A Physical Therapist’s Perspective: By Therapydia
Pregnancy is a time of wellness accompanied by tremendous musculoskeletal, physiological and emotional change. Many expecting moms experience these physical changes along with pain and discomfort but these feelings can actually be reduced by training and preparing certain muscle groups for pregnancy. The idea is to combat the strain that is placed on the areas of the body carrying the weight of the growing baby by maintaining and improving muscular support and strength along the way.
Many of the physical changes that come along with pregnancy are temporary but unfortunately, some issues don’t resolve immediately after you give birth. Conditions like diastasis recti (ab separation) occur in ⅔ of women post-pregnancy and can interfere with the way that your core muscles work together, potentially leading to more serious issues down the line. Symptoms like low back pain, sacroiliac pain, hip pain, stress incontinence and prolapse, can occur as a result. To understand how the body changes and reacts during pregnancy, it’s important to know what’s really going on with the pelvic floor.
How is the pelvic floor affected by pregnancy?
As your baby grows, the pelvic floor muscles descend and stretch, becoming strained. As the weight of the baby increases and the uterus becomes heavier, increased pressure is placed on the supporting muscles and ligaments of the pelvic floor. The growing baby causes your center of gravity to be pushed forward, actually tilting your pelvis and creating an extra-large curvature in your lower back and increasing the likelihood of lower back pain.
At the same time, hormone changes cause tendons and ligaments throughout your body to become more elastic, allowing for greater stretch to occur across your joints. This can be a good thing because it allows your body to accommodate for the growing baby. However, the increased elasticity leads to a greater need for your body to rely on muscular support and stability within the pelvis. These muscles become weakened because of the stretching in the abdomen and pelvic floor as well as the fact that they’re not being used regularly.
Quick tips to remember:
-Stretching in the abdomen and pelvic floor can result in weakened muscles.
-Muscles that aren’t used regularly become weak so make sure to keep them active!
Know that a Caesarean section can still cause issues with the pelvic floor post-pregnancy:
There’s a myth floating around the pregnancy world that women who have a C-section are able to prevent damage to the pelvic floor. This is unfortunately untrue. A C-section can actually result in morerecovery time from an abdominal perspective. Much of the changes to the pelvic muscles occur during pregnancy, not only during the birthing process. During a C-section, the corset layer of your muscle wall is cut into, so you experience the same stretching as anyone else during pregnancy, with less protection from the scarring and cutting.
Tips for what you can do during pregnancy to keep the pelvic floor strong and active:
- Educate yourself on how your body is going to change and react. This knowledge is key to preventing physical discomfort and pain during your pregnancy. Strengthening specific areas can lead to a smoother pregnancy, birth, and postpartum recovery by combatting any musculoskeletal imbalances.
- Work with a physical therapist or personal trainer to find the best exercises for you. Core exercises, diaphragmatic exercises and other movements can help to mobilize your pregnancy muscles. Examples include: Clamshells, Quadruped Multifidus Activation, etc.
- Think about your pregnancy exercises like you would “pre-hab.” People who require surgery work on exercising and strengthening certain areas of the body prior to surgery to make sure that once they enter the recovery stage, it is as simple and efficient as possible. Making sure your pelvic and abdominal muscles and tissues are operating properly can help you restore the foundation of your body quickly so you can enjoy motherhood as healthy as ever.
- Remember that pelvic floor treatment is very individualized. Kegels exercises are common during pregnancy but not every expecting mom should be doing Kegels as it can actually cause more pain and discomfort. Work with a medical professional to find out the best course of action for you to make your pre and postpartum process as smooth as a baby’s bottom!
Bonus stat:25% of women in the United States live with one or more disorders of the pelvic floor. Many aren’t aware that there are solutions to these problems!
Therapydia is a national network of physical therapy and wellness clinics that emphasize longer, one-on-one treatments with a physical therapist. Therapydia clinics take a special interest in Women’s Health Physical Therapy, specifically providing services for pre and postpartum women.
Learn more at www.Therapydia.com
For more videos, visit https://www.YouTube.com/Therapydia