Why Should I See a Physical Therapist after Having a Baby?

Jamie Justice, physical therapist, physical therapy, dekalb, IL
Jamie Justice, PT, WCS

Creative Therapeutics-DPT continues to be a place for postpartum mothers to discover the best ways to take care of themselves. Getting feedback from new moms about what we provide drives our passion for educating and helping women recover and get back to their old selves after birth. Moms often wish they had learned the information we offer during a previous birth, and it makes them start to pay more attention to the care they give themselves with pregnancies thereafter.

Visiting your physical therapist after giving birth is not typically on someone’s list as one of their routine check-ups. However, doctors are beginning to recommend these visits as part of “fourth trimester” care. It just makes sense: you’ve just gone through ten months of your body changing, leading up to the birth, during which one of two scenarios occurred–your pelvic floor, connective tissue, ligaments and nerves have been stretched beyond belief to deliver your bundle of joy; or you now have scar tissue and further abdominal wall weakness from a major abdominal surgery. In either scenario, a physical therapist is someone who is an expert in healing these after-effects.  Some lucky women will recover within weeks and only notice minor changes in the way they function.  Bladder and bowel function may be just fine, you may return to intimacy without a problem, and perhaps just experience the occasional back ache.

Even with this optimal scenario, there are still underlying effects from the pregnancy. Your body has become used to moving the way it needed to with the extra weight of pregnancy, and with that weight displaced much differently. You’ve been overly-dependent on certain muscles as others become underused, and those areas aren’t going to just return to normal like turning on a switch. The pelvic floor is weak, the deep abdominal muscles are weak, and your body is going to want to compensate. Eager to lose any extra pounds, some women return to exercise too soon or too vigorously only to find themselves pulling their neck, back or other muscles and having a new pain.

A physical therapist is really an expert at looking at these muscle imbalances and teaching you how to get those very deep core muscles stronger again, including the pelvic floor, so you can build a much more solid base from which to move when you do return to exercise. Really getting your core back correctly after birth can minimize years of pain and correct other compensations to which your body may adapted.

Some women might develop symptoms or dysfunction they didn’t have before. Leakage with coughing and sneezing, not being able to control the urge to urinate like they did before, pain with intercourse, or pain and pressure in the pelvis. These patients may be more obvious candidates for physical therapy. The effects of giving birth mentioned earlier can be contributing to all of these symptoms. Vaginal tearing might be a factor and create pain with intercourse at times. A mother doesn’t need to simply put up with these symptoms just because she had a baby and “that’s what happens!” Rather, she should remember to take care of her body in that first year and really correct these issues before they become chronic.

Women’s health is one of our specialties here at Creative Therapeutics-DPT. We treat pregnant and postpartum women all the time. If you have any issues with which we can help, call us to schedule a free consultation: 815-758-5508.

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