Pregnancy and Physical Therapy

"If your primary doctor or OB/GYN is not discussing your pelvic health, then bring it up."

pregnant physical therapyPhysical therapists have a much bigger role in treating pregnant and postpartum women than many people, including healthcare practitioners, may know. Physical therapists in general have a responsibility to assist women with returning to physical activity following childbirth. Yet, therapists who are certified in women’s health, have a greater role and capability in helping women address some of the common conditions and symptoms that arise during pregnancy and in the postpartum stage.

Did you know...
In other countries, including Sweden, France, and Australia, physical therapy in the postpartum stage is common and highly encouraged by OB/GYNs. This type of practice is not as common in the United States.

Let’s think about our own experiences or that of our loved one
“Has your doctor ever talked to you about your pelvic floor?” “Were you told to return to physical activity after your six-week check-up?” “Have you ever been given a paper with instructions for Kegels and sent on your way?” If your primary doctor or OB/GYN is not discussing your pelvic health, then bring it up. If you have experienced any recent changes with your bowel or bladder, a through discussion with a healthcare professional is necessary.

There are many myths that we accept in our society that are simply false. Here are the facts.

  1.  Involuntary loss of urine is abnormal and not a part of normal aging. The same is true for women who have not experienced childbirth. 
  2.  If you are ready to return to exercise, consult with a physical therapist first. Physical therapists are movement specialists and they are one of the most equipped healthcare providers to help you make this transition safely.
  3.  Kegels are not a one-size-fits-all exercise. If you are experiencing pelvic pain, you should NOT be performing Kegels. A certified therapist can help you determine when to start Kegels and the appropriate frequency & duration to use for your specific needs.

Physical therapy can treat the following conditions and symptoms:

  • Musculoskeletal Pain (i.e. neck, back or hip pain)
  • Diastases Recti (separation of the rectus abdominis muscles)
  • Pelvic Organ Prolapse (uterus, bladder, and rectal decent into the vaginal canal)
  • Pelvic/Vulva Pain
  • Urinary or Fecal Incontinence;
  • Constipation Symptoms
  • Difficulty with returning to recreational and functional activities (including sexual intercourse, exercising, and children duties).

As these conditions and symptoms may negatively affect a woman’s quality of life, seeking prompt treatment is imperative. This topic and many others related to women’s health are important and need to be discussed more frequently and openly. Besides weight loss, women in the postpartum stage benefit from physical activity, because it improves cardiovascular fitness and psychological well-being (i.e. decreased anxiety and depression). Specific to pelvic health, pelvic floor exercises can decrease the possibility of developing urinary stress incontinence. If any of the aforementioned conditions & symptoms are already present, the certified therapist is highly skilled in addressing them.

According to WHO, there is an estimated 211 million pregnancies per year. If even 5% of those women experience any of the previously mentioned symptoms, the value of skilled physical therapy is well underestimated.

You can help.
Please assist Mettler Center with increasing the awareness for physical therapy during pregnancy and in the postpartum stage by sharing this blog with a friend, family member, and/or healthcare provider. 

Mettler Center offers free consultations to speak with physical therapists, including a certified women’s health physical therapist.

Jasmine Evans PT, DPT is a licensed physical therapist at Mettler Center. Experiencing pelvic pain or issues with your pelvic floor muscles? Ask an Expert. Call 217-398-9800 to schedule a free 30-minute consultation with a physical therapist or request an appointment online.