Find out how physical therapy after childbirth can help you recover. A Nuvance Health licensed physical therapist with a focus on women’s health explains.
By Kyla Pollutro, Physical Therapist, Nuvance Health
There are many changes throughout the body — hormonal and physical — that occur throughout pregnancy and postpartum that may leave women with new aches and pains and unsure of how to begin to rehabilitate their “new” bodies. Here are five ways pelvic floor therapy can help women recover after giving birth.
1: Physical therapy for general recovery after childbirth
Women’s health physical therapy can help address common postpartum concerns and injuries while simultaneously teaching women how to safely reach their goals and progress through exercises. After a woman’s body shifts to carry a child, there are specific muscle groups to train that can help improve posture, which ultimately helps decrease pain.
2: Physical therapy for childbirth recovery after having a C-section
After a cesarean incision has healed, physical therapists teach scar management techniques including massage as well as stretches and exercises that improve abdominal tissue flexibility and deep core strengthening. Sometimes the scar might be overly sensitive, which can also be treated with de-sensitization techniques. The sooner you can start physical therapy after the incision has healed — and your doctor clears you — the better. However, scar pain is still worth addressing no matter how long it has been since the C-section.
3: Physical therapy for perineal pain after childbirthA vaginal delivery with a tear or episiotomy may result in pain — painful intercourse and pelvic exams, painful bowel movements, pain with sitting or exercise as well as other symptoms. Physical therapy can help improve painful scar tissue through use of manual therapy, therapeutic ultrasound, exercises and stretches as well as other techniques that the woman can replicate at home.
4: Physical therapy for abdominal wall separation after childbirthDiastasis rectus abdominis is a separation between the outermost layer of the right and left abdominal muscles. This is a common condition during pregnancy and postpartum. Many women may not realize they have this, so it’s good to have your doctor rule this out during your postpartum checkup.
Physical therapy can help improve abdominal wall separation after childbirth by teaching you how to properly engage abdominal muscles and strengthen the entire core system to improve and prevent worsening symptoms. Exercises focus on improving functional core strength, so you can do all the things that are a necessary part of motherhood in a safe and effective way.
5: Physical therapy for pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence after childbirth
Pelvic organ prolapse is a risk for mothers, especially during the year following childbirth. Prolapse can involve the bladder, rectum or uterus. Generally, it indicates decreased support to the pelvic organs resulting in a shift or drop toward the vagina. Symptoms include pelvic pressure and incomplete bowel or bladder emptying.
Stress urinary incontinence is leakage with activities such as sneezing, laughing, coughing, lifting, etc. It is often associated with the presence of a prolapse.
Both incontinence and prolapse can be addressed via physical therapy. There are many treatment strategies that can help improve the prolapse such as pelvic floor strengthening, bladder retraining, learning proper body mechanics and treating constipation.
The bottom line: If you are struggling with pelvic health issues, the first step is to discuss them with your primary care or OB-GYN. They may refer you to a women’s health physical therapist, who will come up with an individualized treatment plan. You don’t have to deal with pain or issues permanently — pelvic floor therapy may be your solution.