In the stress of pregnancy, the fog of fatigue and the recovery from birth, new moms put their bodies through extreme change in a short period of time. If you're struggling to feel like your old self after delivering your baby, you should consider going to physical therapy. Physical therapy is not part of mainstream treatments for postpartum ailments, but it can make a big difference in your recovery. Here are some specific and common postpartum issues that therapy can help you with.
1. Diastasis Recti
This abdominal separation is common in pregnant women, and can continue after delivery. Instead of your abdominal muscles working together to hold in your organs, they are split, and only connective tissue is left to keep everything back. You have little core strength and things like lifting your children or doing strenuous exercise become difficult. It's difficult to heal diastasis recti on your own, and if you do it incorrectly, you can actually make the problem worse. A physical therapist can help you to learn the right exercises to help repair the damage and coach you through proper form to make sure you are helping instead of hurting.
During pregnancy, the muscles in your pelvic floor are stretched to the limit. Your doctor might have mentioned doing kegels to help preserve the muscles' strength and prepare you for the stress of labor. However, many women find that their pelvic muscles are weak after giving birth, and they have difficulty with bladder or even bowel control. Many women still struggle with incontinence even eight weeks (the typical recovery time) after delivery. Coaching from a physical therapist will help to regain the strength you need in your pelvic floor to help improve bladder and bowel issues. It is especially important to address the problem if you are hoping to have more children -- a weakened pelvic floor will only get worse with more pregnancies, and taking the time to recover between them will help reduce the chance of long-term damage.
3. Back pain
You spend almost all of your time gestating with an exaggerated S-curve in the spine to compensate for the added weight in your belly. Pregnant women complain of back pain often during pregnancy, but after delivery you can be dismayed to discover it hasn't gone away. Often, a simple chiropractic adjustment can help, but some women need several sessions of physical therapy to strengthen their muscles and reduce pain.
Because back pain can come from different sources, it's important to see a physical therapist to find out the source, which will then direct the treatment. For example, some women get sciatica during pregnancy, and need help relieving pressure on the sacroiliac joint and sciatic nerve. Others have pelvic misalignment from a hard labor. Getting to the root of the problem will let you know what stretches, exercises, and positions you can try for long-lasting relief.
4. Post-surgical care.
Most surgeons recommend physical therapy after major surgery, but many mothers who receive C-sections are expected to recover without much direction on what is best. Besides wearing a support belt and keeping the incision clean, some women may be at a loss on how to live pain free after this major abdominal surgery. If you are experiencing abdominal pain, reduced range of motion, or even scar tissue adhesion, it's best to see a physical therapist to help you get back on the path of correct recovery -- especially if you are having trouble living an active lifestyle or taking care of your baby because you have not recovered your core strength.
For more information on physical therapy for your postpartum care, talk to your doctor about your specific needs and get a referral to a great therapist in your area.