Pregnancy is an exciting period of time that comes with lots of changes to your body. As your baby grows, there are so many noticeable changes that connect you to your growing baby. Your baby bump starts to pop and grow, and eventually, you’ll start to feel your baby kick. With these changes, however, you may also be experiencing some not-so-exciting symptoms.
What body changes happen with pregnancy?
As your baby bump grows beyond your natural frame, your abdominal muscles elongate and your rib cage allows for more room to accommodate. These changes shift the dynamics of how you breathe and how your core muscles — such as your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles — function.
Your pelvic organs and digestive organs accommodate a growing baby by changing positions, which affects how these organs function.
Changes in the abdominal and pelvic organs can lead to a host of unexpected symptoms, for example:
- low back pain
- pelvic girdle pain
- hip pain
- rib pain
- shortness of breath
- increased frequency of urination
- incontinence (leaking urine) on the way to the bathroom; or when coughing, sneezing, squatting, jumping, or running
- vaginal heaviness
- pain during intercourse
- “lightning” crotch pain
What is prenatal physiotherapy?
Prenatal physiotherapy supports a pregnant person’s body during pregnancy, before baby’s birth. The focus of prenatal physiotherapy is:
1. To maintain a strong core and normal breathing mechanics
Strong core muscles and normal breathing mechanics are supported when physiotherapists assess:
- how you are holding your rib cage and pelvic when you stand, sit, and move
- what your breathing pattern is
- how you activate your core muscles for stability
Together, you and your physiotherapist will work together on rib and hip mobility in addition to abdominal muscle mobility and strength. We will optimize your breathing pattern and ensure you know how to activate your core muscles.
2. To prepare your pelvic floor for labour and delivery
Kegels aren’t appropriate for everyone. Pelvic health physiotherapists can assess your pelvic floor to learn whether your pelvic floor muscles are in a state of tension, whether you are able to relax them, and whether or not you need to be practicing Kegels.
Relaxing and lengthening your pelvic floor muscles is a key function for labour and delivery. Your pelvic health physiotherapist should work on your ability to consciously relax and lengthen your pelvic floor, in addition to treating any tension that exists in the area. Finally, prenatal physiotherapy involves improving the mobility of your perineal membrane, another layer of tissue in the area, which also needs to lengthen and open during labour and delivery.
3. To teach you positions, pain management, and pushing strategies for labour and delivery
Finally, prenatal physiotherapy involves preparing you, not just your muscles, for labour and delivery. Guided by your physiotherapist, you will learn certain positions that support pain management in addition to learning how to push during labour and delivery.
What is postpartum physiotherapy?
Postpartum physiotherapy supports an individual’s body after pregnancy, or after giving birth. During the postpartum period, many of the symptoms experienced during pregnancy may still persist. In addition, the postpartum body may also experience:
- painful perineal scar
- painful and immobile C-section scar
- pelvic organ prolapse (vaginal, uterine, or rectal prolapse)
- diastasis recti, also known as “mommy pooch” or “mommy tummy”
The focus of postpartum physiotherapy is:
1. To regain a strong core and normal breathing mechanics
In the postpartum phase, your physiotherapist will work with you to ensure that the position of your rib cage and pelvic return to neutral, that your breathing mechanics return to a normal pattern, and that you are able to activate your core muscles in a balanced and coordinated way, without overcompensating muscles that might cause further pain or dysfunction.
2. To regain a strong pelvic floor
Pelvic health physiotherapists will also re-assess how your pelvic floor muscles have responded to labour and delivery and ensure that you regain the full strength and function of y our pelvic floor muscles.
3. To support C-section and perineal scar healing
Births may result in either a C-section scar, perineal tearing or scarring, or pelvic trauma in general. There are many techniques that your pelvic health physiotherapist can use to support healing and improve the mobility of C-section and perineal scars, to prevent future pain and restrictions in the tissue.
Overall, the goal of prenatal and postpartum physiotherapy is to ensure that you have:
- a healthy and strong pregnancy
- a smooth labour and delivery; and
- a full recovery
in order to return to all the daily activities that you love, pain- and restriction-free, with your new baby.
If you’re ready to get started, our pelvic health physiotherapist accepts patients in the Bolton, Caledon, and Peel regions.