PhysioUpdate 6th April 2021
Meet in-demand Surrey-based pelvic health physiotherapist Emma Brockwell, whose new book is attracting lots of interest from fellow professionals and members of the public alike.
In a Q&A with PhysioUpdate editor Ian A McMillan, Emma talks about the passion that fuelled her decision to write Why Did No One Tell Me? How to Protect, Heal and Nurture your body through Motherhood.
What motivated you to write the book?
The main thing was my passion to see that all women – both during and after their pregnancy – are educated and empowered regarding the physical changes and conditions that can arise at this time in their lives and do something positive to protect, heal and nurture their bodies throughout motherhood.
The book has been a huge passion project. I have been a pelvic health physiotherapist for nine years. Like many pelvic health physios, I made the transition to musculoskeletal (MSK) and to pelvic health during my first pregnancy, largely due to first-hand experience.
Women’s health issues have become much more spoken about and there is a huge increase in interest around the subject, particularly perinatal physical health. While this is great, more needs to be done [Emma Brockwell]
I had a difficult pregnancy and postnatal recovery, particularly as regards returning to running. At the time, I was blown away by the lack of research and guidance for returning women safely and effectively back to high impact exercise. Conversations with my mum’s friends made me realise how incredibly common pelvic floor dysfunction was among new mums and that they lacked consistent information and help for common – though not normal – conditions.
For too long women have been told to just put up with physical issues arising from pregnancy and childbirth – you leak wee, don’t run, if you have a bulge in your vagina don’t lift! But when was it ever okay to accept these issues, particularly when we as a profession can help women with them?
Since I became a pelvic health physio, women’s health issues have become much more spoken about and there is a huge increase in interest around the subject, particularly perinatal physical health. While this is great, more needs to be done.
I passionately believe that every woman should see a pelvic health physiotherapist postnatally. By doing so we can treat pelvic floor dysfunction for most women while their symptoms are in their infancy and also, crucially, prevent these symptoms occurring.
Women need to be advocates and ambassadors our own health – with the right educational tools we become very effective as part of the solution.
This is where I hope the book comes in. It was such an incredible opportunity for me to get the word out to women in a non-intimidating fashion. A way to empower women about their pregnant and postnatal bodes and share with them tools to help improve or prevent symptoms and also recover postnatally using evidence-based information.
Give us three of the main messages
- remaining active and embracing your pelvic health during pregnancy can be hugely beneficial during and after pregnancy
- it is common but not normal to experience pelvic floor dysfunction during and after pregnancy and most conditions can be treated effectively. That’s why I encourage all women to see a pelvic health physio postnatally
- allow your body time to recover after having a baby. The six-week GP check should not be considered the green light to return to all forms of exercise and a rehabilitative approach is the best form of returning to the exercise you love
Tell us about Pelvicroar
Pelvicroar is a physiotherapy-led campaign group that encompasses the enormous variety of health promotion and awareness activities in place around the world. It was set up by Elaine Miller, Myra Robson and me as a means of joining together all those that work in the world of pelvic health so that we can work together to spread the word of pelvic health and the great services and treatment that are available for all men and women.
What makes your physio services different to others?
I’m not sure if what I offer is hugely different to what others offer. So many of us are singing from the same song sheet. I think I’m very lucky that I can use my MSK and pelvic health skills to offer women a holistic approach to their recovery and rehabilitation. Pelvic health is a sub-specialism of MSK, but it is often the forgotten piece of the jigsaw. Wearing both hats allows me to consider the woman as a whole and explore the various ways of meeting her goals.
I am a huge advocate for all women exercising and believe that an active mum has an active family. Increasing physical activity is a public health priority and the perinatal period is a great time to empower women to find their inner active self if they haven’t already. Pelvic floor dysfunction is a barrier to activity so if women can be treated and symptoms resolved or prevented, we as physios are in a position to maintain an active population and that’s a very cool and privileged role to have.
Was it a challenge to find the time to write as well as running a clinic, having a family and so on?
YES! I had started writing the book just before we went into the first lockdown. There were many things that made it possible. In truth, I managed to complete it because I have an incredibly supportive husband who understands my job and how important it is to me. He took on a lot of the home schooling and parenting duties. It was six months of ridiculously late nights, horribly early mornings but when you are passionate about something (and stubborn) these things can be done.
Do I need a break now? 100 per cent yes, but as I’m finding, writing a book is only half the job, the next part is getting the word out there that it exists and so begins the next chapter.
What do you do to relax and do you ‘practise what you preach’?
I love nothing more than to be with my family in the outdoors. We have a very active lifestyle, and love exploring our little part of the world.
I have, in my opinion, the best family in the world and am incredibly lucky! Running is a very important part of my life, I run with my run club, Oxted Ladies Run Club, with my husband and with my kids. I also love to relax with a glass of wine in the garden.
For more information, visit: https://www.physiomum.co.uk
Why Did No One Tell Me? How to Protect, Heal and Nurture your body through Motherhood was published by Ebury last month. To order a copy, on Kindle or as a paperback, visit: www.amazon.co.uk/Why-Did-One-Tell-motherhood/dp/1785043366
The Pelvic, Obstetric and Gynaecological Physiotherapy network has recently updated its website. Visit: https://thepogp.co.uk
Can high-intensity interval training (HITT) programmes run by physiotherapists help patients who are recovering from stroke?
That is one of the questions to be examined in a project led by Professor Damian Bailey, professor of physiology and biochemistry at the University of South Wales (USW).
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