Benefits of Physical Therapy During and After Pregnancy

Has your body felt different - or not quite right - since you had your baby?

Studies show that a significant percentage of women suffer from persistent low back pain, pelvic girdle pain, pain during sex and urinary incontinence both during pregnancy and/or after having a baby. Unfortunately, relatively few patients reports these symptoms to their doctors and even fewer are referred to a specialist for further evaluation.

Too often women just accept the occasional leaking when they cough, sneeze or exercise. Low back pain, pelvic pain and pain during sex become the new normal after the baby's arrival.

Thankfully, more and more studies show that physical therapy can be extremely helpful to women suffering from these problems. In fact, in many European countries pelvic floor rehab is part of standardized care after having a baby.

Pelvic physical therapists are experts in the areas of a woman's body most associated with childbirth - everything from the vagina, to the core muscles, to the pelvis and the spine. This expertise is built up through ongoing practice, specialized training and continuing education coursework after earning a foundational Physical Therapy degree.

A physical therapist specially trained to help pre and post partum women can guide you through your pregnancy with proper exercises, ergonomics and posture training. With up to 60-70% of women suffering from low back pain during pregnancy this can make a big difference in how you experience this special time in your life! The nurturing support of a physical therapist will put you more in charge of your body, help you get through your pregnancy with less pain and prepare you for the post-partum period.

After the baby comes, you may have more questions about the new reality of your body then you ever imagined. It is absolutely ok to ask for help and guidance from an expert.

It's generally recommended that you schedule your first post-partum physical therapy visit after your 6 week follow-up visit with your OB/GYN. Your OB/GYN can help determine if physical therapy is the right treatment for your symptoms. In most pelvic health practices babies are welcome to your appointments, and your therapist will work with you and baby to make sure you both feel comfortable. In the first visit, your physical therapist will most likely talk through your symptoms with you to get a clear picture of what is going on. This would be followed by a thorough orthopedic exam - checking out your posture, alignment, flexibility, range of motion and strength.

Depending on your symptoms, your pelvic floor muscle strength may be assessed manually by your physical therapist or with the use of biofeedback. These assessments enable your therapist to build a treatment protocol appropriate for you and your body. At the end of the evaluation, a comprehensive treatment plan will be agreed upon by you and your therapist. Expect to see your physical therapist 1-2 times per week for a few weeks, so that any new concerns arising during the start of treatment can be brought up and addressed.

You don't have to accept pain, discomfort or incontinence as your new normal. Physical therapy can be the start of your post-partum recovery and your return to being physically active and feeling like yourself again!

Mieke Haeck

This article was written by Mieke Haeck, PT, and was originally published in Town and Gown magazine, and Central PA's Women In Business.

Mieke Haeck is a physical therapist, trained in Belgium. She moved to State College from New York City 8 years ago and was hired as Atlas Therapy's first physical therapist when they opened in November 2010. She is specialized in the treatment of TMJ, neck pain and headaches. In addition, she is trained in women's health physical therapy, focused on treating Prenatal and Postpartum patients.

Mieke lives in State College with her husband and 2 young children. She has a passion for the outdoors, hiking and biking. She serves on the State College Borough Transportation Commission and is a Board Member of The Friends of Rothrock.