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Integrative Family Health Clinic in Bolton and the Greater Caledon Area
4-22 Simona Drive
Bolton, ON
Physiotherapy for pregnancy and postpartum Wildflower health and wellness clinic

Supporting Changing Bodies: Physiotherapy for Pregnancy and Postpartum

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
  • constipation
  • 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
organ changes during pregnancy
Source: Pearson Education

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.

Summary

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.

Preparation for a Healthy Pregnancy: A Naturopathic Perspective

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When working with women at Wildflower Health and Wellness, many women, young and mature, inevitably ask about at the naturopathic perspective on what a healthy pregnancy looks like. Long before the sperm meets the egg, the underlying health of the woman’s body (and the man’s) determines the health of the pregnancy. Realistically, it’s never too early to start planning for pregnancy, as a healthy pregnancy relies on the optimal health of moms- and dads-to-be. It is also something to consider as half of all pregnancies are not planned and baseline health becomes quite important.

An astounding fact that women don’t realize is that once they are pregnant, they are not only carrying their son/daughter but they are also carrying their potential grandchild.

Every baby girl is born with the eggs for their lifetime.

Imagine the impact of your health choices as you are pregnant on what we call generational health.

A healthy pregnancy aims to prevent childhood illnesses such as asthma, allergies, eczema, and autoimmune disease by improving the health of mothers-to-be.

Laboratory Testing

At the very least the following should be tested:

  • Vitamin D – mother’s levels have been correlated with outcomes of many chronic diseases
  • Complete blood count – looks at the health of your red and white blood cells
  • HbA1c – looks at the your blood sugar levels over the past 3 months
  • Ferritin – looks at your iron storage reserves
  • Vitamin B12

These markers should be tested by either your medical doctor or naturopathic doctor. Obviously there are many other tests that are important, such as STI testing, Hepatitis B and C, etc. Not surprisingly, these are typical blood tests that are run at the doctor’s office when going for an annual check-up.

Absolutely Essential Nutrients

For a healthy pregnancy these are the essential nutrients to consider:

  • Iron
  • Methylfolate (bioactive folate)
  • Methylcobalamin (bioactive vitamin B12)

It is also important that it have as many active forms of the nutrients as possible to give your body the best chance to absorb the vital nutrients.  

These nutrients protect the baby from neural tube defects, miscarriages, and ensures proper growth and development. They are also commonly found in good quantities in prenatal formulas..

Other Very Important Nutrients

From a naturopathic perspective, there some additional nutrients that is of great importance when it comes to maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Those being vitamin D, Omega-3 fats, probiotics and magnesium. The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) longer covers vitamin D testing for the average person. Research by Health Canada suggests that there is a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canadians and that supplementation does improve levels. Health Canada has also fortified some of our foods such as milk and dairy products with vitamin D, however,  many women experience the ill-effects of dairy consumption either digestively or hormonally.

Omega-3 fats are another essential nutrient that is needed in preparation of pregnancy. Most people are not eating fatty fish three times weekly, and as such, supplementation becomes important. For vegetarians or vegans, there are good quality, plant-based Omega-3s available.

With the declining quality of our agricultural soil, our foods do not contain magnesium as they once did. As a result, even with eating a healthy diet it is common for the average Canadian to be magnesium deficient.

Probiotics have a growing role in our health as more and more studies come out. They are important when preventing childhood illnesses of asthma, allergies, eczema and autoimmune disease.

The reason I consider these additional nutrients is because it can be difficult to get an adequate amount from diet. Nonetheless, a balanced diet plays a large role in determining the health of mom and baby.

In the case of male infertility, the most important nutrients to consider are a group of nutrients called antioxidants. Nutritional antioxidants are zinc, CoQ10, lycopene (a form of vitamin A) and selenium.

Weight Management and Why it’s Important

It’s surprising the amount of women that say, “I’m going to become fat during the pregnancy anyway.” As mentioned previously, the health of the mother-to-be is very important in determining the health of the baby. Women who carry excess weight are more likely to develop gestational diabetes and have C-sections themselves. Their babies are also at a greater risk of conditions such as eczema, allergies, asthma and obesity.

Maintaining regular physical exercise prior to pregnancy and during the pregnancy can support a healthy metabolism, pelvic floor, blood flow and energy/mood.  

Recent studies have also shown that exercise and regular activity during pregnancy reduces complications at birth.

Overall, maintaining a healthy and balanced diet while supplementing with additional nutrients for baby is optimal in a healthy pregnancy. Don’t stray away from being active, either!

Please see your local ND for further support.

[/bt_text][bt_hr top_spaced=”topSmallSpaced” bottom_spaced=”bottomSmallSpaced” transparent_border=”noBorder” el_class=”” el_style=”” responsive=””][/bt_hr][bt_row_inner][bt_column_inner width=”1/1″ align=”center” cell_padding=”default” vertical_align=”inherit” highlight=”no_highlight” background_color=”” opacity=”” el_class=”” el_style=””][bt_button text=”Work with Wildflower Health & Wellness for your Healthy Pregnancy” icon=”” url=”https://wildflowerhw.janeapp.com/” target=”_self” style=”Outline” icon_position=”Inline” color=”Accent” size=”Medium” width=”Normal” el_class=”” el_style=”” responsive=””][/bt_button][/bt_column_inner][/bt_row_inner][bt_hr top_spaced=”topSmallSpaced” bottom_spaced=”bottomSemiSpaced” transparent_border=”noBorder” el_class=”” el_style=”” responsive=””][/bt_hr][bt_dropdown title=”References” dd_content=”https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/healthy-eating/vitamins-minerals/vitamin-calcium-updated-dietary-reference-intakes-nutrition.html#a19;#
Langlois K, Greene-Finestone L, Little J, Hidiroglou N, Whiting S. Vitamin D status of Canadians as measured in the 2007 to 2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey. Health Reports, March 2010: Catalogue no 82-003-X;#
Whiting SJ, Langlois KA, Vatanparast H, Greene-Finestone LS. The vitamin D status of Canadians relative to the 2011 Dietary Reference Intakes: An examination in children and adults with and without supplement use. Am J Clin Nutr 2011 Jul:94(1): 128-35.;#” el_class=”” el_style=”” responsive=””][/bt_dropdown][bt_hr top_spaced=”topSmallSpaced” bottom_spaced=”bottomSemiSpaced” transparent_border=”noBorder” el_class=”” el_style=”” responsive=””][/bt_hr][/bt_column][/bt_row][/bt_section]