Why should you see a Physiotherapist?
Let's start at the very beginning, you might not even be pregnant, but physiotherapy if for more than pregnancy and postnatal aches and pains.
TRYING TO CONCEIVE, is there any benefit to seeing a physiotherapist?
Physical therapists are often known for helping birthing parents during pregnancy and postpartum. But most people do not think to seek one out while they are trying to conceive.
A study published in 2015, examining the efficacy of manual physical therapy for infertility, found that manual physical therapy may provide significant positive outcomes. Researchers found that those in the study experienced 40 to 60 percent success rate in getting pregnant, depending on the underlying cause of infertility. An example could be that a manual physical therapist can help to minimise adhesions, restrictions, and immobility in the body. Gone untreated, these can often cause a ovaries to torsion/twist. This twisting of the ovaries can make it significantly harder for the sperm and egg to drop in where they need to so that they can implant in the uterus. Yeah ... this kinda information blew my mind too when I first learned about it!
Moving on ... you're pregnant!
Yep, let's get down to the nuts and bolts of physiotherapy in pregnancy and postnatal. Even if you are not experiencing any discomfort or issues, prenatal physiotherapy can help prepare your body and train the muscles and supporting tissues for the birthing process.
Aside from serving as a type of physiotherapy treatment for back pain, pre-natal physiotherapy prepares you for labor. Through strengthening of the core and pelvic floor muscles, you can expect a smoother delivery after going through pre-natal physiotherapy.
Most physiotherapists have customised programs specially crafted for birthing parents. This program would be further personalised for each and every birthing parents according to their needs. For example, physiotherapist can incorporate breathing techniques to prepare birthing parents for the actual labour. All in all, you can expect to cope better with changes in the body during pregnancy and be better prepared for labour through pre-natal physiotherapy.
Now the bomb has dropped... you can't turn back now, you've had your baby and your body feels like it's done 10 marathons ... this is when the real work often begins. Here are five things that a specialist physiotherapist can help you with at a postnatal check:
Pelvic floor muscle assessment
The pelvic floor muscles are the muscles that keep our bladder and bowel from leaking, hold in our pelvic organs, support our lower back and pelvis, and help to maintain optimal sexual function. Pretty important stuff, it’s not a muscle group you want to neglect! If you’ve had a vaginal birth, the pelvic floor muscles have stretched up to four times their normal length. Even if you’ve had a caesarean birth research has shown that long term, it’s the pregnancy that is the main risk factor for pelvic floor muscle dysfunction, due to the weight of the growing uterus directly down on the muscles and the hormonal changes that occur.
Abdominal muscle assessment
The presence of a Rectus Abdominis Diastasis (RAD) will be determined, which means whether or not your ‘six-pack muscles’ and the connective tissue in the midline, has returned to normal after being stretched in pregnancy. Did you know that research has shown that natural healing only occurs in the first 8 weeks? If the tissue in the midline isn’t back to being thick and strong by that stage, you will need to do specific exercises to rectify it.
Early diagnosis and management of things like pelvic girdle pain, back pain and wrist pain is essential to stop them becoming chronic problems. Don't underestimate the wrist pain - so many of my clients suffer with this postnatally!
Bladder and bowel function screening
This goes deeper than just the pelvic floor discussion. This is often a whole body and lifestyle approach to things like, fluid intact, bladder and bowel habits, intercourse and nutrition. These may be embarrassing issues to discuss, but it’s so important that someone asks these questions and probes into whether there are any early signs of dysfunction. Prevention is better than cure, and if you can pick up anything at this stage that isn’t quite right, they can help you to put in place a plan to optimise it again before it becomes a bigger issue.
Return to exercise plan and goal setting - Everyone has different postpartum goals regarding return to exercise and activity. Whatever your goals are, it is important to discuss and work out what needs to happen to safely achieve those goals.
Who should you see?
Below is a selection of exceptional Physiotherapists specialising in birthing and postnatal parents.
Ultimately your decision may come down to budget, location and personality, but you won't go far wrong with any of the Physio services highlighted below.
I never wish to scare families with talk about how hard this all is, instead I would much rather empowa you with tips to help start that journey in a positive way, I hope this article has helped a little.
And always remember that I am here if you need me! Specialising in physical and emotional evidence based support in those first few days, weeks and months of having a baby.
All my best wishes