How physiotherapy can help through pregnancy and after pregnancy:
Pregnancy and childbirth throw a woman's daily routine out for a toss. During and after pregnancy is the time when her body undergoes a number of hormonal and physical changes. Mundane tasks like sitting, standing, walking, and working become a challenge.
Research suggests that almost all pregnant women experience musculoskeletal discomfort but around 25% become temporarily disabled because of it. All these occur due to the incredible changes taking place in the body during a normal pregnancy.
Pregnancy discomfort has been accepted as a part of the normal process of pregnancy for years now. But just because you are pregnant does not necessarily mean that you have to accept problems like a backache and pelvic girdle pain as unmanageable. Doctors of today have realized that physiotherapy is the key to enhancing a woman's health during pregnancy. The main aim of physiotherapy is to reduce discomfort, to prepare the body for delivery and to speed-up recovery after childbirth.
Physiotherapy through pregnancy
The basic aim of physiotherapy during pregnancy is to help the body deal with issues related to mobility, musculature, circulation and respiration. Prior to starting an effective antenatal (before birth) program, a thorough evaluation is done to recognize which exercises would be best suited to the woman's needs. These exercises are aimed at strengthening muscles,
decreasing joint pain, correcting muscle imbalances, and increasing the overall range of motion of the body. Therapists may also advise you about correct sleeping positions as your normal sleeping routine may be disturbed during pregnancy.
Here's how physiotherapy deals with some common complaints experienced by women during pregnancy.
Lower back pain: almost all pregnant women experience low back pain, though it tends to become severe after third trimester begins because the woman's centre-of-gravity shifts due to the increase in the stomach size. Lower back pain is treated with manual and passive physiotherapy, back support, postural education, and some pilates exercises. Home exercises are also taught which the women are encouraged to continue at home.
Pain in the sacroiliac joints: sacroiliac joints are present in the lowest region of the lower back. This pain is usually concentrated in the buttock region. During pregnancy, due to excessive hormone release, the body's connective tissues tend to relax so that the muscles can stretch to aid in delivery. This may cause the sacroiliac muscles and ligaments to become excessively mobile, causing extreme joint movements. Due to this, the woman may experience difficulty in lifting the leg, swelling in the joints, pain in the hips, and difficulty while standing and sitting. Strengthening exercises are provided by the physiotherapist to stabilize the joints and hands-on therapy is given to reduce the pain by realigning the pelvis.
Urinary incontinence (due to pelvic floor weakness): progesterone, which is known as the pregnancy hormone, relaxes the muscles of the pelvic floor in order for it to be supple and ready for delivery. Therefore, these muscles can weaken and strain during pregnancy and childbirth, which leads to urinary incontinence (unable to contain or retain urine) and pelvic floor dysfunction. Physiotherapists will teach you strengthening exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. They may also provide you with a pilates based exercise program to help reduce the muscle weakness that may occur after childbirth.