Julie Brehm Challenges Health Taboos

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Photograph courtesy TriHealth

Postpartum moms turn to TriHealth pelvic health physical therapist Julie Brehm for help with a sensitive issue.

What does it mean to be successful in your position?

To be defined as successful would relate to patient outcomes—having patients get better and achieve their goals. Another way would be referrals. I consider it a huge compliment that my patients send me their moms, their sisters, their sisters-in-law, their BFFa. I see a lot of patients through word of mouth and care providers, so people in the community that I respect, [such as] OBGYNs and midwives.

Why do you think pelvic floor therapy has gained so much traction and attention recently?

I have been a physical therapist for 20 years with most of that doing pelvic health physical therapy. When I first started working in rural Knoxville, Tennessee, some of it was preventative health but a lot of it was reactionary—patients who have had pelvic floor disorders for a long time would eventually be referred. It’s different now, and I love it. It’s a lot more preventative health: “I recognize the problem now and I’m going to seek help now versus waiting until it gets to be a really, really big problem 10 years down the line.” I really attribute it to better education and people talking … social media has helped. People are less afraid to speak up, and fewer think this is a taboo topic.

Why do you have such a long waitlist? And why are you known as pelvic floor royalty in Cincinnati?

It’s multi-faceted. I’ve been doing this for a really long time, so that helps to have a lot of experience. I think I’m a little more unique in the fact that to me this is not just a job—it’s a way of life, and I am self-motivated to learn. I have a strong passion to help people and I want to be really spectacular at that, and I want my patients to get the absolute best top-notch care … so I educate myself. I read a ton of research-related articles and take a lot of continuing education courses specifically in pelvic health.

One of my patients recently remarked to me, “You explain this so well.” And I think that makes a difference too, to be able to educate patients on what’s going on so that they understand versus, “I’m just going to blindly set you up with this random set of exercises.” It’s not good care and doesn’t create buy-in to do that because people are less likely to do the things they need to do or understand why they’re doing them.

When you retire, what do you want to look back on and say, Wow, I accomplished X?

It would make me so proud if my daughter wanted to follow in my footsteps and pass the torch to her, but if that’s not her thing, that’s fine too. If not, maybe another physical therapist who has the same passion as myself that I can pass the torch on to…and can be trained in a similar way, so they can [impact] other families. It shouldn’t die with me.

Where do you hope pelvic health is headed in the future?

Preventative medicine is so important. We are comprised of the things we have done in our past … if we fall off a sled and injure our coccyx. If we were competitive dancers or gymnasts or played volleyball or basketball. Those events we do form who we are today as a pregnant mother, and that should not be overlooked in any capacity. Doing preventative pelvic checks and pelvic floor health during pregnancy is a great way to reach people at a critical time in their life.

What do you love most about raising your family in Cincinnati?

The amazing arts programs here. I dance down at Cincinnati Ballet for fun through their adult program, and I love taking my kids to see the shows there. We attend the shows at the Aronoff Center and the Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati … they are all so important to me, and I love exposing my kids to the arts. I think we have amazing parks here as well through the whole city, so we’re excited for this time of year.

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