Why you should you get physiotherapy before and after pregnancy
It’s probably no surprise to anyone who’s been pregnant (or just spent time with someone else who is) that growing a human is an incredibly physically demanding time for a mum-to-be.
In fact, studies now show that pregnancy ranks alongside ultramarathon running and the Tour de France as an endurance event. Recent research into the limits of human endurance has revealed that ‘pregnancy is the longest duration, highest energy expenditure thing that humans can do.’
You wouldn’t undertake an ultramarathon without expecting some support from a physiotherapist – so why would you go through a pregnancy without one?
For too long, the experiences of women have been minimised. The physical toll of pregnancy is often ignored, and women have not felt educated and empowered to take the right steps to support their health through the massive task of growing another human being. Thankfully, that is changing. Women’s health physiotherapists are trained to support women before, during and after pregnancy, and more women are knowledgeable about their needs than ever before.
While pregnancy is often a wonderful, exciting and powerful experience for a woman, the physical toll it places on your body can be significant without careful management.
There are several reasons why your posture and joints need additional support during pregnancy:
- Pregnancy puts pressure on your posture as your body adapts to accommodate for your baby.
- Changes in the loading and alignment of your spine and your weight bearing joints often cause the back pain, pelvic girdle pain and headaches many women experience in pregnancy.
- The hormone relaxin causes ligaments to relax and loosen during pregnancy which can also contribute to joint paint and even injury.
There are many ways a physiotherapist can help you manage pregnancy and the significant toll it takes on your body. We’ve listed four below – as well as some tips on when you should speak to your doctor or healthcare provider.
1. Headache relief
Headaches are one of the most common conditions encountered during pregnancy. They can occur at any time during your pregnancy, although they tend to be more common during the first and third trimesters.
During your first trimester, your body experiences a surge in hormones and blood volume as it gears up to create the circulatory system of another whole person (Did we mention that women are incredible?). Both these changes can prompt more frequent headaches. Headaches during pregnancy can be made worse by:
- Lack of sleep
- Poor posture
- Low blood sugar
- Depression and anxiety
- Coffee withdrawal
- Changes in your vision
- Weight gain
If headaches are related to muscle tension or posture, a spinal consultant or physiotherapist may be able to help you. Manual therapy on your upper neck joints from your physiotherapist can quickly reduce pain and alleviate headaches.
A physiotherapy session may include a series of neck and shoulder massages, mobilisation, gentle manipulation and simple exercises you can practice in your own home.
It’s important to note that frequent headaches during your third trimester could be a symptom of pre-eclampsia, a condition brought about by high blood pressure during pregnancy. Pre-eclampsia is a serious condition, so you should contact your healthcare provider immediately if you believe you may be at risk.
2. Relieving pelvic girdle pain
Do you remember how we mentioned that a hormone called relaxin can quite literally loosen your ligaments and joints? It is a hormone released by the placenta and ovaries to relax the ligaments in the pelvis. This prepares it for childbirth.
However in the months leading up to birth, this hormone can affect your pelvis and lead to an uncomfortable symptom called pelvic girdle pain.
Pelvic girdle pain is an a persistent pain which is experienced in the front and back of the pelvis. Its severity can range from mild to severe and it can be debilitating for some women who experience it. It often feels like an ache.
Approximately 20% of women experience pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy, and the incidence is higher later in pregnancy.
Relaxin can also cause other ligaments to relax, affecting the support and stability of weight bearing joints and causing back and knee pain.
Evidence shows that exercising, seeing a physiotherapist and receiving pre-natal care not only reduces pelvic girdle pain but also improves functional outcomes.
There’s a range of treatments available for pelvic girdle pain, including specialised clothing to help support your pelvis during pregnancy.
If you’re experiencing pelvic girdle pain, it’s important to know that help is available.
3. Postural support
When you’re growing a baby, it changes the entire weight distribution in your body. As Bub grows and expands, he or she takes up more of your precious internal real estate, moving your inner organs into places they don’t usually sit.
Pregnancy can also throw your posture out of line, as your back curves more than usual to try and balance out the load of a heavy uterus.
Seeing a physiotherapist can:
– help you realign your posture, which in turn can help reduce back pain.
– equip you with tools such as braces or tape to improve your posture
– teach you exercises to improve and maintain healthy posture
A physiotherapist or spinal specialist can not only provide some immediate relief, but they’re also trained to help your body get aligned and stay aligned – before, during and after pregnancy.
4. Preparing for Birth and Recovery
Not only can a physiotherapist help you during your pregnancy, but they can help you prepare for birth (and with post-natal care after).
With their knowledge and experience, a physiotherapist can help you learn how to push correctly during childbirth to reduce your risk of post-natal pelvic issues.
They can also support you to recover from birthing injuries such as:
Finally, a physiotherapist can also advise you on protecting and strengthening your back to prepare for all your post-natal bending – such as all that late-night lifting of your new little bundle out of their cot.
In fact, the APS is even calling for phsyiotherapits to be included in women’s obstetric teams after guidelines have recommended that they be included in the UK – this is because of their potential to improve birth outcomes and provide exceptional clinical support.
How The Brisbane Spine Clinic Can Help
If you’re expecting a new arrival (or are just in the planning stages) it’s important to consult trained professionals for treatment, such as the spinal consultants at our Eight Mile Plains and North Lakes clinics.
Our team can teach you techniques to help you get your body ready for the toughest test it’s ever likely to face and support recovery afterwards. Contact the caring, friendly and knowledgeable team at The Brisbane Spine clinic to book an appointment today.
Please call 07 3841 3070 or book an appointment online.
All information is general in nature