Evolution of Pelvic Health in Physical Therapy Practices

Evolution of Pelvic Health

How We Identify at the Institute for Birth Healing

Pelvic Health’s Evolution

The evolution from Women’s Health to Pelvic Health has been an ongoing topic of conversation and debate within healthcare and physical therapy practices for the past two decades. 

Pelvic health is defined by Baylor College of Medicine as “the best possible functioning and management of the bladder, bowel, and reproductive organs. It is not merely the absence of disease or weakness in these organs. Pelvic health plays an important role in complete physical, mental, social, and sexual well-being.”

As an example of the on-going debate, the Section on Women’s Health that was established in 1977 took from 2011 – 2019 to get board approval to change its name to the Academy of Pelvic Health Physical Therapy (APTA article). The debate on the name change for APTA is one that many practitioners have struggled with – the shift has caused them to re-examine the work they do and define who they want to work with. 

A Brief History of Women’s Health

“The Women’s Health Movement (WHM) emerged during the 1960s and the 1970s with the primary goal to improve health care for all women,” notes F H Nichols in an article on the history of Women’s Health. Women’s Health included all health matters related to women including mental health, breast health, safety concerns, pregnancy care, and pelvic health.

Science Direct states in an article on Women’s Health that care included “physical and mental health problems that are of exclusive concern for women, and which are more common in women or which differ in presentation, severity, or consequences in women compared to men.”

Pelvic care was considered part of Women’s Health, and often, the two areas were considered interchangeable. This led to a lack of clarity about the scope of a practice for many healthcare providers – i.e. do you do pelvic care or not? In addition, Women’s Health clinics were often the only place that specialized in pelvic floor health, so where did clients with pelvic health issues go who were not women?

Emergence of Pelvic Health

In the past two decades, “down there” has transitioned from a taboo topic to a conversation that both men and women are having with their practitioners. Increases in pelvic floor dysfunction have made pelvic floor health a focal point for practitioners and clients dealing with issues such as prolapse, incontinence, and pelvic floor pain. In addition, changes in pregnancy and postpartum experiences have also created an increased need for pelvic care.

These changes have led many practices to transition Women’s Health practices that do pelvic care to Pelvic Health practices. The thought behind this trend is practices want to clearly define who they are working with (anyone with a pelvis) and what they are focusing on (pelvic care). Clients want practitioners who are clear about what they offer and what is and is not within the scope of their practice.

What Camp is the Institute for Birth Healing In?

At the Institute for Birth Healing (IBH), we are in the Pelvic Health camp as we focus specifically on the pelvic treatment of pregnant and postpartum bodies in the educational courses we offer.

The decision has not been easy, though, as the definitions of Women’s Health and Pelvic Health are highly interrelated. Women’s health is an important aspect of pelvic care and vice versa, but in our opinion, they each play their own role within treatment practices. Additionally, the holistic definition of pelvic health is at the heart of the Institute for Birth Healing’s mission to educate and empower pelvic health practitioners to achieve immediate results and faster recoveries for their pregnant and postpartum clients.

Leave a Reply