Pregnancy Care And Postpartum Physical Therapy

A pregnant woman is being helped by a physical therapist.

Introduction

Bringing a new life into the world is a transformative experience, but it can also take a toll on a woman’s body. Postpartum physical therapy plays a crucial role in helping mothers recover from the physical challenges of childbirth and regain their strength and well-being.

In this blog, we’ll explore why pregnancy care and postpartum therapy are vital, their purposes, the common conditions treated, and how to embark on this healing journey.

Why Are Pregnancy Care and Postpartum Physical Therapy Important?

Pregnancy care and postpartum physical therapy are crucial during the postpartum period, serving as integral components of comprehensive maternal healthcare. The physical changes experienced throughout pregnancy and childbirth can result in musculoskeletal issues, impacting daily activities. Addressing these issues through therapy is pivotal for a smoother recovery.

What Is the Purpose of Physical Therapy During Pregnancy?

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Pain Relief

One primary goal of physical therapy during pregnancy is to alleviate discomfort, including pain during pregnancy and potential issues arising from vaginal delivery. Whether it’s back pain, pelvic girdle pain, or sciatica, targeted exercises and therapies can provide relief, enhancing the overall pregnancy experience.

Improved Function

Physical therapy during pregnancy plays a crucial role in enhancing musculoskeletal function, promoting better mobility, and reducing the impact of conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome and round ligament pain. This improvement, specifically focusing on pelvic floor therapy, contributes to a healthier and more comfortable pregnancy.

Preparation for Childbirth

Participating in physical therapy during pregnancy not only prepares the body for the birthing process but also enhances muscle tone. Therapists guide women through exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor and teach relaxation techniques, contributing to a more positive birthing experience.

Common Conditions Treated by Physical Therapy During Pregnancy

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During pregnancy, women often encounter various physical challenges, and postpartum physical therapy proves instrumental in addressing these conditions for a more comfortable and healthier experience.

Low Back Pain

Effectively managing low back pain during pregnancy involves targeted exercises focused on strengthening core and lower back muscles, alleviating strain, and improving posture. These exercises not only promote physical activity but also address tight muscles, contributing to a more comfortable and healthier pregnancy experience.

Pelvic Girdle Pain

Pelvic girdle pain, characterized by discomfort in the pelvic region, finds relief in physical therapy that emphasizes exercises promoting pelvic health, pelvic floor strength, stability, and mobility and includes manual therapy.

Breast Pain

Targeted exercises during postpartum care help alleviate breast pain caused by hormonal changes and breastfeeding. Emphasizing chest and shoulder mobility, these exercises enhance muscle function and contribute to overall well-being, ensuring effective postpartum recovery and supporting the health of milk ducts.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome, resulting from fluid retention and hormonal shifts, sees improvement with physical therapy incorporating hand and wrist exercises, splints, and gentle massage. This comprehensive approach not only aims to reduce swelling and enhance function but also addresses muscle spasms for a more effective recovery.

Round Ligament Pain

Round ligament pain, arising from the stretching and strain of ligaments supporting the uterus, is minimized through targeted exercises that play a crucial role in postpartum care, strengthening abdominal muscles for effective relief.

Sciatica

Sciatica, characterized by radiating pain along the sciatic nerve, benefits from targeted exercises designed to stretch and strengthen lower back and hip muscles. These exercises, particularly beneficial in the weeks postpartum, help relieve pressure on the nerve, promoting a more comfortable recovery.

Diastasis Recti (Abdominal Separation)

Diastasis recti, the separation of abdominal muscles, is effectively addressed through physical therapy. Guiding women in targeted exercises, particularly beneficial for muscle strength, therapists promote the healing of core muscles, ensuring a more robust recovery.

Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence, a common postpartum concern linked to weakened pelvic floor muscles, sees improvement with targeted pelvic floor exercises, including Kegels. Specifically tailored to enhance bladder control, these exercises contribute to a more effective recovery, particularly after vaginal birth.

Constipation

Constipation, a result of hormonal changes and pressure on the digestive system, is effectively managed through exercises promoting abdominal muscle engagement. Along with valuable lifestyle and dietary advice, this approach addresses not only constipation but also contributes to overall well-being, particularly in addressing bowel issues.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes, a condition affecting blood sugar levels during pregnancy, sees a comprehensive approach involving tailored exercise prescriptions to manage blood sugar levels. After pregnancy and childbirth, a mother’s body undergoes changes that require healing and recovery. Essential to this process is adequate rest and maintaining a healthy diet.

Preeclampsia

While physical therapy doesn’t directly treat preeclampsia, a severe condition marked by high blood pressure, postpartum physical therapists can help manage associated discomfort through gentle exercises, stretching, and relaxation techniques.

How to Get Started with Physical Therapy During Pregnancy

A pregnant woman doing yoga on an exercise ball.

