Occupational Therapy and Women’s Health

Occupational Therapy and Women's Health. GettyImages

The specialization of some occupational therapists in women’s health seems like a natural progression. Occupational therapists are concerned with how our daily activities impact our health. This focus has led some OTs to specialize in therapeutic techniques that specifically address some of the health challenges that women face.

For example, OTs have long helped elderly women address the basic daily task of toileting.

It only makes sense that some OTs would dig deeper to help their clients address the root of the problem: incontinence. For OTs, who have worked in pediatrics and neonatal settings, addressing mother’s pre and postnatal health is a natural starting point for this work.

Examples of OTs Specializing in Women’s Health

OTs across the U.S.—and the world—are taking initiative in receiving further education about and getting certified in women’s health issues. Some OTs make this the sole focus of their practice.:

Here are some common examples of areas in which OTs are specializing:

Urinary Incontinence/Pelvic Pain/Pelvic Health

There are several types of urinary incontinence—a common cause of all of which are a weakness of the pelvic floor. An OT specializing in pelvic floor therapy can help you isolate and then strengthen the weakened muscles. Along with exercise, an OT can take a holistic look at your life from nutrition to your posture and how these impact your pelvic health.

Another symptom of a pelvic floor disorder can be pelvic pain. The pain can range from the buttocks to lower abdomen. Again, an OT can take a holistic view of the cause of the pain and how you can address it.

Here is a recent article featuring a pelvic floor OT who makes house calls in Manhattan for her business, The Functional Pelvis.

Prenatal/Postnatal Health

Pelvic health issues can be related to or exacerbated by pregnancy and the birth process. Thus, an occupational therapist, who is involved in prenatal and post/natal care, often possesses skills for addressing the pelvic floor.

But, in addition to pelvic floor therapy, some OTs also go on to receive training in multiple other areas related to prenatal/postnatal health, for example, women’s mental health, breastfeeding, and prenatal/postnatal exercise.

Melissa LaPointe, an OT from British Columbia whose business, Strong Beginnings, showcases the multiple areas an OT may assist women in surrounding the birth process.


  • Improve core stability
  • Manage low back and pelvic pain
  • Increase endurance, flexibility, and strength
  • Learn relaxation strategies and breathing techniques
  • Manage anxiety and depression
  • Improve sleep and increase energy levels


  • Improve posture and alignment
  • Rebuild core strength and function
  • Safely return to exercise and sport
  • Discover effective strategies for recovery
  • Facilitate bonding between mom and baby
  • Learn age-appropriate baby-calming and play-based activities
  • Encourage a healthy feeding relationship with baby

Breast Cancer Rehabilitation

Occupational therapists can receive further training to assist women with common challenges following a mastectomy: lymphedema management, arm range of motion and strength, and scar management. The American Occupational Therapy Association provides this information about occupational therapy’s role in breast cancer rehabilitation.

Why You Need to Seek Out Someone with Special Training

OT school curriculum currently does not explicitly cover women’s health—instead many techniques within this specialty, as in other OT specialties, needs to be learned through ongoing education and certification. Granted, an OTs education does serve as a solid base knowledge, but if you are seeking out an OT to address a mental health issue, I would inquire about their further education in your area of need. Examples of which would include:

Pelvic Health/Incontinence

Breast Cancer

  • Certified Lymphedema Therapist (CLT)
  • Certified Kinesio-Taping Practioner (CKTP)
  • Myofascial release

Prenatal/Perinatal Health

Other/General Women’s Health Continued Education

Continue Reading