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Barre Base Anywhere Members: Maree Frost, Pelvic Health Physio

Rosa Anderson - Jones
Barre Base Anywhere Members: Maree Frost, Pelvic Health Physio

One thing that needs to shift in the fitness industry are discussions around pelvic health. Due to perhaps being a 'taboo subject' for so long, issues are swept under the carpet – resulting in a lack of awareness and funding in the pelvic health sector.

One person who is out to change the pelvic health rhetoric is one of our Barre Base Anywhere members, Maree Frost.

Maree Frost specialises in pelvic health physiotherapy, having gained post-graduate qualifications from Otago University in continence management in 2002. Her dedication in delivering a high standard of care to her patients has gained her respect amongst her colleagues including consultant urologists, gynaecologists and colorectal surgeons.

Maree developed the Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy Service at Christchurch Women’s Hospital where she worked for 19 years before moving to focus on her private practice in 2014.

Maree now works from Intus Digestive Colorectal Care in Merivale, Christchurch. This is a multi-disciplinary clinic of Colorectal Surgeons, Gastroenterologists, Specialist Nurses and Dieticians who meet regularly with other consultants including Urologists, Gynaecologists and Radiologists to discuss patients care.

Maree has also developed a Pelvic Floor Focus workshop for personal trainers which is now taught nationwide, empowering fitness and health professionals to be better educated on pelvic health.

What three things do you wish every person knew about pelvic health?

Pelvic health is not well understood or thought about until we have an issue that affects the pelvis, abdomen or pelvic floor area. So my first point would be to recognise what pelvic health symptoms may look like.

Possible Symptoms may include:

  • Leaking urine when: coughing, laughing or having sexual intercourse.
  • Needing to rush suddenly to the toilet and leaking urine before you get there.
  • Going frequently to the toilet to pass urine.
  • Pain or discomfort in the bladder region.
  • A bulge and/or dragging sensation from your vagina.
  • Pain on intercourse.
  • Difficulty passing a bowel motion (poos!)
  • Feeling like you have not completely emptied your bowels.
  • Pain or aching in the pelvic floor when sitting or after exercise.
  • Pain in and around the vulva, penis/scrotum or anus/rectum
  • Discomfort in the lower abdomen.
  • Weak abdominal and pelvic floor muscles after having a baby.

My second point is, that the treatment of pelvic health issues is a growing area within physiotherapy and if you have any symptoms, you should seek out help from your closest pelvic floor physiotherapist. In more rural or isolated areas within New Zealand, you may have to travel to your nearest town or city. The sooner you can seek help, the easier and quicker it may be to resolve symptoms.

Lastly, if you do suffer from symptoms, you are not alone, it is common. In women, symptoms may begin as early as the teenage years right through to the elderly. However, it is common for women to have issues after a baby or later in the perimenopausal years. Men also can have issues but this is less well known and understood.

What have been your biggest learnings been over your career?

My main learning is that we don’t always have control over our lives. For me, the impact of my health journey which started as a spinal injury as a teenager which then morphed into Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and pain in my early 20s had a huge impact on my career choice. Pelvic Health Physiotherapy was not my dream job when I was starting out. However, the impact of my health led me unexpectantly down this path of physiotherapy which I clicked with and has been both rewarding and satisfying.

So sometimes our goals or dreams are dashed but always look for a silver lining in what else may be on offer.

Another thing that I have learned as a result of my career, is that to be the best I can be in helping others, I need to look after myself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. For me this is time spent in the countryside, the closer I can be to the mountains the better, exercise, doing art, reading on a wide range of subjects and spending time with good friends, dog and husband (not in that order). Of course, my husband comes first!!

As a person who has suffered and overcome chronic fatigue, what are three habits you believe everyone should aim to implement into their lifestyles?

Firstly, if you have a chronic condition, whether pain, fatigue, depression, anxiety etc, decide today to not stay in that place. After at least 30 years of CFS, I made a full recovery within months after doing the Lightning Process with Mel Abbott from Empower Therapies.

Mel now teaches Switch, which is similar to the Lightning Process. It is certainly life-changing for anyone suffering from a chronic condition. So try to step out if you are stuck!

Secondly, since being fully recovered from CFS for 10 years, I appreciate having good health. I am grateful for having the opportunity to become well. So if you are having a down day (like my ski holiday has been ruined because we are in lockdown), then be grateful for what you do have. We are so blessed in this country.

Thirdly, since my recovery, I have learnt to snow ski, water ski on a new hot pink single ski, started my own business, and have done more exercise to make up for 30 years of minimal movement. I am always on the lookout to learn new things that interest me. So aim to learn something new or do something different, it’s good for the brain and keeps life interesting. And who cares if you fail, try again or try something else.

Women's Pelvic Health is not well-funded in New Zealand, and many women have to pay for services privately. Why must this change?

There are a few times in a women’s life where a pelvic health check would be recommended, whether a young woman with pelvic pain, a woman after having a baby or a woman going through menopausal changes.

I believe all women after having their first vaginal delivery and subsequent deliveries (which may include caesarean section) should have a pelvic health physiotherapy assessment. Presently this is offered in varying degrees of service in the public system in New Zealand and in private practice for those who can afford it or have access to a physiotherapist with the required skills.

For women, having an understanding of how their pelvic floor and abdomen is after childbirth and delivery is important for two reasons.

  • Firstly, some women may not have any bothersome symptoms but may go on to do some damage by doing exercise that does not support a vulnerable pelvic floor or return to a job involving heavy lifting.
  • Secondly, for those who do have symptoms whether mild or significant, the sooner they can get help, the more likely they can make either a quick and full recovery or have the right supports to manage and improve their symptoms.

Many women miss out on this assessment and can live for years with symptoms that affect their ability to exercise, to enjoy social events or to enjoy intimacy. The ongoing emotional and mental impact can be huge.

If we can support all women in their post-partum year and put them on a path to full recovery, this will have a huge impact not only on the individual woman but save health dollars in the future.

The only issue we presently have, there are not enough qualified pelvic floor or pelvic health physiotherapists in New Zealand. The number is steadily growing, however.

What do you enjoy the most about Barre Base Anywhere, and why does on-demand suit you?

I enjoy Barre Base Anywhere as it is quality instruction that suits what my body needs, which is a balance of strength and flexibility. Due to past spinal and pelvic joint damage, I am prone to joint and muscle stiffness, especially as I age, and Barre Base Anywhere keeps me more supple.

I have attended other forms of group fitness including Barre but the quality is not the same and I have been prone to injury. Rosa’s instruction is excellent. It is like she can see you and knows just when you need to engage a muscle, correct a pose and keep smiling!

On-demand suits me as my workdays are long and after being away for 9-10 hours, I am keen to come home. Fitting in Barre Base Anywhere suits my schedule as well as reduces my carbon footprint.

What is your favourite Barre Base Anywhere series?

Really, do I have to choose? That is hard. There are some I love to hate like Glute Grit but it’s worth the effort in the end. (I do feel like my bum is huge afterwards!) I appreciate all the series but there is nothing quite like a good Roll and Release after working with all the other muscle groups.

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