How I Created My Own Path to Pelvic Health Physical Therapy
My name is Anietie Ukpe-Wallace and I am currently in my final year of the University of St. Augustine’s FLEX DPT program. Before I even considered physical therapy (PT) school, I taught yoga for several years and have always had an interest in the pelvic floor and how those set of muscles could impact a person’s ability to move through a pose or limit the amount of movement in their hips or back. The muscles that cannot be visibly seen externally held a lot of mystery to me. Having gone through my own trials with my own pelvic floor from miscarriages to surgery and pregnancy to birth, this region of the body continued to be a mystery even then despite all of that “stuff” that I had happening down there. Sad to say, PT school did not discuss much on the pelvic floor other than a short lecture on pregnancy and when I discovered that I could become a physical therapist with a specialty in the pelvic floor, my interest was piqued, and I began to investigate how to go about that path. During my time in PT school, I have been lucky enough to have two professors with whom I was able to discuss my interest and desires about pursuing this specialty. In addition to offering me resources to learn more about it and advising me to start seeking out courses, they also offered me encouragement to pursue this field since it was still growing and there is a high demand for this specialty.
I had the fortune of getting to meet some pelvic health physical therapists at a clinic that I visited and was invited to sit in on one of their weekly meetings where they discussed case studies and talked about all things pelvic floor. I was excited because I felt that that experience and having the opportunity to see where they worked and talk to them about what they do truly solidified in me that this was a path I wanted to pursue after I graduated. I then attended a Pelvic Floor Level I course and was floored by how much information was out there about pelvic floor dysfunction or incontinence that were barely talked about in my physical therapy classes at school.
Despite my nervousness of having to practice internal work and to also be in a course where there were primarily licensed PTs, I felt welcomed and again solid in my decision of choosing this path upon graduation. Since then, I have had the opportunity to attend a lecture by Mary Massery that discussed the relationship of breathing with the pelvic floor, read pelvic floor related articles via the Journal of Women’s Health Physical Therapy (JWHPT) and follow pelvic health physical therapists on social media such as Tracy Sher, Carrie Pagliano (SoWH President) and Amy Stein to gain more insight into this practice. I decided to raise awareness about pelvic health physical therapy by starting a podcast called The Masterful Art of Self-Care where I provide interviews and interactive short talks on aspects of the body that are neglected, overused or abused. As it is only a few months old, I hope to be able to use the podcast platform to share and engage individuals on their pelvic floor as well as other multitude areas of the body that share a relationship with the workings of the pelvic floor.
Knowing that I will be graduating in a year, my plan is to find a clinic that is dedicated to treating pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD). Eventually, I hope to open my own private practice. If I have the opportunity, I would also like to apply for a women’s health residency at a clinic that is in my area and if given that opportunity, complete the residency before starting my own practice. I have a strong interest in two areas within the field of women’s health/pelvic floor, one of them being offering home health/tele-health services to women considering pregnancy, pre-natal and postpartum women.
If certain musculoskeletal issues can be addressed before a woman contemplates pregnancy, I am sure there would possibly be less musculoskeletal issues during pregnancy, the woman will go into pregnancy and the postpartum period stronger and she will have the knowledge about how to move holistically and provide the necessary self-care to herself. Per ACOG’s recent guidelines about women receiving adequate post-partum care, I would want to help ensure that women do receive that care but, on their terms, where they can be in the comfort of their own home. In addition, being a woman of color and also a mother, I have been saddened by the high rate of maternal deaths in the US across the board for women of color irrespective of their income level or education status. In the vein that PTs are the movement experts and spend more time with their patients than most other clinicians, I feel that PTs can be of service to these women in collaboration with midwives, doulas and their OB/GYN in providing the quality of care that they deserve. Lastly, my dream is to be able to also have a pro-bono/donation-based clinic that would serve these women of color in the hopes that they can receive the type of care that is not based on classism, racism or financial status but on genuine care for the well-being of the mother and her child.