Women’s Health

What is Women’s Health Physiotherapy?

Women’s health physiotherapy is a non-surgical treatment that improves the quality of women’s lives by empowering them to take control of their pelvic and pelvic floor disorders.

Recent research-based evidence and government health guidelines recommend treatment Physiotherapy for pelvic floor conditions such as incontinence, constipation, prolapse and pelvic pain.

At Harpenden Physiotherapy you’ll find specialist care which can help to solve symptoms such as lack of bladder control and increased frequency and urgency, uterine prolapse, poor bowel function and sexual dysfunction.

Women’s Health Conditions We Treat

We offer specialised assessment and treatment for the following conditions at Harpenden Physiotherapy.

woman recieving hips pelvis physiotherapy: women's health physiotherapy hertfordshire

  • Pelvic floor disorders
  • Incontinence
  • Pre and post natal gynaecological problems
  • Musculoskeletal problems during and after pregnancy
  • Musculoskeletal problems arising from gynaecological problems and/or surgery
  • Menopause (we have an acupuncturist dedicated to the treatment of menopause)
  • Vulvodynia (vulva pain)
  • Pudendal Neuralgia/nerve entrapment
  • Cocxydenia
  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Rectus Diastasis (separation of the abdominal wall after giving birth)

If you suffer from a women’s health condition not listed above please call us to speak in confidence to one of our physiotherapists.

How Can We Help You?

Your Harpenden Physio will treat you as an individual and tailor the treatment specifically to suit you. Our Hertfordshire based women’s health/pelvic floor physiotherapy stands upon the premise that all of our patients are offered comfort and privacy during treatment.

What Can You Expect From Your First Appointment?

Your first appointment will begin with our specialist Physiotherapist taking a detailed history of your condition. She will be well aware that such issues are sensitive but is experienced in listening and understanding how your problems are affecting your life and relationships. All information is completely confidential.

With your permission, you will then receive a physical assessment of your abdomen, pelvis and lumbar spine. If necessary you will be offered an internal examination to test the muscle tone and strength of your pelvic floor. Biofeedback equipment can be used to grade your muscle strength and then an individualised exercise programme can be created for you. Along with this treatment, she will also advise you on your diet, exercise and pain management.

Our Women’s Health Team

Harpenden Physiotherapy specialises in Women’s Health offering some of the best-tailored treatment in Hertfordshire. Ashleigh Rutherford is our resident specialist and she is available for clinic sessions on Mondays and  provides our Mummy MOT sessions.


Has your bladder’s behaviour started to control your lifestyle?

30% of women suffer from urinary incontinence but are often too self-conscious to seek help. We treat women who suffer from pregnancy-related musculoskeletal aches and pains as well as women who have trouble with their bladder, bowels or pelvic floor. Such problems may arise from antenatal or postnatal complications or gynaecological problems such as incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse and pelvic pain symptoms.

What is Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy?

The pelvic floor is a system of muscles that form the support structure for the birth canal and also the passages for urine and stools. A change in the muscle tone in the pelvic floor can cause multiple problems which are not as commonly thought a normal sign of ageing. The muscles can become too tight or too weak. It is important to see a Physiotherapist to ensure that you are thoroughly assessed and correctly diagnosed as the symptoms for both can be similar but the treatment can differ.

The pelvic floor can become too tight (Hypertonic) due to a traumatic childbirth, after gynaecological investigations, through infection or untreated low back or pelvic girdle pain. Tightness can cause pain during urination, Cystitis, incomplete bladder emptying, low back pain and pain during sexual intercourse. Despite the tightness in the pelvic floor muscles, it is difficult to perform a muscle contraction and treatment that involves relaxing the pelvic floor so that strengthening exercises can restore normal function.

Your Women’s Health Specialist will always listen to you. If an internal examination is painful she will first work on relaxing the tight connective tissues around your lower back, hips and pelvis. Pain in the pelvic area is often also related to stress and anxiety. She will help resolve this by teaching you how your pelvic system works and discuss your treatment with you every step of the way.

We can also advise on methods and products you can use at home to help. Regular Kegel exercises can be done manually or via electronic pelvic toners. Kegel8 products use advanced technology to improve and strengthen your pelvic floor, providing you with increased confidence and security.


Assessment and Initial Consultation

The good news is that pelvic floor physiotherapy can relieve symptoms in 85% of women. At your initial consultation, you will receive a thorough assessment. You will be asked questions about your medical history, current symptoms and be able to discuss the impact your pelvic problems have on your life.  With your consent, you will then be given a physical examination so that your pelvic floor muscle strength can be graded using biofeedback devices.

