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THE BENEFITS OF POSTPARTUM PHYSICAL THERAPY: WHY NEW MOMS SHOULD CONSIDER IT

The Benefits of Postpartum Physical Therapy: Why New Moms Should Consider It

Childbirth is an incredible journey, a mix of challenges and triumphs. After the euphoria of welcoming a new life into the world fades, many new moms grapple with intense physical and emotional changes. Can postpartum physical therapy be the bridge to holistic recovery? As new moms transition into this phase of life, their bodies are often in need of focused care and attention. While society emphasizes the importance of newborn care, understanding and prioritizing maternal recovery is equally vital. This is where postpartum physical therapy shines as a beacon of hope and healing.

Definition and Overview

Postpartum physical therapy is a specialized therapeutic approach tailored for women in their postpartum periods. Think of it like this: when you’ve completed an exhausting marathon, wouldn’t you seek ways to ease your muscles and heal?

Pregnancy and childbirth are similar to that marathon, and postpartum physical therapy is the much-needed cooldown session. Just like a car needs maintenance after a long trip, our bodies also need recovery after pregnancy and giving birth. This therapy helps women after childbirth, so they can fully enjoy being a mother and feel physically refreshed.

The Role of a Physical Therapist in Postpartum Recovery

Physical therapists, especially those skilled in postpartum care, play a pivotal role in a mother’s post-birth journey. These professionals are similar to a boat captain: It guides the ship through storms and rough seas and ensures it safely reaches the next port. In this case, the ship is the new mother and ehr body and the stormy seas are the many physical and emotional challenges that come along with healing after birthing a baby.

Postpartum physical therapy is not just about rehabilitating muscles and tissues. We are truly here for you and aim to provide you with a holistic approach to your care. Not only are we here to help you recover, but we are also here to listen to you and educate and guide you through this season of life.

With a deep understanding of a woman’s body, especially after childbirth, physical therapists trained in postpartum care customize exercises and treatments to target specific postpartum issues. Their primary aim? To ensure mothers regain their strength, flexibility, and confidence.

From addressing issues such as urinary incontinence, diastasis recti, prolapse, or pelvic pain, these therapists work tirelessly to alleviate discomfort and prevent potential long-term complications. They equip new mothers with the knowledge and tools to take charge of their recovery. This might include teaching them strengthening exercises, offering advice on posture correction, or suggesting strategies to ease back into routine activities. In essence, a postpartum physical therapist acts as a bridge, ensuring a smoother transition from the immediate aftermath of childbirth to a fulfilling, pain-free life as a mom.

The Physical Challenges Faced Postpartum

The postpartum period is not only a time of joy and bonding with the newborn, but is also a phase where a woman’s body undergoes tremendous transformation and recovery. Just as pregnancy reshapes a woman’s physiology over nine months, the postpartum phase has its set of adjustments, both emotionally and physically. As with any transition, understanding the ins and outs allows for better management and smoother sailing. 

Body Changes After Childbirth

From the glow of pregnancy to the demands of childbirth, a woman’s body performs the incredible feat of growing a baby and bringing forth that life into the world. Yet, after this monumental task, the body needs time and care to recover and rejuvenate.

From lengthened abdominal muscles to weakened pelvic floor structures, the body undergoes numerous changes post-delivery. The strength and elasticity once taken for granted may now seem lost and that mind-body connection may be confused. Adjusting to this ‘new normal’ can be challenging for many. 

Imagine a stretchy rubber band pulled to its limits and then released; it doesn’t instantly return to its original state. Similarly, remember how a once-taut balloon feels after being deflated? It feels like that area is a different body now and I don’t know how it is supposed to feel. These are examples of how many women describe their postpartum bodies. However, with awareness, patience, and the right interventions, restoring physical wellbeing is within reach.

Common Postpartum Issues: Pain, Diastasis Recti, and More

While every woman’s postpartum journey is unique, there are some common physical challenges many face. Among the most prevalent are pelvic pain, diastasis recti (a condition where the abdominal muscles separate), and pelvic organ prolapse.

Pelvic pain can vary – from a dull ache to severe pain, often caused by stressed muscles and ligaments after giving birth. Diastasis recti can cause a noticeable belly bulge and, in severe cases, lead to back pain, digestive problems, and further pelvic floor dysfunction. Pelvic organ prolapse is when pelvic organs shift or droop because of weak muscles, causing discomfort and problems with urination, bowel movements, and sexual function.

These issues aren’t mere discomforts to be brushed off or hidden behind oversized clothing and a bunch of pads. They are the body’s red flags, signaling its need for attention and care. Listening to these signs and seeking timely intervention can pave the way for a smoother postpartum journey.

Top Benefits of Postpartum Physical Therapy

The journey of motherhood begins long before a baby’s arrival and extends well into the postpartum period. For many women, navigating this journey can be overwhelming, especially when faced with the physical challenges that follow childbirth.

