It's no secret that pregnancy can have a number of negative and long-lasting effects on a woman's body. Many women simply assume that lower back pain or injuries, urinary incontinence, reduced strength and flexibility and a weakened pelvic floor are all simply part of pregnancy and post-partum experience. But they don't necessarily need to be.
A physiotherapy program can be customized to help new mothers 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), as well as 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. When a woman is pregnant, manual therapy can be used to alleviate lower back and hip pain associated with bearing 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 must bear a lot of extra weight throughout pregnancy. Not only that, but hormones released throughout your body in the days and weeks before 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 they may have to contend with reduced bowel movement control for a period of time after their pregnancy. This often expresses itself as urinary incontinence for a few months, but in more severe cases and if left untreated, it can mean lifelong urinary incontinence or even damage a partial loss of control to the anal sphincter as well.
Our physiotherapists can recommend a wide range of exercises to help you recover the health and strength of your pelvic floor and prevent future pain and injuries as well as regain control over your bodily functions. While kegels are often suggested as a good option for doing this, it's important that you consult a physiotherapist before undertaking any pelvic floor exercises when recovering from pregnancy (and otherwise). Kegels are only one of many different exercises that can help you recover (depending on your unique case), and may even make your health issues worse if you aren't doing them properly.
Postnatal Yoga and Pilates
Exercises offered by yoga practices specifically targeted at new mothers can 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 any kind of strenuous activity—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 can help encourage good circulation, relax muscles and promote healing and recovery from the pregnancy process. In addition, acupuncture offered by our Manotick 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 you 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.