By Dr. Jessica Warnecke, PT, DPT, OCS
Globally, it is estimated that over half of all mothers have some level of prolapse post baby, with up to 20% having symptoms limiting daily life. While moms attend months of classes learning how to care for their newborn child, schedule an average of 8 MD visits for their baby in the first year, and only have ONE planned visit for themselves, it's no wonder that mothers don't get properly educated on how to care for THEIR healing body.
Congratulations! You made it through your pregnancy! But this journey is just beginning for you and your now growing family. Your postpartum period has officially begun. This period begins after the delivery of your baby and lasts...forever! While most moms are cleared to begin light exercise and sexual activity after 6 weeks, often times the body needs a good 6-12 months to start feeling like it's prior self. You have just gone through one of life’s biggest demands, both physically and emotionally. Being a new mom, you may be focusing all on the health of your newborn, but it is just as important during this time to properly recover yourself!
One very important aspect to recovery time involves rest. Your sleeping cycle will obviously change dramatically with the addition of your newborn. It is important to make the most of every chance you have to rest. Let someone else take care of the “not so important” responsibilities you have, giving you more time to recover from this major stress your body just went through.
In addition to rest, it is important to maintain a healthy diet and good nutrition during your postpartum period. The weight you gained during your pregnancy helps build stores for your recovery and breastfeeding. After you deliver your baby, it is important to keep your diet healthy and balanced so you can be active and provide for your child. Don’t forget or neglect to eat because you are tired or too busy. The food you eat helps provide for both you and your baby’s nutrition. In the same sense, try to stay away from extreme dieting and rapid weight loss. Trying to lose your pregnancy weight too fast can harm you and your baby if you’re breastfeeding. Maintain a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, balanced with proteins and carbohydrates.
Finally, one aspect that is often overlooked during recovery time is the importance of physical therapy. Pelvic-perineal dysfunctions are the most common issues women experience after pregnancy. An estimated 35 percent of new moms experience urinary incontinence, and about 20 percent of first-time mothers experience severe pelvic floor muscle injury after a normal pregnancy.
Pelvic floor issues can still arise after a c-section as well. This is a major surgery that often times does not receive proper rehab. You would never skip physical therapy after a knee or shoulder surgery, and the same goes for after a c-section; however, the rehab process for this surgery often gets unfortunately overlooked. Your body was just put through one of its highest demands in life, and it is important to follow proper rehab processes to help with recovery.
During the early postpartum period, fluctuating hormone levels as well as physical changes from delivery can result in musculoskeletal concerns such as excessive joint mobility, potential muscle imbalances, weakness of the core stabilizers, and altered functional movement patterns. Physical therapy addresses spinal and pelvic joint dysfunction, movement mechanics needed to care for yourself and your child, as well as provides exercises to address tightness, weakness and imbalances.
Here are just a few treatment options physical therapy provides to help with postpartum recovery:
If you are a mom still working towards fully healing your body (overcoming incontinence or prolapse, reducing diastasis recti, or getting back into exercise) OR if you know of someone still struggling, I highly recommend taking a look at our new online postpartum program. While seeing every mother, in person, in PT would be ideal, we understand that the way our current healthcare system works as well as limited time makes this challenging. This course was created specifically for those who have given birth, but haven't been able to attend physical therapy or who don't feel like their full strength has been regained. It's designed for you to do in the comfort of your own home at your own pace in order to fully heal! You can click on the button below to learn more!
During this new stage of your life, it is important to stay healthy and fully recover! Having a healthy diet and getting as much sleep as possible with your newborn are vital aspects to your healing, but don’t overlook the importance of healing your physical body from within and getting safely back to your prior self. Every mother is different, along with every childbirth. You cannot be the best mom if you don't prioritize YOUR health!
1. Gyhagen M, Bullarbo M. Nielsen T, et al. Prevalence and risk factors for pelvic organ prolapse 20 years after childbirth: A national cohort study in singleton primiparae after vaginal or caesarean delivery. BJOG. 2012. DOI: 10.1111/1471-0528.12020.
2. Information and Treatment for Postpartum Pelvic Floor Issues. Retrieved from https://www.lifespan.org/centers-services/pelvic-floor-disorders/conditions-we-treat/information-and-treatment-postpartum
3. Pregnancy/Postpartum Care. (2016, December 05). Retrieved from https://www.atipt.com/pregnancypostpartum-care
4. The New Mother: Taking Care of Yourself After Birth. Retrieved from https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=the-new-mother---taking-care-of-yourself-after-birth-90-P02693
Meet Your Therapist
Jessica has been in Austin, TX for the past four years. She grew up in Idaho and attended PT school at Idaho State University. She completed an Orthopaedic Residency and became a Board Certified Orthopaedic Clinical Specialist in 2016.