Today's guest blog comes from Katherine Bayer, an experienced D.C. based Physical Therapist that specializes in pregnancy and postpartum health and recovery. With a focus on manual work and functional strengthening, she has started her CAPP-OB certification under the APTA section of women’s health. She has spent time in an array of physical therapy settings, including hospital-based PT, rehabilitation, and outpatient facilities, along with experience as a massage therapist. To reach out to Katie with questions or appointment requests, please email her at Katie@conciergephysicaltherapists.com.
Congratulations! You have a beautiful baby and these will be some of the most amazing moments of your life. Your body, on the other hand, has just gone through the ringer and is now expected to care for, feed, change and carry this beautiful bundle without another thought.
Rarely do doctors recommend physical therapy during pregnancy or after; but let's think about it. Really truly think about what your body just went through- and wonder...why?
Many people think these pains and other issues are “normal”, and just apart of the whole pregnancy package. THEY ARE NOT. I understand that this baby is now your number one priority. But if you aren’t taken care of, it’s much harder to care for someone else.
I didn’t always treat pregnant and postpartum women. Or, I guess I did, but didn’t stop to think about them in this light. But as time went on and I saw the same pattern of pain and muscular dysfunction in many of my female patients, I started taking notice. I realized after I had my own kids (twins via C-section and a single via VBAC) that It doesn’t matter how many months or years you are after delivery. These problems will often follow you if you don’t take the time to treat them now.
During pregnancy, your body changes immensely- your rib cage circumference increases 10-15 cm, pelvic ligaments loosen, breasts increase in size by two pounds, your center of gravity shifts forward. And then- it’s time for delivery. Either vaginally or via C-section that little (little?!) baby has to get out a small hole to enter the world. And no matter how it happens, it’s traumatic to your body. On top of that, the minute you become a mom, you are needed in a very physical way.
So where does a PT fit into this postpartum picture? I’m glad you asked!
After both a vaginal and C-section delivery, you may have muscular pain, pain along your incision, joint pain, nerve pain, or any myriad of possible other dysfunctions. We can help by using manual techniques and exercises to improve your joint mobility and normalize your soft tissues to reduce your overall pain.
Learning correct body mechanics with all the new baby activities will lessen pain and reduce risk of further injury. You will be nursing, bottle feeding, changing, carrying, lugging car seats, possibly carrying heavier older siblings, in addition to your other regular daily tasks. We can teach you how to do so with less stress to your body, lessening pain and preventing future injury.
Core? What Core?!
Ideally, you start to work your “core” (both abdominal and pelvic floor muscles) immediately after delivery. This will involve both learning how to activate as well as relax these muscles correctly. We can show you how. It can be a frustrating process to get these muscles firing again, but the good news is that once you do, you can strengthen them doing pretty much anything during your day (yea for easy!!). You may have heard in the news lately that in France OBGYNs refer all patients to pelvic floor PT immediately after delivery and it is covered by government healthcare. Oui! Oui! They have it right.
Finding your core now will help prevent future injury. To all those woman many years postpartum that I have treated for hip, low back and knee pain: I wish you had seen a PT for your abdominal and pelvic floor strength and posture soon after having your kids. The healthcare field as a whole needs to make a mental shift to start treating the mothers as well as the babies. Hey you, new mom, that means that you might have to put yourself first once in awhile too.
So find a physical therapist, ideally one who specializes in the treatment of pregnant and postpartum women. At Concierge Physical Therapists, we can see you in your home, so that means not dragging your baby and all the baby accessories along with you. (Woohoo!) No matter who you decide to see, just do it. Trust me, it will be worth it.