Meet Rosie Conway of Roseanna Grace Physiotherapy – the clinical specialist leading the pelvic health revolution
Pain during sex? Frequent UTIs? Need to wee all the time? It could be time to get your pelvic floor checked out…
For some of us, it may be pain during sex. For others, UTIs every month. Maybe it’s needing a wee three or four times every hour. Or maybe it’s that trampolines have become an absolute no-go zone.
Maybe there’s some leakage down there, or a feeling of heaviness. It could be that we’ve noticed a bulge, our tampons have started falling out or we’re experiencing a lot of pain. Maybe some of us don’t have any symptoms at all.
What we do all have, though, is a pelvic floor. And no, that’s not something we only have to think about after we’ve had a baby.
The truth is that our pelvic health can be impacted by a whole host of different environmental, lifestyle and genetic factors. Sure, childbirth is one, but the list certainly doesn’t end there. Think CrossFit and weight gain, allergies, dehydration, smoking and drinking too much coffee. And that’s not even scratching the surface of the symptoms associated with gynaecological surgery, endometriosis, gender realignment surgery and even menopause.
It turns out that pelvic floor dysfunction (as it’s medically known), affects a hell of a lot of us women. Studies show that 1 in 3 women in the UK will have some level of incontinence in their lifetimes, while 50% of women will experience prolapse of some kind. So just a quick question, then – why do some many of us pass off our symptoms as ‘normal’?
We don’t know. But what we do know is this: Rosie Conway isn’t having it any longer.
As a clinical specialist in pelvic health physiotherapy and Director of the Jesmond-based Roseanna Grace Physiotherapy, Rosie knows better than most how many of us suffer with pelvic health issues. And, more importantly, how many of us suffer in silence – on average, it takes women experiencing symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction five years before they seek help.
But for no longer. Not in the North East, anyway. Because Rosie is on a mission to normalise pelvic floor function, dysfunction and everything in between. And that starts here and it starts now.
Because, for Rosie, being a pelvic floor physiotherapist isn’t just a job – it’s a way of life. She’s passionate about helping others reclaim their confidence, control and quality of life as they break the ‘taboo’ surrounding pelvic health and overcome their symptoms. And while there are hundreds, thousands and probably millions of women out there quietly suffering with their pelvic health, more than 85% of them could resolve their symptoms with pelvic floor physiotherapy alone.
Now, you’ll know well enough by now that breaking boundaries, sharing stories and championing women’s health, confidence and wellbeing is what we at High Life North are all about. That’s why we popped into Roseanna Grace Physiotherapy to chat to Rosie for ourselves…
What is our pelvic floor?
Our pelvic floor muscles are a figure of eight loop around front and back passage. They attach to our coccyx and pubis, both our sit bones, and then layer up internally, so they’re a really big muscle group.
So what does pelvic health refer to?
Pelvic health is anything affecting areas around the pelvic floor: your bowel, bladder and urinary tract. So, your bladder health, bowel health, sexual health and any pregnancy-related factors, both pre- and post-natal, all come into play.
Who’s most at risk from pelvic floor dysfunction?
There are a few risk factors to consider. The first ones are pregnancy and childbirth. But that can extend to any kind of weight gain, really. The reason why pregnancy is such a risk factor is because we put abdominal weight onto our muscles, so they’re stretching and thinning to support that extra weight. That’s exactly the same if we put on a lot of weight for other reasons. Even with one extra stone, your muscles are stretching and thinning to support extra body fat, rather than your pelvic organs. Going through the menopause or having recently undergone gynaecological surgery are also significant risk factors, along with constipation (repetitive straining) or repetitive heavy lifting.
How does the menopause impact our pelvic health?
When women go through menopause, we’re withdrawing from the hormone oestrogen, which affects our soft tissue structure. When our muscles don’t have as much oestrogen, they aren’t as plump and so aren’t as supportive.