Embark on your postpartum recovery journey with Continuous Motion Physical Therapy. Consult with our qualified professionals to create a personalized treatment plan tailored to your health history and specific needs, including specialized pelvic pain exercises. Experience a seamless and continuous motion toward your optimal well-being. Start your healing process today.

Conclusion

Postpartum physical therapy is a valuable resource for mothers navigating the physical challenges of childbirth. By addressing pain, enhancing function, and preparing the body for childbirth, physical therapy contributes to a healthier and more comfortable pregnancy experience.

FAQs

Q1: When should I start postpartum physical therapy after giving birth?

A1: After receiving approval from your doctor to resume postpartum exercise, it’s safe to do so. The key is to reintroduce activities gradually to avoid potential pain or injury. As emphasized by Shefali Christopher, an associate professor at Tufts University School of Medicine, taking a slow and progressive approach is essential.

It is generally recommended to initiate postpartum physical therapy within the first few weeks after giving birth. The timing may differ based on an individual’s recovery and guidance from their healthcare provider.

Q2: How long does postpartum physical therapy typically last?

A2: The duration of physical therapy varies based on individual needs and the nature of the conditions being treated. Whether it’s shorter-term interventions or ongoing sessions for an extended period, the therapy is tailored to each person’s unique recovery journey, emphasizing the importance of personalized care in physical therapy after pregnancy.

Q3: What role does postpartum physical therapy play in C-section recovery?

A3: Postpartum physical therapy after childbirth is crucial in C-section recovery, offering specialized care to address incisional pain, enhance abdominal strength, and facilitate overall mobility.

Your pelvic floor physical therapist will develop an effective customized treatment plan tailored to your health condition and specific goals. The comprehensive treatment may encompass the following:

  • Behavioral adjustments targeting bowel/bladder habits, fluid intake, and dietary patterns.
  • Body awareness and training to enhance posture and joint/ligament movement.
  • Diaphragmatic “belly” or “chest” breathing techniques.
  • Customized at-home exercises to strengthen, relax, or massage muscles, depending on your condition.
  • Exercises, such as Kegels, to address bladder leakage by strengthening pelvic muscles.
  • Utilization of biofeedback sensors employing a mild electrical current to stimulate a muscular response.
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Author

Dr. Cameron Moore

PT, DPT, FAAOMPT, CSCS, Dip. Osteopractic

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Dr. Peyton Oules, PT, DPT Cert. DN

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Dr. Peyton Oules, physical therapist, is a Brewster, Washington native who grew up as a small-town athlete. During her high school sports career, she suffered from two ACL injuries which led her to pursue a career in physical therapy. 

She began her studies by earning her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science, Pre-PT at Eastern Washington University.  During her undergraduate studies, she spent much of her time playing volleyball and coaching at the high school level.  Dr. Oules continued her education to earn her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Franklin Pierce University in Goodyear, Arizona.While in school, Dr. Oules became Certified in both Dry Needling and Myofascial Cupping.

Part of her clinical training included international travel to Sydney, Australia where she expanded her orthopedic skill set and had the opportunity to provide treatment for the athletes from the 2023 World Underwater Hockey Championships.

During her doctorate level studies, Dr. Oules learned the importance in making movement a lifestyle. She has a passion for sharing this knowledge with the community and getting her clients back to the activities they love.

Outside of the clinic Dr. Oules enjoys CrossFit®, hiking, traveling, and spending time outdoors with her dog, Rue. Some of her favorite adventures to date include hiking parts of the Grand Canyon and running across the Sydney Harbour Bridge during the Sydney 10k!

Dr. Peyton Oules’ Credentials:
•           Physical Therapist (PT)
•           Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
•           Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)

Dr. Khristian McGinley, PT, DPT Cert. DN

therapy in pregnancy

Dr. Khristian McGinley, physical therapist, grew up here in Phoenix, as a competitive softball player with a longtime passion for health and wellness. After sustaining an elbow injury in high school and attending PT herself, she knew that she wanted to pursue a career helping people recover from injuries and getting back to doing what they love. She eventually received her B.S in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Arizona in 2013, then earned her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Franklin Pierce University in 2017.

Dr. McGinley began her career with a passion in pediatrics and orthopedics, undergoing coursework to treat diagnoses such as torticollis, developmental delay, and toe walking. She also became certified in Dry Needling in 2017, and since then has been additionally trained in Dry Needling for Pelvic Rehabilitation. After the challenging birth of her first child, she developed a passion for treating the pregnant and postpartum population. She became specialty training in Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation in 2021 and since then has focused her practice on helping moms achieve pain free pregnancy, peaceful childbirth, and complete postpartum recovery. She specializes in diagnoses such as urinary incontinence, diastases recti, pelvic organ prolapse, and pelvic pain.

Outside of the clinic, Dr. McGinley enjoys hiking, running, camping, weight lifting, and playing slow pitch softball. She loves spending as much time as she can outside with her husband and two children.

