Even from a young age, I found pregnancy to be fascinating. I remember placing a hand on my sister’s pregnant belly and feeling her twin daughters move and wiggle inside. The changes the body goes through and how our bodies compensate to create life is truly a miracle. During my early years of study, I found myself finding ways to incorporate the topic of pregnancy into my undergraduate and doctorate degree programs. I chose to write my thesis on the pregnant athlete when finishing my athletic training degree. I remember my advisor being somewhat surprised as this was not a topic that was chosen often. Learning more about pregnancy and postpartum only solidified my passion.
Upon entering physical therapy school, I was very fortunate to have my first clinical instructed by a trained pelvic floor physical therapist. We were in Fairbanks, Alaska, which was much more rural than I was used to. This meant that my instructor had to be a “jack of all trades”. I remember observing the first pelvic floor session with the patient’s consent. After doing the pelvic floor exam, my clinical instructor jokingly turned to me and said “okay, your turn”. My face must have turned white because all I heard after that was laughing from both my instructor and the patient. During this clinical, my instructor educated me on the basics of pelvic floor treatment, including how to perform vaginal exams. By the end of the clinical it no longer gave me a mini heart attack when she turned to me and said “okay, your turn”.
Now, working for The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, I have been able to further my education on the pelvic floor. I have taken several classes including the basics to pelvic floor treatment as well as several pregnancy and postpartum courses. As a mother of two and pregnant with our third, my passion for treating patients during the pregnancy and the postpartum period has continued to grow. Experiencing some of the same conditions that we treat patients for has helped me gain empathy and understanding of these patients. This has also allowed me to identify holes in our current treatment model of patients during pregnancy and postpartum. All too often, I have patients that come in months or years after having a baby saying, “I wish I knew about this service earlier”. My dream, as a pelvic floor physical therapist, is to improve the community’s access to physical therapy services postpartum so that we never have to hear a patient say this again. I am currently working with the university to advocate for a physical therapy screening for all postpartum patients. This has proven to be a lofty task especially as policies and procedures are constantly changing during the pandemic. I am hopeful that one day we can make this dream come true.
Written by Abigail Andres, PT, DPT, OCS
About the Author: Abigail Andres is a 2021 CAPP scholarship recipient.