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Birth and beyond – Exercising after childbirth

Physical Therapy

Pregnancy and childbirth are associated with major physiological, emotional and to some extent spiritual changes in one’s body. It is a common myth that pregnancy is over after giving birth, when in-fact giving birth is the beginning of a major transitional period for your body. A lot of these changes happen due to hormonal influences that act like chemical messengers and tell our organs what to do. The major hormones that play a big role in the way our body adapts and functions during and after pregnancy are relaxin, prolactin, estrogen, HCG and progesterone.

 

Postural changes associated with pregnancy and postpartum  –

First it is important to understand how pregnancy and childbirth affects the musculoskeletal system. As pregnancy progresses, the abdominal and core muscles have to really lengthen and stretch to accommodate the growing fetus. This also leads to a shortening of back musculature. The ligaments and joints in your pelvis become “loose” or “relaxed” predominantly due to the effect of the hormone relaxin – which is important to create adequate space for the growing fetus and expand appropriately to push the baby out during the event of childbirth. The position of diaphragm shifts more upwards and the rib cage expands to accomaodate the growing belly which in turn also affects the breathing mechanics.

Once the baby is delivered, the changes don’t just snap back into place. The postpartum recovery period is a unique individual experience and comes with its own set of changes. The recovery period postpartum may also affected be affected by the potential complications associated during pregnancy or after childbirth like C-section delivery, episiotomy, twin or multiple pregnancy, etc.

Benefits of postnatal exercises –

  • Reduces fatigue and increases vigor
  • Improves mood states and mental acuity
  • Improves fitness and prevent complications associated with weak core in the future
  • Promotes return to pre-pregnancy weight
  • Decreases the risk for developing future chronic health conditions
  • Provides important mom time and social interactions

 

How soon after giving birth can you exercise?

As important as exercising postnatally is, it is very important to recover and heal from the process of childbirth before resuming exercises. Since recovery is a unique experience there is no one-size-fits-all answer to how soon is too soon or how much is too much. Gentle mobility exercises and core engaging exercises in bed can be resumed as soon as day 1 for full term normal delivery and in a few days for C-section. However emphasis should be placed on performing light exercises in the beginning and progressively increasing the load to get back to prior level of function. The key here is to determine your balance and LISTENING TO WHAT YOUR BODY SAYS AND DEMANDS.

Why PHYSICAL THERAPY?

A physical therapist can develop a postpartum physical therapy treatment plan that addresses your individual needs and help you set realistic goals. Physical therapists are also specially trained to assess pelvic floor both externally and if required – internally to assess pelvic floor tone, strength, pain referral points, muscular strength and imbalance, core strength, poor co-ordination. A physical therapist can help you develop an individualized treatment program to help strengthen your core and muscles to restore function which you can follow in the therapy setting and eventually at home.

At ProMet, our excellent team of trained physical therapists can help you in your journey of recovery and healing to resume full function postnatally. Come through for an initial evaluation at any of our locations or contact us regarding any additional information or queries that you may have about the role of PT after childbirth.

 

References –

Roy B. Postpartum Exercise. ACSMs Health Fit J. 2014;18(6):3-4. doi:10.1249/fit.0000000000000071

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