4 Tips to Alleviate Aches & Pain After Pregnancy
By Brooke David, DPT, Women’s Health Specialist, Zion Physical Therapy
Giving birth is very taxing on your body. Whether you had a marathon pushing session or a surgical procedure to remove your baby, your body has been through a lot! Your abdominal muscles have been stretched, your pelvis has been moved and you have had extra weight on your stomach to deal with. In addition to recovering from the birth experience, you are now repetitively picking up that little precious angel which will continue to grow in size. It is no wonder that most woman experience back pain, neck pain and or pelvic pain after giving birth.
Did you know that there are physical therapists that specialize in women’s health available to help you? You do not have to live with those aches and pains and can seek physical therapy treatment immediately without a doctor’s prescription to start feeling better.
Women’s Health Physical therapists love treating women who have recently given birth. At the beginning of the session, almost every single woman says, “Fix me,” or “Help me get my body back!” By the end of the session, they all express relief that they have found someone to help answer all their questions and they can stop using Dr. Google. A physical therapist can provide exercises and manual techniques to help with decreasing back, neck and pelvic pain but can also help a mother learn better body mechanics to support her baby. A physical therapist can assess abdominal muscles and create a safe exercise program appropriate for a new mother. After pregnancy, it is easy to feel all different types of aches and pains but it is not normal. Below are a few tips to help improve activities of daily living for decreased overall pain.
- How to pick up your baby correctly:
When you are going to pick up your baby, make sure you are thinking about engaging your core (navel to spine) and pelvic floor muscles (imagine an elevator rising up) to help support you. Start by bending your knees and sitting your hips back; make sure back is flat and you are moving from your hips as you lean over to pick up your baby. Make sure you hold your baby close to you before standing up! When ready, exhale and lift your baby up.
- Feeding Posture:
When you are feeding your baby, breast or bottle feeding, make sure you set yourself up with good posture before starting so you are in as little pain as possible. Bring your baby to your breast or the bottle by having a pillow or 2 on your lap to avoid hunching forward. Try alternating between feeding positions to avoid stressing the same muscles. When you are finished, stand up and gently stretch your neck and shoulders by looking to either side as far as is comfortable, then roll your shoulders up, back and down, inhaling as you lift your arms overhead and exhaling as you are lowering them down.
- Managing your baby’s equipment:
Babies do not travel lightly! Carrying a heavy bulky changing bag around on the same shoulder can stress the muscles and joints in your arm, neck, and back. If you can, try to use a backpack to distribute the weight more evenly across. If you have a single-shoulder strap, try to switch sides regularly or look for bags with padded straps.
- Self-care for Mom:
It is so important for you as a new mother to take care of yourself. Once the baby arrives, there are so many life and body changes, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Take as many naps as you need! When your baby sleeps, you should sleep as well! Sleep is when your body recovers, and a well-rested mother is better able to cope with the physical and mental stresses.
Make sure you are feeding yourself well, whether you are breast or bottle feeding. Healthy snacks like fruit, yogurt, nut or veggies are crucial to help keep you going. Try to have some within easy reach or stash snacks in the diaper bag.
Remember to drink plenty of water! Dehydration can often appear as tiredness.
Finally, be kind to your body, it has gone through so much in the past 9 months. Now is not the time for vigorous exercise. Instead, go for short walks or try some gentle exercises at home.
These are just a few suggestions on how to improve caring for your baby to help decrease overall musculoskeletal pain. There can be bladder, bowel and sexual dysfunction that persists after a 6-week checkpoint; a women’s health physical therapist can help address all of these items. If you are struggling with incontinence or bladder urgency or frequency, a physical therapist can work with you to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and discuss bladder training. Constipation and sexual dysfunction are also common after vaginal or C-section deliveries. Working with a women’s health physical therapist can address all of these aches and pains that can be present after pregnancy but should not be present for the rest of your life.
Don’t wait for your aches and pains post pregnancy to get worse. Book a physical therapy appointment today and start feeling BETTER so you can enjoy those precious moments with your new bundle of joy!