Pregnancy, childbirth, and meeting your newborn little one is a beautiful experience. From first smiles, to first laughter, first words, and all the small milestones in between, having a baby can be a joyful journey filled with ups and downs. Whether it's your first, second or fifth child, expecting the unexpected is key. However, when the unexpected refers to your own health, it's not something you'd hope to be caught off guard by. While caring for and loving your baby, where does your recovery fit in?
If you are or have been pregnant in the past, I don't have to tell you twice that nine months is a long time… especially when your body is changing so rapidly over this period. With the beauties of pregnancy also comes the less glamorous, less talked about, but equally as important changes a mother's body experiences during this time and postpartum. Weight gain, stretch marks, hair and skin changes may be the more obvious and expected, but likely unwelcomed developments. Other common, but less readily mentioned symptoms include back pain, bowel and bladder incontinence, pelvic pain, pelvic organ prolapse, rectus diastasis, fatigue and muscular weakness. Depending on the nature of the pregnancy and labor, high blood pressure, diabetes, perineal and vaginal tears and cesarean scarring may be apparent as well. It's a lot to take in, prepare for and accept. And when all eyes are on the baby, it's easy for your health and recovery to be skimmed over and to lose sight of what it felt like pre- pregnancy. This is why knowledge, awareness and taking charge of your own health is so important pre and postpartum.
It may seem daunting, but the truth is, everything mentioned above is more common than you'd expect. In recent studies, it was reported that 77% of women experienced back pain, 49% reported urinary incontinence and 40% reported both back pain and urinary incontinence postpartum. Additionally, postpartum depression is three times as likely in women experiencing any kind of pain postpartum. Furthermore, body image can be associated with postpartum depression, which can impact women as they are adjusting to their postpartum bodies. With so much data surrounding these outcomes, why isn't it talked about more?!
The good news is pelvic floor physical therapy can successfully diagnose, treat and manage symptoms pre and postpartum. If you're experiencing low back pain, bowel and bladder incontinence, pelvic pain, pelvic organ prolapse, fatigue, muscular weakness, or just don't feel like yourself, we at Atlas Physical Therapy are here to help.
Pregnancy, although beautiful, is incredibly challenging on the body and mind. The important point is to educate yourself, know that body changes are normal, and that there are ways to treat these changes. One of the most common things I hear from patients I work with postpartum is they didn't feel like they were prepared for the symptoms they experienced after giving birth, or how long it took to feel “normal” again. At 6 weeks follow up, women are cleared to return to previous levels of activities, intercourse, and exercise, although many don't feel near ready. Whether you just found out you're pregnant, you're 6 weeks postpartum or 10 years, just know that everyone's experience is different. There is no time frame for when you need to be back to the old you, and it's not expected for you to return to the old you (if you don't want to). The journey will be challenging, likely frustrating and may take longer than you'd hope. But there are providers there for you during this time to support you and get you feeling like YOU again. Pelvic floor physical therapy is here to empower you through your journey.