Dr. Khristian McGinley’s Credentials:

  • ​Physical Therapist (PT)
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)
  • Specialty-trained in Pelvic Floor Therapy

Dr. Meredith Wall, PT, DPT FAFS, Cert. DN

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Dr. Meredith Wall, physical therapist, grew up as a competitive athlete in basketball, gymnastics, soccer and volleyball. After sustaining an ankle injury and going to rehab as a young athlete, she instantly fell in love with learning about sports injuries and rehabilitation. This led her to major in Exercises Science at Grand Valley State University. After she graduated in 2010, she immediately pursued physical therapy to ultimately achieve her lifelong goals of becoming a physical therapist. She earned a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Grand Valley State University in 2013, graduating as a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society recognizing individuals with outstanding GPA in a college graduate program.

Dr. Wall continued her educational pathway through the Gray Institute receiving a fellowship in Applied Functional Science (FAFS). A FAFS is only obtained by a select number of practitioners, who deliver optimal care through the diagnosis and treatment of functional human movement. She also became Certified in Dry Needling (Cert. DN) in 2017, is trained in the McKenzie Method to treat spinal pain, and most recently has become specialized in Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation. This specialty area allows her to treat women across the lifespan dealing with incontinence, diastasis recti, pelvic pain, and pain during or after pregnancy.

Dr. Wall’s special interests include diagnosing and treating active patients across the lifespan to help them return to optimal function. In her spare time, she enjoys Crossfit®, running, coaching youth sports, and traveling with her husband and three sons.

Dr. Meredith Wall’s Credentials:

  • ​Physical Therapist (PT)
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Fellow of Applied Functional Science (FAFS)
  • Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)
  • Specialty-trained in Pelvic Floor Therapy

Dr. Cameron Moore, PT, DPT, FAAOMPT, CSCS, Dip. Osteopractic

skilled thrapist

Dr. Cameron Moore, physical therapist and co-owner, has always been very active with sports and activities starting with competitive motocross racing up to a semi-professional level and being a scholarship athlete in track and field competing at the division 1 level in college at Eastern Washington University in the triple jump. Cameron became interested in the profession of physical therapy after having knee surgery in high school and seeing the inter-workings of the profession. He pursued his bachelors degree in Exercise Science before moving to Phoenix to earn his Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) from Franklin Pierce University.

He then began specialization courses for spinal manipulation (Spinal Manipulation Institute) and dry needling (Dry Needling Institute). This lead Cameron in to becoming a Fellow of the American Academy of Manual Physical Therapist (FAAOMPT) through the American Academy of Manipulative Therapy (AAMT) and earned a Diploma of Osteopractic®, a distinction and training that only a small percentage of physical therapist have completed.

Dr. Moore continues to be very involved with motocross riding, Crossfit®, Olympic weight lifting, running and an overall active lifestyle with his Wife (Michelle) and their Vizsla (Parker).

Dr. Cameron Moore’s Credentials

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Certified in Dry Needling (Cert DN)
  • Certified in Spinal Manipulation (Cert SMT)
  • Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)
  • Diploma in Osteopractic® (Dip Osteopractic)
  • Fellow Of The American Academy Of Manual Physical Therapist (FAAOMPT)
  • American Academy of Manipulative Therapy Fellow (AAMT)
  • Crossfit® Level 1 Certified (CF-L1)
  • Crossfit® Mobility Certified
  • USA Track and Field Level 1 Coach

Dr. Michelle Moore, PT, DPT FAAOMPT, Dip. Osteopractic

weightlifting in physical therapy

Dr. Michelle Moore, physical therapist and co-owner, grew up as a competitive gymnast and developed a passion for healthy living from a young age. Her collegiate studies in Health Education at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and athletic background influenced her to combine her passions and pursue a career in physical therapy. She earned a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Franklin Pierce University in 2013.

Dr. Moore continued her educational pathway through the American Academy of Manipulative Therapy where she earned her Diploma Osteopractic® (Dip. Osteopractic) and became Certified in Dry Needling (Cert. DN), and Spinal Manipulative Therapy (Cert. SMT). From 2016-2017 Dr. Moore completed the rigorous coursework to become a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapy (FAAOMPT), a distinction held by only a fraction of the profession.

Dr. Moore’s special interests include treating active individuals and returning them to the activities that they love. In her spare time she enjoys Crossfit®, Olympic Weightlifting, mountain biking, hiking, and traveling with her husband, Cameron, and dog, Parker.

Dr. Michelle Moore’s Credentials:

  • ​Physical Therapist (PT)
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Fellow of American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists (FAAOMPT)
  • Diploma in Osteopractic® (Dip. Osteopractic)
  • Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)
  • Certified Spinal Manipulative Therapy (Cert. SMT)
  • Crossfit® Mobility Certified