Postpartum and Physical Therapy

Pregnancy is a long and beautiful process with each step a critical component to proper fetal development. Your body, which you have gotten used to for the past 20-30 years has now suddenly changed within a very short period. After pregnancy, during the postpartum period, it can sometimes be discouraging and exhausting to return to your pre-pregnancy body.  Let’s face it; taking care of a newborn is tough and difficult, no matter how many times you’ve been through it. Your body has gone through a traumatic event and every second is a new experience.  Taking care of yourself can be extremely difficult with a newborn, but it is during this time that your body is most vulnerable and susceptible to acute and chronic injuries.  With everything happening for your newborn, it can be easy to forget to take care of yourself!

Common problems postpartum

  • If you had a natural delivery, you may have had stitches and it is normal to have some discomfort with urination or sitting. If you had a c-section, the recovery process will generally take longer and you may have more precautions that your doctor will instruct you in. However, with either type of deliveries, you should not have to tolerate long term pain! Your physical therapist can help reduce any pain you may have and help you return to your normal lifestyle pre-pregnancy.
  • Back pain is a common problem as your center of mass has drastically changed in a very short amount of time. This gives your body less time to prepare for the shift in weight. Your body will move differently than it has in the past 9 months and it is vital to have proper guidance to return to activities.
  • Hip pain may also occur as natural delivery requires you to create extremely high pressure in an unfavorable position for your hips. In therapy, you can benefit from strengthening your hips, as well as decreasing pain.
  • Weakness in your core can be expected as your abdominals have been stretched. Again, this is common, but you should not have long term pain.
    • You may also have diastatis recti, which is a fancy term for increased gap between your middle abdominal muscles, called the rectus abdominus. This may be painful and you can see your physical therapist to help you with this.
    • Weakness in the pelvic floor can lead to urinary or bowel incontinence. If you have a uterine prolapse or rectocele, it is very important that you learn how to strengthen to muscles properly. A therapist specialized in pelvic floor can you regain proper control of these important muscles.
    • Postpartum depression – it took 9 months for hormones to develop in your body to have a healthy baby and in 2-3 days postpartum, the levels of hormones will reduce to pre-pregnancy base lines! Postpartum depression is a serious complication. Be sure to communicate with your doctor if you feel you have postpartum depression.
    • Joint pain is common because during pregnancy, your ligaments become lax to create space for the baby to come out of the birth canal. However, the hormones do not limit to only pelvic ligaments and will stretch out ligaments in your entire body. It is important to see a therapist to learn how to strengthen your muscles and avoid certain positions that could place your body at risk for further injury.

Choose PT first!

  • Your body changes drastically during pregnancy and you may benefit from the help of a physical therapist to get you back to the way you were prior to pregnancy
  • Don’t be okay with postpartum pain or body aches and think that is “normal.”
  • Don’t be scared to get back into physical activity
  • Taking care of yourself can be extremely difficult with a newborn but it is during this time that your body is most vulnerable and most susceptible to acute and chronic injuries

Physical therapy can benefit you!

  • Teach you about your body so you understand how to use muscles that have been overstretched or overused from changes in your body
  • Strengthen muscles to create proper stability in your body and core
  • Relieve pain

Taking Care of yourself while taking care of your child

  • When you carry your child, be careful of your posture. Try not to hike your hip up and use both arms.
  • When picking up your child, go into a proper squat and use your legs to lift. Your newborn might be a few pounds now, but they gain weight quickly!
  • If you are breastfeeding, try to use a pillow to prop your newborn instead of using your arms to keep him lifted

In the States, new mothers will meet with their doctors after 6 weeks to clear them for activities. Many times, mothers will be nervous about returning to exercises or think they will not have the time to exercise. Meeting with a physical therapist will allow proper guidance to return to you lifestyle, worry-free.

References:   Simonds, A. (2015, June 29). Evaluation and Management of Prenatal and Postpartum Clients in Physical Therapy. Lecture presented at Prenatal and Postpartum Lecture in Rutgers University , Stratford, NJ.