Mind & Body
Post-Partum Physical Therapy – Reclaim your Body after Pregnancy
11/1/2019 11:00:00 AM
Post Part

Pregnancy can be a wonderful experience for some, and for others it can be a long, drawn out, difficult process. Whatever your pregnancy was like, most mothers will agree that after nine months of expecting a baby, you’re ready to be yourself again and jump back into "normal life.” But what happens if your body doesn’t feel quite right? You may notice things are happening "down there” that haven't happened before and you may feel frustrated because you thought everything would return to "normal,” especially after being released from your doctor. 

 

This is a common situation many women find themselves in after having a baby and it’s to be expected. Babies are, after all, beautiful, brand new — angelic, even. But bringing them into this world is hard work, sometimes requiring major surgery, and mothers need just as much attention after the birthing process as during. No matter how you had your baby – whether a vaginal or cesarean birth – many changes happened in your body while your tiny human grew in utero. Your muscles, skin, fascia, and organs all stretched out while you were pregnant and may have experienced trauma during delivery. To expect you’ll be back to "normal” or ready to hit the gym soon after birth like you did prior to pregnancy is a bit unrealistic. 


When we think of giving birth as the life-changing event that it is, we can begin to understand why some women struggle with signs of pelvic floor weakness and other post-partum problems. Pelvic floor weakness is not limited to only those who gave birth vaginally. If you had a C-Section, you were still pregnant for nine months and had pressure on your pelvic floor from your baby. 

 

Below is a list of some common post-partum pelvic floor issues: 


Prolapse takes place when the pelvic organs protrude or fall into the vaginal canal. This can happen to any of the organs in the pelvic cavity, but the most common are the bladder, uterus, and rectum. If you feel pressure in your pelvis or see/feel a bulge in your vagina, you may be experiencing a prolapse, which can occur during the pushing phase of delivery or from the extra pressure of the baby during pregnancy. 

 

Diastasis Recti means the rectus abdominis muscles (six-pack muscles) in your abdomen have separated during pregnancy, leaving a gap that may make your belly pooch out. Many women who have this feel like they still "look” pregnant months or years following pregnancy. 

Difficulties with sexual intercourse include pain with sex, an inability to achieve orgasm, or decreased sensation "down there.” These are all signs and symptoms of pelvic floor trauma either during pregnancy or during delivery. Women who have tearing or an episiotomy during delivery may be more prone to have these symptoms.  

Urinary Incontinence is a common complaint from women who have given birth. There are two types of urinary incontinence: stress and urge. Stress incontinence is when you experience urinary leaking when you cough, laugh, sneeze, or exercise. Urge incontinence is when you feel a sudden urge to urinate and may or may not be able to make it to the bathroom on time. 

Muscle/Joint Pain in your upper and lower back is common following pregnancy, especially if you have returned to doing strenuous activities too early. Many of the physical changes in your body that can cause lower back pain during pregnancy may also contribute to an achy back following pregnancy. During pregnancy your expanding uterus stretched and weakened your abdominal muscles and altered your posture, putting strain on your back. Extra weight during (and after) pregnancy can cause more work for your muscles and increased stress on your joints. Hormonal changes are also occurring during pregnancy that cause your joints and ligaments to loosen. Unfortunately, all these changes don't necessarily go away as soon as you give birth.

Once you are postpartum, you are always postpartum and may continue to experience these symptoms. However, there is hope. Post-partum rehabilitation, a type of physical therapy, can help improve your pelvic floor and core function. Everyone has a different birth story with their own experiences, therefore therapy may look different for each person, but the overall goal of rehabilitation following childbirth is to help you return to the activities you love without the need for surgery or medications and to help you regain confidence in your body!


Katherine Prevost is a physical therapist and co-owner of Thrive Physical Therapy at 4150 Nelson Rd., Lake Charles. For more information or to make an appointment, call 337-990-5621.

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