What does a women’s health physio do?

Women's Health Conditions

What does a women’s health physio do?

Updated August 2023 | 4 min read
Expert contributor Catherine Willis, national chair of the Australian Physiotherapy Association’s Women’s, Men’s and Pelvic Health Group
Words by Karen Burge

Have you put a health issue like incontinence or pelvic pain in the too-hard basket? A women’s health physio could set you on a path to better health.

What is a women’s health physio?

Women’s health physios treat conditions sometimes brought on by pregnancy and felt post-birth, like pelvic floor weakness and abdominal separation (when the growing uterus causes the parallel muscles of your stomach to separate), incontinence, pelvic pain caused by endometriosis, and prolapse caused by a stretching of the muscles and ligaments that support the pelvic organs.

Women's health physios can also help women who feel pain during sex and help manage symptoms during menopause, like vaginal dryness. Women’s health physios can also support transgender women who are transitioning or going through gender affirmation procedures.

After completing a tertiary qualification in physiotherapy, a women’s health physio does further training – either a postgraduate university course or through a private education provider – to specifically treat women’s health concerns, explains Catherine Willis, national chair of the Australian Physiotherapy Association’s Women’s, Men’s and Pelvic Health Group.

Do I need to see a women’s health physio?

Problems like incontinence and painful sex can be uncomfortable topics to talk about with health professionals, and physical assessments can feel unpleasant and awkward, but some issues might be more common than you think.

For example, one in three women will experience a leaky bladder, according to the Continence Foundation of Australia, yet some women find talking about the problem daunting and put off seeking help.

“These areas are often taboo topics,” says Catherine. “They’re problems that are associated with some embarrassment and sensitivity, and often women don’t even talk to their GP about their problems.”

But Catherine hopes this barrier can be broken down. Knowing your physiotherapist is experienced in women’s health issues means you can get the help you need and reassurance that your situation is well understood.

What should I expect at my physio appointment?

After you fill out some paperwork about your symptoms and history, you’ll be taken into a private consulting room by your physiotherapist.

"With these particular health concerns, because they are very sensitive matters, you should be in a private, soundproof room with a door that can be closed rather than a cubicle with a curtain around it," Catherine explains.

During your consultation, your physiotherapist will question you more deeply about your symptoms. You can expect questions like: Does urinary incontinence affect you most during exercise? Is pelvic pain an issue during menstruation? How often do you experience painful sex?

"You’ll be asked some sensitive questions about your sex life, your periods, and your bladder and bowel function," says Catherine. "Some of us can find that quite confronting, but usually the physios will do it in a sensitive way and explain the importance of getting that background history."

In most cases there will also be a physical assessment. This might include feeling stomach muscles, performing an internal check of the vagina to assess the pelvic floor muscles, or looking at the perineum and checking internally for prolapse, Catherine explains.

"An ultrasound machine might also be used to look at a patient’s bladder or assess their abdominal muscles," she says. "And we often use biofeedback machines to get information about a patient’s pelvic floor muscles." A biofeedback machine is a device that helps measure physical changes in your body. All of this helps your physio gain a clearer picture of your health.

What happens after my appointment?

Like most physiotherapy treatment, a series of appointments will likely be required, as well as hands-on treatment, home exercises and progress monitoring.

Catherine says your women’s health physio will work closely with your doctor, recommending a more specialised type of ultrasound if needed, medication to be prescribed, or requesting a referral to a medical specialist, like a gynaecologist, colorectal surgeon or pain specialist.

Whatever your age or stage of life, if you’re concerned about a female health issue, seeking help from a women’s health physio can be one of the best ways to take control of your health and improve your quality of life.

Help when you need it

If you’re dealing with any of the above symptoms, a women’s health physio can help. Depending on your level of cover and annual limits, you could get 100% back* on your first physiotherapy session through providers in our No-Gap network. Call us on 13 13 34 to find out more.

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Important Information

* 100% back through More for You providers in our No-Gap network is available on selected covers. Waiting periods and annual limits apply. Providers are subject to change. We recommend that you confirm the provider prior to your appointment. 

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