Having a new baby is one of the biggest and arguably most life changing events in a woman’s life. As a physiotherapist treating women through pregnancy and in the immediate post-natal period, I often hear about how there is so much information on staying fit and healthy during pregnancy, yet once the baby arrives, the mother is almost forgotten. Not only do they have this new little bundle of joy that is completely dependent on them, they are also dealing with all the body changes from the pregnancy and birth, and it can sometimes be difficult to know where to start and how to help their body recover.
This is where we come in!
During pregnancy, a woman’s body undergoes many changes. As physiotherapists, we are most concerned with the impact of pregnancy on your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles and how this can then lead to other concerns such as hip, pelvis and low back pain. You might remember a that a little while ago we blogged about exercise post pregnancy. It contained a little lesson about a woman’s anatomy and how it can be affected by pregnancy.
In case you missed it, here it is again…
Many of you will have heard of the pelvic floor, but probably know little about what it does, or even where it is. The pelvic floor is a sling of muscle and fibrous tissue that sits at the bottom of the pelvis. It attaches to the pubic bone at the front, the tailbone at the back and from the sides of the bottom of the pelvis. The pelvic floor has 2 main roles – to support the contents of the pelvis (the bladder, bowel and uterus) and to help control continence.
The increasing weight of the growing baby, as well as the labour process puts the pelvic floor under a huge amount of strain and can lead to weakness of the pelvic floor muscles. This is something that definitely needs to be addressed in the post natal period to minimise the risk of issues down the track, such as incontinence or prolapse.
Now let’s talk about the abdominal muscles!
The abdominal muscles (rectus abdominus, obliques and transversus abdominus) act as a functional brace to support our lower back. During pregnancy, these muscles, particularly the transversus abdominus, become stretched and weakened and puts us at risk of injury.
Abdominal separation, or diastasis recti (DRAM), is another common condition of pregnancy, when the left and right halves of your rectus abdominis muscle (the 6 pack muscles) stretch and spread apart at the body’s midline to allow room for your baby. Unfortunately, the muscles will not automatically re-join and resume their pre-pregnancy strength, so we need to help them a long a little.
Image credit: https://www.babycenter.com/0_diastasis-recti_10419293.bc
At Revive, we are very experienced in the management of women during pregnancy and the post natal period. During your post-natal assessment, we will take a thorough history of your pregnancy and the birth, followed by assessment of pelvic floor and abdominal muscle activation and strength. We are lucky enough to have a Real Time Ultrasound Machine, so will use this to visualise your muscles and assess strength. We will also check for any separation of the abdominal muscles. Our physiotherapists will then work with you to develop a program to rehabilitate these muscles and to help you achieve any fitness or exercise goals you may have, or to simply be in the best possible physical condition to care for your new bub! Call us today to book your appointment.