But what if there was a way to ease this journey, to address the aches, strengthen the body, and boost mental well-being? Enter postpartum physical therapy. A specialized approach tailored to the unique needs of new mothers, postpartum PT offers a ton of benefits that promise not just recovery but a stronger, more confident you.

Enhanced Recovery

After giving birth, mothers want to recover quickly, be their best for their baby, and regain their body. Speedy recovery post-childbirth isn’t a luxury—it’s a necessity. And with postpartum physical therapy, this journey becomes not only possible but smoother.

Imagine trying to navigate through an unfamiliar location with a simple map or better yet, just a compass. Now, picture using a state-of-the-art GPS that provides you with precise instructions at each turn. With expert guidance from a physical therapist, mothers find themselves on the fastest route to recovery, sidestepping potential pitfalls and hurdles.

Improved Core Strength

Have you ever noticed how appropriately the core is named—it truly is at the core of all our physical activities. From picking up your baby to bending over to tie a shoe, it’s the foundation upon which every physical activity rests. But pregnancy and childbirth can take a toll on these vital muscles.

Through targeted exercises and strategies, a physical therapist not only addresses weaknesses but actively helps restore the power of the core. We must have a strong foundation, and core retraining is similar to rebuilding the foundation of a house after a storm, ensuring it’s even stronger and more resilient than before.

Reduced Pain and Discomfort

The beauty and joy of welcoming a new life often comes with physical reminders of the journey—aches, pains, and discomfort. However, enduring these pains isn’t a rite of passage every mother must accept. The appropriate training during the postpartum phase is like a soothing balm, a healing touch to the aches and pains that follow childbirth.

Physical therapists use hands-on techniques and professional guidance to help alleviate post-childbirth pains. Our goal is to ensure that these pains do not overshadow the joyful journey of becoming a parent. It is also important to remember it is never too late to address these issues. So, even if you are 10 or 20 or 30 years out from birthing your kiddos, know that there is help for you too. 

Improved Pelvic Floor Health

The pelvic floor, a critical group of muscles, bears much of the brunt of childbirth. Issues such as urinary incontinence, pain, and even hip or low back weakness often signal a compromised pelvic floor. Yet, with the right interventions, these issues can be lessened or even alleviated before they begin.

Pelvic floor physical therapy provides specialized strengthening exercises and techniques that rejuvenate and restore. By focusing on this crucial area, therapy ensures conditions like urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse, which can dampen the joy of new motherhood, remain at bay.

Boosted Mental Well-being and Confidence

Physical well-being and mental well-being are two sides of the same coin. As new mothers engage in postpartum physical therapy and witness their bodies regaining strength, flexibility, and function, a remarkable transformation occurs. Their mental outlook can improve and confidence can grow. It is important to note, however, that postpartum depression and anxiety are very real, and often need the care of a trained mental health counselor to ensure appropriate treatment and care to moms suffering with these. 

With the right balance of care from a multidisciplinary (MD, NP, PT/OT, or counselor), change is possible. It’s like watching a sunflower turn towards the sun, standing tall and radiant. Mothers feel empowered and optimistic after therapy sessions, ready to embrace their postpartum journey with joy.

The Link Between Physical and Mental Well-being Postpartum

Motherhood is a profound transition that encompasses both body and soul. Our physical, spiritual, and mental states don’t exist in isolation; they form a relationship, where one impacts the others.

When a new mother grapples with postpartum physical issues—be it pain, discomfort, or a perceived loss of former physical capabilities—it casts a shadow over her emotional landscape. Feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, or even despair can surface. Postpartum pelvic floor physical therapy, alongside that multidisciplinary team, in this context, emerges as a beacon of hope.

With each session, as the body recovers, regains strength, and relearns capabilities, the mind may also witness a transformation. 

Post-birth therapy helps moms recover physically and emotionally, finding balance, positivity, and a new enthusiasm for life. This holistic approach guarantees that mothers embark on the journey of motherhood with both physical vigor, spiritual renewal, and mental fortitude.

When Should New Moms Start Postpartum Physical Therapy?

Navigating the initial days of motherhood can be overwhelming. When should new mothers prioritize their physical health and seek postpartum physical therapy, given their many responsibilities and adjustments?

Early Intervention and Its Benefits

The wisdom in the saying, “The early bird catches the worm,” is undeniable. The earlier one seeks intervention, the better the outcomes, especially in the realm of physical therapy.

Starting therapy soon after vaginal deliveries or C-sections can be a game-changer. Imagine treating a fresh wound versus a scar that’s had time to settle. Early intervention nips potential issues in the bud, preventing them from snowballing into bigger challenges. It also helps moms ease into this new phase in a safe way for their bodies and healing timeline. Often moms get cleared and referred to pelvic PT at 6 weeks, but may benefit at 2 weeks. The research actually supports this as well with encouragement for early training on breathing strategies and safe lifting techniques for baby and equipment. 

With timely therapy, new moms can sidestep many postpartum physical issues or manage them effectively. Parents are present and engaged with their baby, enjoying *almost* every moment without feeling physically uncomfortable.

