A new perinatal pelvic health service for women and birthing people has been launched in South East London. The aim of this service is to support those experiencing mild to moderate pelvic health issues during pregnancy or up to a year after giving birth.
Specialist pelvic health physiotherapists and midwives are working across maternity providers at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust, King’s College NHS, and Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust to provide interventions that prevent pelvic floor dysfunction. The service includes antenatal pelvic health classes for those at risk of pelvic floor dysfunction or for those who want to learn how to do pelvic floor exercises.
Research shows that up to one in three women experience urinary incontinence in the first year after giving birth, and up to three quarters of these women continue to experience this in the following 12 years after giving birth. Additionally, one in 10 women experience faecal incontinence and one in 12 women will have a pelvic organ prolapse.
Of those who attended our classes, 90% found the format useful for learning, 98% found that they were able to identify the most common pelvic health issues and where to find support and advice, and 100% felt motivated to initiate and adhere to pelvic floor muscle training.
Women and birthing people experiencing symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction can be referred to our specialist perinatal pelvic health clinics via their maternity care providers. Health visitors can also refer patients to these services via email. Our physiotherapy and midwifery-led clinics offer a one-stop-shop for women with symptoms. Physiotherapists and specialist pelvic health midwives can teach women how to exercise pelvic floor muscles correctly, give advice on diet and fluid intake, and help women monitor their progress. They also offer support for adhering to pelvic floor exercises and can monitor and encourage through the use of an app to increase adherence to the exercises.
Since launching, we have received over 560 referrals across our three maternity providers, and women have been invited to attend group therapy sessions, virtual, and face-to-face clinics. The feedback received from women and birthing people treated in our clinics has been very positive, with many calling for this to be a standard appointment available to all women after giving birth.
To ensure pelvic floor symptoms are discussed at every opportunity, especially in the postnatal period, our pelvic health physios and midwives also provide training and support for local clinicians, including GPs and midwives. To date, our perinatal pelvic health team has trained over 930 healthcare professionals, including GP, Health Visitors, Maternity Support Workers, Obstetricians, Practise Nurses, and Midwifery Students in our local universities.
For those interested in a tailored session for their team, please contact our pelvic health project manager, Monica Franklin, at firstname.lastname@example.org.