This week, I wanted to bring in the big guns to talk all things postpartum recovery. So I checked in with Physical Therapist, Rhiannon LeGarde. In a minute, I’ll explain why she says you need physical therapy after having kids.
But first, here’s what you need to know about Rhiannon.
She has her own practice with specialization in women’s health. It all started when some new moms her group worked with were in so much pain after giving birth, they could barely walk or didn’t have the strength to hold their babies. When other PTs didn’t know how to treat them, she started a program to educate them on the kind of treatment women need both before and after giving birth. (More on the “before” part later). That’s how passionate she is about women’s health and postpartum recovery.
Cool intro! Now go back and reread the headline of this post. Yep, that’s right. Rhiannon says almost all postpartum women (and many pregnant women), need physical therapy. In fact, in many progressive countries (read: not ours), it’s a totally normal and expected part of postpartum care.
The way she sees it, it’s a routine part of any other post-injury care. And anyone who’s come within 1,000 feet of a live childbirth will agree: when your body gives birth it may be a miracle and all, but you are UNDERGOING TRAUMA, SISTER! Your muscles, abs, and pelvic floor are all stretching throughout pregnancy. Then take your pick between your perineum being torn, cut, or stretched during a vaginal birth or your abdomen and uterus being cut open for a cesarean section. Sorry to get graphic, but the goal here is to acknowledge–rather than diminish–all that our bodies have gone through.
After all that fun, they send us on our merry way.
In her words “we’re simply expected to get better on our own.” Which only works for a small amount of women. But for the rest of us? There is pain. It’s especially common in the low back, neck, shoulder, pelvis, SI joint, wrists, and hands. Then there’s discomfort or pain during sex. And prolapse, which sounds as scary as it is un-fun. And diastasis recti, a separation of the abs that presents itself like a tummy “pooch.” Not to mention urinary or fecal incontinence. If you have any of these symptoms, they are tell-tale signs that you need physical therapy.
Even if you’re lucky enough to be recovering well on your own, you could still benefit and recover faster with help. Postpartum PT is the most efficient way to correctly retrain your body’s movements and strengthen weakened muscles. (Side note: My physical therapist told me I was still standing with a pregnancy posture, even months after giving birth.)
Rhiannon urges women: please don’t think living with any of this pain is “the way it’s got to be. A lot of things we go through can get better. ” Also, just because it’s common, doesn’t mean it’s normal. Cue the plethora of jokes mothers knowingly make about peeing when they laugh or jump on a trampoline.
So how do we get the help we need if we are experiencing any of the issues above?
Rhiannon says the easiest way is to ask your OBGYN or primary care provider for a referral to someone who specializes in postpartum care and can do pelvic floor therapy. The referral won’t say where you have to go. Meaning you can ask a friend for a recommendation. Or do some research to find your own resource, if you prefer. Also, in most states, you can be seen without a referral, but it helps your therapist to have one.
A general PT can help some, but–she stresses–a women’s health specialist is best. That 6-week appointment is a great time to ask your doctor. But you don’t have to wait until then. Just remember, the sooner you identify and address these issues, the better. On the other hand… it’s never too late to get help for issues related to pregnancy or childbirth. Rhiannon has treated a patient in her 60s for a childbirth-related injury from her now 40-year old “baby”.
By the way, here’s another game-changing piece of advice. She also says you may even be able to get PT covered by your insurance. Especially if you are having pain during pregnancy. And if not? No problem. Ask your PT if they offer cash-based services. Wish I knew that about 10 months ago!
If you decide you need physical therapy, here’s what else you should know.
It teaches you how to function in your daily life without pain. And your therapist’s goal is to get you to be independent and pain free as soon as possible.
And it takes time, but with a little help from a qualified expert, you can get back to doing the things you love. You can also prevent future issues like incontinence or prolapse later on in life. Both are issues that can get worse the longer you wait.
I can’t say for sure what exactly is preventing us women from being made aware of–or better yet, openly encouraged to–take advantage of these resources available to us. All I can say, is if you found this post helpful whether or not you think you need physical therapy, PRETTY PLEASE, share it with any woman you know and care about who is pregnant, thinking-about-having-babies (if you’re close enough to do so, obviously… good grief), recently or not-so-recently postpartum.
Because no woman deserves to live with chronic pain, undiagnosed issues,–hell, even mild discomfort–when she doesn’t have to. There is help. And this information just may change her life.
*Steps off my soap box.*
If you’re pregnant, postpartum, or a mom with grown babies wondering “is that supposed to hurt?”, “does everyone else feel like this?”, or “is this normal?”, you need physical therapy! Talk to your doctor and book a consultation session with Rhiannon (or any other qualified physical therapist).
Visit her site at rhivivept.com.
And feel free to check out my little self care gift shop if you want to treat yourself (or pamper a friend) with something special today while supporting this blog and other mama-owned businesses!
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