I’ve worked closely with thousands of pregnant and postpartum women who have unfortunately experienced harsh pregnancy and delivery-related strain on their bodies. Many don’t realize that most of this added pressure as the body undergoes such drastic changes is preventable and treatable with physical therapy or a tailored exercise program. That’s why I’d like to share with you this guest post by Jessica L. McKinney, PT, MS, Director, Center for Women’s Health at Marathon Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine:

Have you ever considered that while it is standard practice to consult physical therapy after an ankle sprain, that after nine months of pregnancy and the unquestionable strain of labor and delivery, women are expected to recover without intervention?  Or perhaps, not expected to ever recover fully and to instead accept these physical changes as the cost of childbirth?

In the midst of the personal excitement and medical management of pregnancy and later, a newborn, little consideration historically has been given in the US to the physical preparation and rehabilitation of the mother. Even in the most healthy and uncomplicated of pregnancies, the pregnant woman undergoes rapid changes in posture, joint stability, respiration, and muscle function. There is strong evidence to suggest that many of these adaptations do not spontaneously resolve after delivery, thus leaving the new mother vulnerable to musculoskeletal compromises and dysfunctions in the short and/or long term. This is compounded by normal or unexpected amounts of pelvic and/or abdominal trauma during delivery. Add the physical demands of newborn care and breastfeeding and poor compensatory patterns develop in new moms, become entrenched, and ultimately lead to increased musculoskeletal and pelvic floor compromise. Skilled physical therapists are able to evaluate pregnant and postpartum women in order to provide individualized guidance as they resume all of their physical activities for work, family life, and recreation, doing so in a way that minimizes risk of future complications and rehabilitates from any trauma or injury.

Pregnancy and birth is a heroic journey. Physical restoration and recovery from it leads to a happier and healthier mom, and its importance cannot be underestimated. Too many women now say, “If only I had known what to do after I had my baby,” or “Why didn’t anyone ever tell me this wasn’t normal.” Embracing the unique skill set of specialized physical therapists for women during and after pregnancy can help the moms of today and tomorrow make such comments a thing of the past.

Guest Post by:

Jessica L. McKinney, PT, MS
Director, Center for Women’s Health
Marathon Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine, LLC