Blog Post: September 13th, 2021
By Abbi Mathis, Doctor of Physical Therapy
Why is physical therapy important postpartum?
The musculoskeletal changes that occur during pregnancy, such as the expansion of the belly to accommodate for the baby, happen automatically. Therefore, it is commonly assumed that following birth, the body will automatically return to it’s pre-pregnancy state. While the body does typically heal itself, it is important to return to prior activities in a guided and informed fashion. The good news is, we can help with that!
With the pressures around “bouncing back” as soon as possible, many new mamas fall in to the idea that they should begin running, CrossFit or general home workouts ASAP. In reality, following birth, the core and pelvic floor muscles have been stretched, weakened and many times injured. With injury to any muscle, it is recommended to have a physical therapy evaluation and treatment plan to ensure these muscles are working properly and are strong enough to support you while doing the activities you love and enjoy.
So why was I cleared to resume normal activity at my 6 week check up?
At a woman’s 6 week check up with their OB/GYN, they are typically “cleared” to return to normal activity. These check ups frequently do not take in to account the strength and function of the core and pelvic floor muscles. This is more in a physical therapist’s realm and why those who are postpartum should come in to see a Doctor of Physical Therapy.
What should I be looking out for?
Exercise such as jogging, running, jumping jacks, and high knees are all impact activities that will increase pressure down through the pelvic floor muscles. If your pelvic floor muscles are not functioning 100% yet, these activities can worsen or contribute to pelvic organ prolapse. Women also may experience incontinence or leakage with exercise or daily activities. This, too, is a sign that the core and pelvic floor are not functioning optimally yet. Other signs of core and pelvic floor dysfunction include low back, hip and pelvic pain, sustained abdominal separation, hernias and doming with core activation.
Thankfully, there is help. Physical therapists who specialize in Women’s Health can help guide women safely through their postpartum period and back to the activities they enjoy pain-free, without leaks and comfortably for years to come. In addition, for those who are planning to have more babies, it is especially important to restore your core in between child bearing to aid in more comfortable subsequent pregnancies, efficient child births and improve future postpartum rehabilitation.
We have several skilled and caring Doctors of Physical Therapy who specialize in Women’s Health. If you are postpartum and/or think you could benefit from talking to one of our specialists, please do! Click here to see a list of our Women’s Health Specialists.