Victoria Skay, LPTA
So you’re having a baby! Congratulations! There is so much to do in nine months…pick a name, prepare the nursery, eat nutritious foods, pick out baby clothes, visit a Physical Therapist…what??? That’s right. Making an appointment with a skilled Physical Therapist might be one of the most important preparations you can make for the arrival of your new baby. Let me explain why.
The body of an expectant mother goes through so many complex changes during the gestation period. Some of these changes are wonderful, like having glowing hair and skin or feeling your growing baby kick for the first time. However, pregnancy places a great strain on a woman’s body. The musculoskeletal adjustments that must happen to mom’s body before she can give birth may have unpleasant symptoms or be downright painful. Here’s a quick rundown of those changes per trimester and what symptoms may occur:
In the first trimester of pregnancy – as our bodies start to form the baby’s “house” for the next 9 months, fatigue may be one of the main symptoms you experience during this first period of pregnancy. Many internal changes are taking place, one of the main changes is as the baby grows, and the uterus shifts which causes a change in posture. Up to 70% of expectant moms will have low back pain due to this postural shift.
In the second trimester of pregnancy – many women will experience Diastasis Recti (a stretching of the abdominal wall muscles away from the midline) and increased low back pain, possibly with the addition of sciatica. Ligaments start to relax, as a special pregnancy hormone is released, called relaxin. For one out of every five women, the ligaments that hold the pelvis in place, may relax too much, too soon. This condition is called Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD), which can cause severe pelvis and groin pain and difficulty walking, as the baby continues to grow.
In the third trimester of pregnancy – because of the added weight during pregnancy, your posture will be much different as you may feel your balance has shifted forward. Some joints in the lower back may become painful and inflamed, as may those in your knees, ankles and feet as they work differently to keep you balanced. You may experience temporary numbness in the legs and feet as nerves near the spine become compressed due to excess pressure from the increased fluid in your body.
If you are experiencing any of these discomforts or have concerns throughout your pregnancy, rest assured that you have a partner in your pre-natal care – your Physical Therapist! He or she can meet with you, discuss any issues you’re having with your posture, discuss proper pregnancy body mechanics, improve balance and stability, help you learn appropriate stretches and exercises, as well as relaxation techniques. They can also suggest more comfortable positions for driving, sitting at a desk, sex, labor and delivery, and other everyday activities based on your specific issues.
In addition, your Physical Therapist can perform manual therapy to help improve muscle function, decrease muscular imbalances and provide muscular relief during each trimester of your pregnancy. They can also recommend the use of Pelvic support belts if you suffer from SPD.
We live a very busy life, especially as new moms! It’s important we take the time during our pre and postnatal care to educate ourselves on the benefits of physical therapy can have on our bodies during this huge transition!