Women's Health

5 benefits of physical therapy after childbirth

A woman jumps on a trampoline with two young children


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. Nuvance Health Physical Therapist Kyla Pollutro shares five ways pelvic floor therapy, her specialty, can help women recover after giving birth. 

General recovery 

There isn’t much guidance for how to get back to your prior level of physical activity (if that’s your goal). Women’s health physical therapy can help address common postpartum 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. 

C-section recovery

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 are cleared by the doctor — the better. However, scar pain is still worth addressing no matter how long it has been since the C-section. 

Perineal pain

A 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. 

Abdominal wall separation

Diastasis 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 this condition by teaching you how to properly engage abdominal muscles and strengthen the entire core system to improve and prevent worsening symptoms. Exercises are geared toward improving functional core strength, so you can do all the things that are a necessary part of motherhood in a safe and effective way. 

Pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence

Pelvic organ prolapse in 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. 

Learn more about Physical Therapy at Nuvance Health.

Learn more about Women’s Health at Nuvance Health.