Occupational therapists' perspectives on their unique role in pelvic health

Introduction: Pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) may present as urinary/fecal incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and/or pelvic pain. These symptoms have been shown to cause disruption to individuals' activities of daily living and decrease quality of life. Conservative estimates indicate 28 million women are affected by PFD worldwide. The core of occupational therapy (OT) is to mitigate barriers to engagement in occupations of one's choosing, yet there is a gap in the literature detailing occupational therapy practitioners' (OTP) perspectives on their unique contributions in pelvic health. Methods: This exploratory descriptive study utilized an online survey to purposively recruit OTPs and screen individuals for an interview. Inclusion criteria required that participants a) be a licensed or retired OTP, b) have at least one year experience as an OTP, and c) have any professional experience in pelvic health. One-on-one semi-structured interviews occurred on a virtual platform, were audio-recorded, and transcribed. Using Dedoose software, thematic inductive analysis was conducted. Results: Thirty-one individuals completed the survey, 21 were eligible to participate, and 13 participated in an interview. It was found that OTPs believe they offer a unique contribution to the pelvic health field. Three primary qualitative themes were generated that elaborate on this belief: OTPs apply a psychosocial lens, the OT approach is comprehensive, and OTPs use occupation-focused interventions when working with people with PFD (e.g., consider the influence of client mental health as client preferences, culture, and lifestyle). Conclusion: This study identified the perceptions of OTPs regarding their unique approach to working with clients in pelvic health. Data suggests that OTPs complement the biomechanical focus of other pelvic health providers by recognizing the role of mental health and intervening to down-regulate the nervous system.
2023 Summer.
Includes bibliographical references.
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Embargo expires: 08/31/2025.
pelvic floor
mental health
occupational therapy
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