When the pelvic floor is too weak (hypotonic) it gives less support to the important pelvic organs. Prolapse can occur as well as symptoms such as urinary incontinence, vulval pain and chronic low back pain. Women are more susceptible to this during certain times of life:

  • Pregnancy
  • Post-natally
  • Menopause
  • Older age

After an initial consultation and a thorough assessment further treatment could include:

  • Internal myofascial stretching, trigger point release and scar massage
  • Muscle and connective tissue massage around the hips, back and abdomen
  • Teaching Pilates-based abdominal and back strengthening exercises to those muscles which help support the pelvic floor
  • Teaching breathing and relaxation techniques
  • Provision of muscle stimulators and educators
  • Teaching appropriate pelvic floor muscle, lower back and hip strengthening exercises

We will then re-test your pelvic floor strength and compare it to when you were first assessed and adjust your exercises appropriately.

Antenatal Physiotherapy

Our breadth of experience in ante natal and gynaecological conditions means that you need have no fear of any harm coming to the foetus during treatment.

For one in three women, the joy of pregnancy can be ruined by back and pelvic pain. It can start as early as 10 weeks into your pregnancy due to the release of hormones which loosen the ligaments around the pelvis. This lessens the support around the pelvis and combined with the weight of a growing baby can cause back and pelvic pain. In extreme cases, women will experience sciatica and sacroiliac pain.

One in five women suffers from a condition called Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (Pelvic Girdle Pain). This causes pain and often instability at the front pubis area and is usually worse on walking and standing and separating your legs.

Urinary incontinence is common during pregnancy especially towards the later stages when the uterus grows and puts pressure on the bladder. It is a myth that this must be endured and is a normal condition during pregnancy. Recent evidence shows that urinary incontinence ante-natal and immediately post-natal can result in urinary incontinence 5 years later. Often, all you need to prevent this is to engage in women’s health physiotherapy. Here at Harpenden Physiotherapy, we can teach you how to regain strong pelvic floor control during and after the birth without any need for an internal investigation.

Post Natal Physiotherapy and Mummy MOT

We’re proud to be an official provider of the Mummy MOT which is a detailed post natal assessment perfect for both new mums and mothers who have given birth in the last few years.

In addition to this, we also offer an extensive Post-Natal Physiotherapy service. We can also assess you after your 6-week post-natal check-up with your doctor. The many changes that your body undergoes during pregnancy continue during the first few post-natal months. To prevent problems such as incontinence, lumbar and pelvic instability from recurring later in life – or in another pregnancy – it is important to address them at this time.

The Post-Natal Pelvic Floor

Childbirth can be traumatic for the pelvic floor. Tears in the pelvic floor can lead to weakness which in turn can cause urinary incontinence and pain during sexual intercourse. During your course of women’s health physiotherapy, we will assess any damage to your pelvic floor and provide treatment such as:

  • Pelvic floor assessment and exercise prescription
  • Pelvic floor treatments such as trigger point release and scar tissue massage
  • Soft tissue release of all pelvic and lumbar muscle and connective tissue
  • Pelvic floor muscle stimulators to promote pelvic floor control
  • Relaxation and breathing techniques

Diastasis Recti (separated abdominal muscles)

During the third trimester, your abdominal muscles are at full stretch. A separation occurs when they are overstretched, usually due to a large baby or multiple pregnancies, and this is called a Diastasis Recti. If this has not resolved naturally after six weeks post-natally (eight weeks post caesarian) it will be difficult to regain good abdominal tone. Our Women’s Health Physiotherapist is trained to grade the degree of separation and provide the appropriate exercises.

Post-natal Joint Neck and Back Pain

Muscle and joint pains are common post-natally. Breastfeeding and the continued presence of the pregnancy hormones loosen the ligaments making you more vulnerable to aches and pains. Feeding positions and lifting all the paraphernalia associated with a newborn contribute to back and neck aching. Weakness in the pelvic floor and stretched abdominal muscles do not provide the support your back needs in the first few months after birth.

Treatments we offer new mums

  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Electrotherapy
  • Pilates
  • Post-natal exercise programmes
  • Pelvic floor assessment and exercise prescription
  • Advice on positioning for feeding and lifting your baby
  • Relaxation advice to help you gain maximum rest from those short moments of peace!

How Can You Get In Contact?

If you would like to make an appointment with Ashleigh Rutherford, our leading therapist in women’s health physiotherapy, call us on 01582 761448 or get in touch . We’re based in Harpenden, and have clients from all over Hertfordshire.



How are we ensuring that our practice is safe during the COVID-19 situation?

According to current COVID-19 information and advice, Harpenden Physiotherapy are taking the following measures to protect all those visiting the clinic:

  • Screening all patients at the point of booking in line with Government guidelines.
  • Screening all patients, staff and visitors upon arrival into the clinic.
  • Providing all visitors access to alcohol-based hand sanitizer upon entry and exit.
  • Increasing the frequency and thoroughness of cleaning around the building.
  • Reminding all visitors of the importance of personal hygiene and best practices, such as regular handwashing, which are displayed on posters throughout the clinics.

For more information on our health & safety practices please read our COVID-19 information guide.

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