Prenatal Physical Therapy

Physical Therapy and Pregnancy...

(& Why Expectant Mother's Should Do Them Together)

Pregnancy is the miracle of life. Unfortunately, that miracle does offer some unenviable side-effects in the form of low back pain, general soreness, and pelvic discomfort for the mother. (All of which, by the by, are frequently present during both prenatal carrying and postpartum delivery).  An underutilized, sometimes all together missed, yet highly effective source for pain management, physical therapy offers myriad opportunities for pain relief, muscle strengthening, and postural rebalancing.

Let’s break this down:

Here’s a snap-shot of what happens to a woman’s body as she advances in her pregnancy:

1. As the baby grows, the mother gains weight (primarily in the stomach).

2. As the mother gains weight, she re-balances her posture to compensate for the added pressure placed on her body. There is also a lot of extra strain and weight placed on the pelvic floor (where the baby lives during pregnancy) as muscles are continuously stretched, pinched, and pulled unnaturally.

3. All this re-posturing and re-aligning takes its toll on the body—joints, tissues, muscles can’t perform at top level because they’ve shifted into irregular positions. 

4. …. As such, they’re weaker, more susceptible to stiffness, soreness… This tension is most commonly felt in the lower back, neck, shoulders and pelvic floor muscles. 

As you can see, this creates something of a domino effect pretty quickly.

So—what can Physical Therapy do to correct this? Exercises, coached along by a professional physical therapist (PT) can help target common ailments associated with prenatal pregnancy such as:

  • Low Back Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Breast soreness
  • Dizziness
  • Leg cramps
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling
  • Instability

 

Okay—but how will they address these issues (and more)?:

  • Through core stability exercises—including hip, spine, and pelvic floor strengthening
  • Support via belts, back braces, girdles
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Manual therapy
  • Education on what to expect throughout the pregnancy as baby continues to grow and shift.                 *As well as that, PT’s can help make sure that both mom and baby stay healthy by guiding them on the correct way to perform exercises, the number of repetitions, frequency, and length of workouts; and by keeping them informed on what activities to avoid.                                  *Also, PT’s can offer postural education for the future, once baby is born—e.g. how to properly lift, hold, and carry baby; how to change diapers without straining the body; how to correctly maneuver car seats, etc.  

 

But physical therapy isn’t just about treating those immediate symptoms. PT’s can help soon-to-be mother’s prepare their bodies for the rigorous process of labor, as well. This is a proactive form of therapy. Exercises would focus on opening the pelvis, loosening the hips, and priming the body against the onslaught of fatigue and tension inherent when delivering a baby. (Side tip: these exercises have an even further reach. By doing these workouts ahead of time, the body is continuously toning and building muscles, improving metabolism—all of which will help mom get back to pre-pregnancy weight more quickly and healthily.)

So—if you’re pregnant and struggling with acute pain in your neck, shoulders, lower back, or pelvic floor region, consult your physical therapist. Relief can come as quickly as that first appointment.

*And, stay tuned: in our next segment, we’ll discuss why new mom’s should seriously consider physical therapy directly after giving birth; the many benefits associated with post-partum therapeutic exercise just may surprise you.