Can we put our pelvic floor health at risk with our lifestyle choices, too?
Skipping, HIIT or weight training and running are definitely lifestyle factors that can put strain on your pelvic floor. Smoking massively impacts the pelvic floor too and frequent coughing from the side effects of allergies or medication can also have an effect.
Certain food groups can irritate bladders and bowels. When you’re drinking a lot of caffeine, that’s a diuretic, so it increases our bladder contractions and makes us need the loo more often. Constipation is another one, and even simple things like your position on the toilet can impact how your pelvic floor muscles function.
What are the main symptoms to look out for?
Pain is a big one, as is incontinence – so not being able to hold your urine. That can include what we call ‘stress incontinence – which is what happens when we cough, sneeze, run, laugh or lift – and ‘urge incontinence’, which is when you can’t get to the toilet in time. Bladder frequency and pain are symptoms too, as are frequent UTIs.
Symptoms of prolapse can include a vaginal heaviness or a dragging sensation. Some women might also see a bit of a bulge or find tampons difficult to use. A lot of women have no symptoms, but they might have been told they had prolapse in a routine smear test, for example.
What does ‘prolapse’ mean?
‘Prolapse’ just means something where it shouldn’t be. A lot of people know about ‘disc prolapse’ so might relate ‘prolapse’ to back pain, but prolapse can refer to your pelvic floor, too.
‘Pelvic organ prolapse’ is where there’s weakness or movement of the anterior wall (the bladder) or the posterior wall (the bowel), or the cervix is a bit low in the vaginal canal. If any of these structures are a bit weaker than normal, the vagina will have its space taken up by something that shouldn’t be there. Specialist pelvic floor physiotherapy can help improve prolapse by 85%.
How common are pelvic floor problems?
A lot of pelvic floor problems are really common in women. Around 1 in 3 women will experience incontinence and 50% of women will have some form of prolapse in their lifetime. But while those stats show that these issues are common, they don’t – and shouldn’t – mean that they’re ever considered ‘normal’.
More than 85% of women can resolve their symptoms just with pelvic floor physiotherapy.
What about DIY fixes? We’ve seen online that some weights or machines might improve our pelvic health…
There are so many different types of stimulator machines or biofeedback devices that can help you engage your pelvic floor. If you’re looking at these, it’s probably because you have some symptoms, so I’d always advise you to first invest in a pelvic floor assessment and get your muscles checked over, because sometimes machines like this could be making things worse. It’s always wise to make sure that they’re appropriate for you and a good pelvic floor physiotherapist will give you that direction.
What happens in my appointment at Roseanna Grace Physiotherapy?
We offer to assess your pelvic floor muscles in clinic. What we’re looking for is how strong your pelvic floor is, so we’ll find out how many seconds you can hold for, how many repetitions you can do, the tone of your muscles and will assess your coordination by seeing how well you can contract and relax quickly. We’ll likely ask you to bear down to assess any weakness in the muscles, which may highlight prolapse or any particularly painful areas. And then we’ll personalise an exercise or management plan to help address any issues we find.
What if I’m too embarrassed to seek help?
Never be embarrassed! Pelvic floor physios like myself talk about this all day, every day. We really are here to help you, listen to you and give you guidance and support.
Should we only see a pelvic floor physio when there’s a problem?
Prevention is key. If we’re more aware of potential pelvic floor problems down the line, we’re more likely to get checked out earlier and avoid any discomfort.
Seeing a physiotherapist and getting your pelvic floor assessed is always a good idea. You might have no dysfunction at all, so they can just give you some tips on how to maintain that. Or it might be that you’ve been lucky enough to have no symptoms, but there is some dysfunction there and you have the chance to nip it in the bud. Either way, it’s only going to be helpful!
Or pop into one of her two Jesmond clinics and say hello:
15a Clayton Road, Jesmond, Newcastle NE2 4RP
89 Holly Avenue, Jesmond, Newcastle NE2 2QB