Why every new mom should get physical therapy

Melissa L McElroy, PT, DPT, WCS

APRIL 2, 2017

When thinking of physical therapy, most of us get the image of a somewhat physically fit person in khakis and a polo taking you through movements, performing joint mobilizations and instructing in exercises in a clinical gym type setting. For those in the medical community the image is the same. When you injure your shoulder, have knee surgery or your child has sprained his ankle playing basketball, physical therapy is a standard of care. With these types of "events", physical therapy seems to be straight-forward and very rarely questioned. We accept physical therapy as a standard practice, and rightfully so.

Now, let’s say you had a prolonged and progressive "event" occur. Maybe this "event" lasted for, oh, maybe 40 weeks. Your body has been able to adapt in one way or another, maybe it required some sort of medical intervention during, but suddenly a major event occurs and your system changes completely. Of course, you, and all those around you were expecting this event to occur, and I’m sure you’re happy that it did! But this event, as wonderful as welcoming your new little baby into this world is, is still a trauma to your system. The science of the matter is that you had a drastic change in weight and metabolic processes, as well as a shifting of body mass that your body had many, many months to adapt to and suddenly, in the matter of hours (or days) this changed dramatically.

This leads me to these questions: If physical therapy is considered a standard of care with other musculoskeletal injuries, then why wouldn’t it be in the postpartum? Why doesn’t every new mom get physical therapy??

These are the facts:

  • 65% of new moms experience stress urinary incontinence in the postpartum period.
  • Over 66% of women have diastasis rectus abdominis after pregnancy.
  • 20% of first-time moms show significant pelvic floor muscle injury after a normal/uncomplicated pregnancy/delivery.
  • 25% of women with pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy remain in pain after delivery

Every new mom should get physical therapy.

Incontinence (leakage), diastasis, pain with intercourse or tampon use, pelvic pain, low back pain, muscle weakness: All are typical in the postpartum, but does that mean that they shouldn’t be addressed? Does that mean we accept that since we had a baby, we will always deal with these issues?? I don’t think so. These are all indications that the system isn’t working optimally. These symptoms are our body’s way of asking for help.

Every new mom should get physical therapy.

We all experience pregnancy differently. There are those who have that "glow", feel great and genuinely love being pregnant. There are those who sweat, ache, and feel that their body has been taken hostage for 40+ weeks, and there are those that fluctuate between. Considering this, we also need to remember that we all experience the postpartum period and postpartum recovery differently. We accept that after we have a baby that we might leak a little when we cough (or heaven forbid that we ever want to jump on the trampoline with our kids when they get older), and because we accept this as normal, society does as well. Let me be very clear, THIS IS NOT NORMAL and it does not have to continue.

Every new mom should get physical therapy.

Our bodies have been through a lot. Your body doesn’t magically return to its pre-pregnancy state at that 6 week postpartum mark (and it shouldn’t be expected to). Some muscles aren’t even sure what to do anymore. We could be dealing with scar tissue, muscle weakness, poor muscle recruitment patterns and/or an inability to properly control intra-abdominal pressures. "Just do your kegels" is not physical therapy. Sometimes just doing your kegels will help, but sometimes it will make things worse. How do you know if it will help or hurt? What else could be done to help? Go see a pelvic physical therapist, more commonly known as a Women’s Health Physical Therapist. If you are questioning if there’s anything that can be done to help, CONTACT a Women’s Health Physical Therapist!

Every new mom should get physical therapy.

As a Board certified Women’s Health Specialist AND a mom, I understand. Every day, I work with new moms, moms-to-be, and moms whose babies are now adults. All who have questions or concerns about what’s "normal". Many have just resigned themselves to the fact that, "these things happen because I’ve had a baby" and that physical therapy couldn’t possibly help. Let me say this in the nicest way possible: You are wrong. Physical therapy, administered by a Women’s Health Physical Therapist, can help coach, guide and facilitate proper control of muscles, assist in alignment and stability through the joints, release muscle and connective tissue restrictions and get you back to doing those activities you want to do!

If you would like more information on how physical therapy could help you, please click here or contact Dunn Physical Therapy directly at 502-425-1716.

We accept most major insurances in the Louisville area including Medicare and Passport.