Women’s Health Centre

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Meagan Kelly is a Women’s Health Physiotherapist and Becky Vaschak is the Dietitian and Health Promotion Manager at the Coffs Harbour Women’s Health Centre. FOCUS had a chat to these two lovely ladies, to find out more…

Meagan Kelly, Women’s Health Physiotherapist

Tell us a little bit about yourself …

I grew up on the Gold Coast and competed at sport at an elite level, and this was where my interest in physiotherapy developed. After completing my Physiotherapy degree at the University of Qld, my husband and I moved to beautiful Tasmania for eight years, and this was where our two children were born.  We moved to Coffs Harbour when our children were very little, and we fell in love with the warmer weather, the lifestyle and wonderful sense of community. I became passionate about Women’s Health and Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy after I had my children and realised the impact pregnancy and childbirth can have on a woman’s body and how much it can affect her quality of life.  Did you know that one in three women who have ever had a baby suffer from some form of incontinence?  Many women do not realise that they can seek help from someone like me, and often their incontinence can be cured or greatly improved. 

What does a Women’s Health and Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist do?

I have completed specific post graduate training to assess and treat women who have pelvic floor dysfunction and weakness. My initial consultations are an hour, and involve a detailed assessment, lots of education and a treatment plan. A big part of my job is to arm women with knowledge about what is going on with their bodies, so that they walk out of the consultation room feeling much more empowered than when they went in. 

Who should come and see a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist?

Anyone who has symptoms of urinary incontinence – leakage of urine, no matter how little, is not normal, and women should seek help sooner rather than later.  Other symptoms of pelvic floor weakness include leakage of urine with exercise (stress incontinence), an urgent need to go to the toilet with an inability to “hold on” (urgency/overactive bladder), a heaviness or dragging sensation in the vagina (weakness or prolapse), needing to go to the toilet frequently during the day and night, and bowel urgency or leakage from the bowel. 

Do you only see patients with pelvic floor weakness?

No! I also see patients who have a condition called vaginismus, where the pelvic floor muscles are overactive or too tight. The symptoms of vaginismus include pain with intercourse (dyspareunia), and pain with inserting tampons. My role as a physiotherapist is to help these patients relax and stretch these muscles, so that they can function normally again.

I also see a lot of women who simply do not know how to do a pelvic floor contraction. They know they should be doing pelvic floor exercises to prevent incontinence and prolapse, but they don’t know how. This is quite common. Women do so much better with expert instruction from someone trained in this area.

Do I need a referral to see you?

No, just call the Women’s Health Centre to make an appointment. Check out www.continence.org.au for more information about incontinence.

Becky Vaschak, Accredited Practising Dietitian

What is your position and role at the Women’s Health Centre?

I am the Dietitian and Health Promotion Manager at the Coffs Harbour Women’s Health Centre. As an Accredited Practising Dietitian, I see clients for a large range of individual nutritional needs, like Eating Disorders, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Weight Management (loss or gain), Food Allergies/Sensitivities, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), Type 2 Diabetes, Constipation, Diverticular Disease and general healthy eating advice.

As Health Promotion Manager I am in charge of running lots of new and exciting health workshops, like Zumba, fitness for older adults, healthy eating for adults, meditation, Tai Chi, self-defence and lots more.

Do you have an area of focus or special interest?

Poor body image and unhealthy dieting strategies has been a common thread in a lot of my clients, so I have become passionate about helping clients establish a healthy relationship with themselves and with food.

Over the past few years at the Women’s Health Centre and headspace I have seen a large number of clients who have disordered eating behaviours, whether this is through diagnosed eating disorders or those who just have an unhealthy relationship with food, such as yo-yo dieters and emotional eaters.

It’s a complex area to work in, so I am constantly honing my skills by completing regular professional development in eating disorder management and counselling techniques such as motivational interviewing to facilitate behaviour change. This, along with working closely with experts in the disordered eating field, ensures my clients receive the highest quality evidenced based service and care.

For the past five years, I have also been a consultant dietitian for a few aged care facilities both here and the USA (my native homeland!) and am passionate about nutritional management for the older population as well. 

What is one piece of nutrition advice you can give to women reading this?

Moving away from labelling foods as “good” and “bad” can be an important first step to developing a more healthy relationship with food for you and your family. When we use these labels, we tend to restrict ourselves from ever eating the “bad” foods. Unfortunately, doing this makes our brain want them all the more.

This restriction and deprivation most often leads to overeating or binge eating and then feeling guilty and/or ashamed. This forms a never ending cycle of restrict, binge, restrict, binge over and over again.

By learning mindful and intuitive eating, along with changing our relationship with food, we can allow ourselves to enjoy a variety of foods without the guilt and without assigning a moral value to food. Best of all, we still get to eat all the foods we love.

Food is just food, and eating it should be an enjoyable experience. Sure, some foods are healthier than others and we should aim to eat a balanced, healthy diet to nourish our bodies – but banning those foods that are “bad” is not the solution. I can assist my clients in learning how to eat mindfully and break away from food rules and start to enjoy food again.

How can people come see you?

Men and women just have to give us a call at the Women’s Health Centre on 6652 8111 to book an appointment time with me. Alternatively, you can be referred by your GP if you qualify for Allied Health Services under Medicare’s Chronic Disease Management Plan.

Other information can be found on our website www.genhealth.org.au or our Facebook page, Coffs Harbour Women’s Health Centre.

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