Tailoring Therapy to Individual Needs

Childbirth, as every mother knows, is as unique as the child it brings forth. What works for one mother might not work for another. Recognizing this individuality is crucial to effective postpartum care.

A skilled Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) does not provide a one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, they closely collaborate with your OB/GYN or midwife, delving into the unique nuances of each mother’s childbirth experience.

This collaboration guarantees that we tailor a therapy regimen that reflects the patient’s unique needs and circumstances. The therapy is customized to target specific pains that occur after a C-section.

It also helps to strengthen and restore appropriate length and tension to the pelvic floor after a vaginal delivery. Additionally, it assists in managing diastasis recti through exercises and techniques to restore proper pressure management. Mothers get the right care for a smooth and fast recovery, thanks to this personalized approach.

How to Choose the Right Postpartum Physical Therapist

Choosing the right postpartum physical therapist is important for the best post-birth healing experience possible. But how does one distinguish the right fit from the options available? Here’s a guide to ensuring you make the most informed decision.

Qualifications to Look For

In physical therapy, qualifications may show a therapist’s dedication and understanding, however, they are not the end all be all. Most physical therapists have a doctorate of physical therapy these days, however, many wonderful PTs do not due to when they graduated from school. More important is how up to date the therapist is on current research and evidence-based treatment strategies. Ask questions! A good PT is happy to answer them and ready to admit gaps in their knowledge as well as do the work to learn more.

A DPT, or Doctor of Physical Therapy, does signify a higher level of academic rigor with a requirement of completing an undergraduate degree (often a BS in exercises science, kinesthiology, athletic training, or sports medicine) followed by a 3 year doctoral degree. They receive in depth training into the human body with extensive education regarding all systems of the body, beyond musculoskeletal and neurological. When looking into if a specific pelvic PT is right for you, look for additional training or mentorship in pelvic health. Commonly provided by Herman and Wallace or APTA, additional training is imperative for understanding the structure and function of this region of the body. The right expertise and nuanced understanding can make a profound difference in the quality and effectiveness of your recovery journey.

The Importance of Specialized Postpartum Training

Physical therapy is a vast field, encompassing everything from sports injuries to geriatric care. Not every skilled therapist may have the necessary equipment to handle the unique challenges of postpartum recovery. Professionals specifically educated in postpartum matters possess a profound comprehension of conditions such as pelvic floor disorder, diastasis recti, and the numerous transformations a woman’s body experiences after giving birth.

Such therapists are adept at identifying issues, crafting personalized therapy regimens, and providing the most effective interventions. They can empathize with postpartum challenges and are well-versed in the latest research and techniques in the field. Imagine having a guide who not only knows the general route but every little shortcut and viewpoint along the way. That’s the advantage of a therapist with specialized postpartum training.

Conclusion

Embarking on the journey of motherhood is one of the most transformative experiences in a woman’s life. And just like any significant journey, it comes with its set of challenges but is truly a chance for a beautiful new chapter to begin. 

Postpartum physical therapy isn’t just about navigating these challenges; it’s about mastering them. It’s not merely about healing; it’s about thriving, rediscovering one’s strength, and reclaiming one’s body with confidence. With a good therapist, postpartum can be a time of healing and showing the strength and determination of being a mother.

FAQs

1. How soon after childbirth can I start postpartum physical therapy?

  – Current standard practice is typically after 6 weeks, but evidence is emerging that is suggesting as early as 2 weeks postpartum. However, it is always important to consult with your OB or midwife and your pelvic PT will likely call your provider to begin collaborative care and ensure there are no contraindications to care.

2. Is postpartum physical therapy beneficial after C-sections?

  – Absolutely! It aids in scar tissue mobilization and overall recovery. Additionally, a cesarean birth does not spare the pelvic floor or abdominal region from damage or dysfunction. Prolapse, incontinence, and DRA can all be present in moms who birthed via c-section as well. 

3. What’s the duration of a typical therapy session?

  – This largely depends on which clinic you attend and what their focus is. Some clinics see patients from 45 minutes upwards of an hour and a half or even 2 hours. At Fortis, initial evaluations are 75 minutes and all follow-up treatments are 60 minutes. This allows for ample time to delve into each of your concerns and provide an appropriate treatment strategy. 

4. Do I need a doctor’s referral for postpartum physical therapy?

  – This very much depends on your individual state laws. Many states have direct access, but of varying degrees. In the state of South Carolina where Fortis practices, you do not need a referral initially, however, at 30 days, your PT will need to seek a referral to continue care. 

5. Can pelvic floor disorders only arise after childbirth?

  – No, they can occur at any age but are common postpartum due to the strain of childbirth. Many women experience pelvic floor dysfunction even before being sexually active or having a baby. It is important to seek care or help if you have questions, no matter what phase of life you are in! While we do not specialize in pediatrics at Fortis, there are some clinics that actually treat kiddos dealing with pelvic floor dysfunction as well!

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