It's no secret that pregnancy, while in many ways a wonderful process, can have a number of negative and long-lasting effects on a woman's body. Many people simply accept that lower back pain or injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, wrist pain, SI joint pain, abdominal wall separation (diastasis recti) urinary incontinence, reduced strength and flexibility, and a weakened pelvic floor are all simply part of pregnancy and post-partum recovery. This simply isn't the case though.
Physiotherapy, specialized to the needs of new mothers, has many ways it can help them recover their flexibility, good health, strength and control over bodily functions. Here are a few of the ways postnatal physiotherapy (and prenatal physiotherapy) can help new mothers to return to their daily activities quicker and without having to grapple with the health issues which so many assume can't be avoided.
Active & Passive Physiotherapy
These two kinds of treatment describe both things done to you by a physical therapist (such as massages, icing and heating, or electrostimulation) or specific activities and exercises that are prescribed to you by your physiotherapist to help strengthen injured or weak parts of the body.
Pre and post-natal physiotherapy will often involve manual therapy treating specific parts of the body. When performed while pregnant, this practice is often done to alleviate lower back and hip pain associated with bearing all of the weight of a child. postnatal manual therapy is often done to reduce swelling, increase blood flow and circulation and improve the breastfeeding process.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
The pelvic floor and its associated muscles bear a lot of extra weight throughout the process of pregnancy. Not only that, but hormones released throughout your body in the leadup to birth encourage these muscles to relax in preparation for vaginal birth. Both of these factors contribute to a stretching out and weakening (or even injury) of the pelvic floor throughout pregnancy.
For new mothers, this means that often they have to contend with reduced control over their bowel movements for a period of time after their pregnancy. This often expresses itself as urinary incontinence for a few months but in more severe cases can mean lifelong urinary incontinence or even damage a partial loss of control to the anal sphincter as well.
It is important to note, too, that with subsequent pregnancies, the muscles can undergo earlier and greater ’stretch’. By tackling these issues early in the pregnancy, and also before/during subsequent pregnancies, physiotherapists can help prevent and reduce the strain of such bodily changes, as well as posture and function impacts.
Our Stittsville physiotherapists can help you manage and give advice for the resolution of common pregnancy and post-partum issues. Depending on your specific needs, it may be wise to consult with a pelvic floor physiotherapist at our Orleans or Manotick locations for specialized analysis of pelvic floor muscle issues.
Postnatal Yoga and Pilates
Exercises like those offered by yoga practices specifically targeted at new mothers will help you to safely recover strength in your abdomen and improve your fitness and flexibility as your recover from your pregnancy.
It's important, however, that you don't undertake strenuous activity of any kind—especially the kind that engages with weakened parts of your body—without consulting with a physiotherapist to determine how you can start to support your recovering body without causing it further injury.
Offered both prenatal and postnatal, acupuncture and dry needling help to encourage circulation, relax muscles and promote healing and recovery from the pregnancy process. Additionally, acupuncture offered by our Stittsville physical therapists can help to alleviate some aspects of postpartum depression.
This treatment is most effective when done in combination with other treatment and strengthening options. Your pelvic floor physiotherapist will be able to provide your with a comprehensive treatment plan that is customized to your body's unique needs as your work to return to your normal life, strength and function.