
Do you offer online courses or consults for interstate Mama's?
Yes, we absolutely do! Living in regional Queensland where resourced are limited compared to metropolitan areas, we are very passionate about being able to provide high quality access and care to rural and remote mumma’s both in Queensland and interstate. As such, we can do appointments via telehealth with a women’s health physiotherapist, and also run our Mums and Bubs program via telehealth so that no one has to miss out despite where they live!
What's next for you and Vector Health?
This is a big question, and something we are always asking ourselves as clinicians, as a program, and as a business. Upskilling and continuing to provide evidence-based practice and an unrivalled level of care, will always be one of our main pillars of Vector Health.
In terms of our Mums and Bubs program, our goal in the future is to be able to track and measure the effectiveness of the program with some sort of questionnaire that we can do at the end of the program, 12 months and 24 months down the track. Our constant feedback is how important this program is not just physically, but also socially and emotionally. Having a baby is a huge and life-changing journey, and to be able to connect with other mums who are at a similar post-partum phase and come together each week to share their experiences with each other is invaluable. This is undoubtably our favourite part about Mums and Bubs, and we are so proud to be able to provide a program that provides holistic and well-rounded support to over 150 mums throughout Central Queensland and beyond.
We've learned so much after our chat with Courtney and we hope you did too!
If you're interested in learning more about the Mums and Bubs program Courtney runs or if you have any questions, let us know in the comments below or follow @vectorhealth on Instagram.