The female body goes through many changes throughout pregnancy and proper prenatal and postnatal care are essential for baby and mother’s health. While each pregnancy is unique and puts different strains on the body, taking preventative actions can reduce complications. Physical therapy can help with many of the changes seen in the pregnant and postpartum body. Our Pregnancy and Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialists (PCES) focus on finding the source of the problem and provide manual therapy and therapeutic exercises that go beyond your standard squats, lunges, and bridges. Looking at the postural changes during and after pregnancy, we can evaluate and treat the muscular dysfunction specific to these changes. Understanding the symptoms and how a PCES can help is the first step in prevention:
Diastasis– During pregnancy, the uterus stretches to make room for the developing baby which can cause the abdominal muscles to separate and ribs to flair also known as diastasis recti. Diastasis recti is common postpartum as it becomes difficult to strengthen your core and protect your back but treatment can be found with manual therapy techniques and corrective exercises.
Mild Cases Of Prolapse– Post pregnancy the pelvic floor muscles and ligaments are weakened, and may no longer be able to provide support to the uterus. Strengthening of the pelvic floor muscles can prevent prolapse, but in more severe cases, for example, when the uterus slides down into or extends out of the vagina, consulting your doctor or pelvic floor therapist is advised.
Incontinence– Many women during and post pregnancy lose control of bladder function. Women who have a vaginal delivery experience incontinence due to weakened pelvic floor muscles needed for bladder control. Incontinence can occur with a c-section as well. The pelvic floor is stretched and weakened postpartum and causes dysfunction in bladder control and core stability. This can cause minor leaks induced by exercising, coughing, laughing, or sneezing. Reeducating the pelvic floor muscles can reduce or eliminate urinary incontinence.
Low Back Pain– During pregnancy, muscles, and ligaments lengthen to prepare the body for labor and development of the fetus. This stretching can put additional stress on opposing muscles, ligaments, and joints. Prenatal strengthening exercises can reduce your symptoms throughout pregnancy and postpartum.
Upper Back Pain– Throughout pregnancy the woman’s body changes which can alter your center of gravity adding stress to not only the lower back but also the upper back. Proper treatment and prescribed exercises can alleviate pain symptoms, improve posture, and breathing. The postpartum posture of breastfeeding, changing, holding the baby, and lifting the baby can contribute to back pain as well.
Hip Pain– Hormones are released by the body to relax and soften joints, specifically the sacroiliac which connects the spine to the pelvis. The hormone relaxes the ligaments which makes the joint unstable and causes the muscles to overwork. The result can be pressure on the sciatic nerve causing numbness or tingling into the legs. A PCES can provide relief with hands-on treatment and exercises.
C-Section Scar Mobility– Post-C-section the uterus and abdomen scar over to bring the edges of the incision together leading to scar tissue to complete the healing process. The tough fibrous college formed scar can lead to symptoms of immobility and pain. Scar tissue mobilization and therapeutic exercise treatment can help alleviate these symptoms
Prenatal and postnatal corrective exercises are not pelvic floor physical therapy. Many issues can be treated with corrective exercises, but when appropriate patients will be referred to a pelvic floor specialist.
Return to Sport and Exercise Postpartum
Postpartum patients often struggle with how and when to return to exercise safely. Physical therapy can help build foundational strength specific to the changes the body endured during pregnancy. Our corrective exercise specialists will work with you to ensure a safe return to higher-level exercises. We specialize in, but not limited to:
Bending and Lifting Techniques
Breathing and Diaphragm Function
Functional Movement Systems
Kinetic Chain Alignment
Sport Specific Programming
Returning to exercises slowly and safely with proper guidance can prevent many postpartum issues. In collaboration with your physician/OB-GYN, we will develop a postpartum recovery program to best fit your individual needs. Schedule a consultation to learn more about how physical therapy can address your prenatal and postnatal care needs.