Considering a new mother’s postpartum physical needs most often brings the concern of weight loss and getting their pre-baby body back, what many new mothers may not realize is that the physical needs of a postpartum body may go well beyond weight loss. Physical therapy for the new mother may be a necessary factor in the postpartum recovery process. (read: The Skinny on New Moms Getting Their Sexy Back)
Skinny Mom spoke to Dr. Gia Fruscione, the founder of DLVRMaternity.com, an online community for expectant moms to find education, advice, and solutions for their changing bodies during and after pregnancy. Gia is a physical therapist and recent new mom and she gave us the skinny on the often overlooked physical impact on a woman’s body after with giving birth.
Body position/alignment: In pregnancy our body alignment and positioning changes as the baby grows and we gain weight. With these changes in alignment also come muscular compensations (particular muscles work harder than others). You want to make sure your body has re-aligned to "normal" after delivery and your muscles are functioning properly. The best professional for this assessment is a physical therapist. Pelvic floor muscle function: Along with your large muscle groups, you also want to have your pelvic floor muscle function assessed to make sure these very important muscles are functioning properly and symmetrically. Your pelvic floor helps with pelvic stability along with supporting your internal organs and preventing incontinence. Even if you delivered via C-section, therefore avoiding delivery through your pelvic floor, the weight of your baby for 40 weeks pushing down on these muscles can also affect their function.
Abdominal muscle function: After delivery (C-section or vaginal), it will take time and energy to regain your abdominal muscle function. You may also be dealing with diastasis recti (a separation of your rectus abdominis muscle). Without correct re-education of both your deep and superficial abdominal muscles, proper function may not be achieved. A physical therapist can help assess your function, alignment and the extent of your diastasis, and then prescribe individualized exercises catered to your body's specific needs following childbirth.
Scar mobility: C-section incision sites and repairs of perineal tears/episiotomies can become restricted as the tissue heals. The skin over any incision site should move as easily as the skin on the back of your hand. If it doesn't, it may mean your scar has soft tissue restrictions that could lead to other issues down the road. Physical therapists can assess, treat and teach you how to manage your incision site and scar to help avoid future problems.
What is most important to remember when considering if postpartum physical therapy is a necessity for you, is to understand that you may not even realize that you're experiencing issues in these areas. Visiting a professional to assess your postpartum body is the best way to know if physical therapy is necessary.
For a postpartum-approved workout, check out Buh-Bye Baby Weight: Better Body After Baby Routine!