All too often, women with young families have a difficult time prioritizing their health. The hustle and bustle of the daily schedule make it hard to find time to care for a new mom’s aches and pains, and physical weaknesses that often start during pregnancy can continue well after childbirth and cause unnecessary pain and discomfort.
The most common concerns women report after becoming a mother include symptoms of core weakness and pain when caring for the family, and targeted women’s health physical therapy is often all a parent needs to overcome the lingering physical weakness from pregnancy and childbirth and get back to feeling strong and healthy as a woman.
Ergonomics of Baby Care
The arrival of a new baby places all new physical demands on parents. All of a sudden, an incredible amount of time is spent looking down at the baby, holding baby and caring for baby. These positions often take a toll physically, and can cause new moms to experience neck pain, mid-back pain, and hip pain. One of the leading causes of pain is associated with the position used to feed and hold the baby. The most common mistakes that new mom’s make includes insufficient use of support and sitting with slumped posture during feedings. By using proper pillows to support the baby and good sitting postures, in combination with targeting postural strengthening and stretching, mothers can protect their bodies against the challenges of baby care. Proper feeding position includes hips and knees at 90 degrees, feet flat on the floor or supported by an ottoman and support under the baby limiting the mother’s need to hold and support the baby using their musculature. Moms can tell if they are properly positioned by evaluating whether they feel comfortable and relaxed during feedings.
aby wearing is the other important consideration if a mother is experiencing discomfort. Ideal baby wearing devices provide mid-back and hip support to distribute the baby’s weight across the mother’s body. Devices that place the baby on one side of the body are not recommended for women experiencing pain, as the unequal weight distribution often contributes to discomfort. Women’s health physical therapy can help women comfortably care for the baby and family by combining targeted strengthening and stretching routines with improved posture and body mechanics to reduce pain and discomfort.
Importance of Core Strength
Pregnancy and childbirth take quite the toll on core strength for women. During pregnancy, abdominal separation (known as diastasis rectus) is common, because abdominal muscles must lengthen to accommodate the growing baby. Abdominal separation resolves naturally within approximately 8 weeks for many mothers, but one of every three women have separation that does not resolve by itself. This often results in lingering abdominal weakness that both changes the appearance of the stomach contributing to the “mommy tummy” and can also lead to increased back pain and cause functional weakness with movement and exercise. Weakness and back pain are particular issues for new parents who may be picking up their child hundreds of times per day! Targeted women’s health physical therapy can reduce abdominal separation, improve abdominal function and reduce the appearance of the “mommy tummy.” By eliminating diastasis rectus, post-baby body satisfaction increases and most importantly the risk of back and pelvic discomfort lessens, enabling new mothers to pick up and care for their children with ease!
In addition to the abdominal separation described above, there are other symptoms of core weakness that often become apparent as mothers laugh and play with their children. Ever had a little bit of leakage with laughing or running? How about on the trampoline with the kids? Bladder leakage is not normal but it is incredibly common and in addition to abdominal separation is a leading sign of core muscle weakness. Research shows that one in four women experience leakage with increased activity or pressure on the bladder (from laughing, for example), a symptom known as stress urinary incontinence. For many women, leakage begins during pregnancy, but is never fully resolved after childbirth and becomes a more pressing issue as their child grows and they find themselves running after toddlers, climbing on swing sets, and otherwise increasing their activity levels. Over time, stress incontinence can progress into sensations of increased bladder urgency and frequency, interrupting enjoyment of family actives, with constant trips to the bathroom as well as causing undue stress. Fortunately, through targeted pelvic health physical therapy women can improve the strength and control of the pelvic muscles eliminating these interruptions. Pelvic health physical therapy shows women how to correctly strengthen the core muscles to improve bladder control, and teaches women the right way to control their muscles during moments of high activity and movement.
In addition to reducing leakage, improving control of the pelvic floor muscles also helps to reduces back pain, pelvic girdle pain and improves movement and exercise because the pelvic floor muscles are at the base of the body and help support the back and spine. By improving your deep core muscle strength and control, you can run, jump and laugh without fear of leakage, pain or weakness.
Dr. Natalie Sebba is a board-certified women’s health and pelvic health physical therapist and founder of Opt IN! Physical Therapy.