Pregnancy and Postpartum
Pregnancy is usually a wonderful and joyful time in a woman’s life. Pregnancy can impose anatomical and physiological changes, and adapting to these changes is difficult for some women. Typical changes in pregnancy which increase vulnerability for the musculoskeletal system include:
- Postural changes
- Ligament laxity
- Weight gain
- Fluid retention
- Structural body changes
- Abdominal weakness
- Pelvic floor weakness
There are many common problems during pregnancy and postpartum that are treatable through The Iowa Clinic Physical Therapy Department.
Musculoskeletal problems are caused by a disruption in the way your joints and muscles work together and most likely will cause pain. Common difficulties include:
- Low back pain
- Sacroiliac pain
- Coccyodynia (tail bone pain)
- Coastal margin pain (rib pain)
- Neck pain
- Public Smphysis pain
- Diastasis recti
- Pelvic floor muscle weakness
- Urinary or fecal incontinence
- Cystocele or pelvic organ prolapse
Muscle Weakness/Lack of Pelvic Floor Support
Hormonal influence, weight gain and postural changes can contribute to weakness of the abdominal muscles and muscles of the pelvic floor.
In some cases, the abdominals become so strained that they can separate under the increased pressure. The rectus abdominus is one muscle in particular where this occurs. This muscle runs from the breast bone down to the pubic bone and has a small separation between the muscle bellies. With weakened abdominals, increased weight, poor posture, poor body mechanics, hormonal influence, c-section deliveries and scar tissue, this separation can increase.
Another common area of weakness occurs in the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor muscles provide support, sphincteric control and enhance sexual function. This muscle group is often times weakened during pregnancy and postpartum with routine and omplicated vaginal deliveries involving vaginal tears/episiotomy, forceps vacuum extraction or long pushing phase of labor and, as a result, urinary incontinence as well as sexual dysfunction and decreased pelvic and core support can occur.
Nerve Compression Syndromes
Fluid retention is common in pregnancy and oftentimes can cause compression on nerves which must travel in small spaces. Nerve compression has a unique pattern of symptoms in localized areas. Typical symptoms include pain, weakness, burning,
numbness and tingling. Typical nerve compression syndromes include:
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome - may notice symptoms in thumb, index and middle finger
- Thoracic Outlet Syndrome - may notice symptoms down the arm
- Femoral Nerve Compression - may notice symptoms down front of thigh
- Genitofemoral Compression - may notice symptoms in front of thigh and/or genitalia
The physical therapists at The Iowa Clinic will conduct a thorough evaluation of your present condition. Our physical therapist will assess your musculoskeletal system and determine what treatment plan to follow. A personalized program developed by The Iowa Clinic can activate the healing process immediately. Your program may include techniques such as:
- Muscle Energy Technique (MET) - symptoms from joint dysfunction can cause pain. METs performed by your physical therapist restore normal joint alignment. The techniques are extremely gentle and therapeutic.
- Soft Tissue Mobilization/Myofascial Release - your physical therapist will perform some highly effective techniques that will maximize relaxation of tense tissue.
- Therapeutic Exercises - your physical therapist will educate you in new pelvic floor and core strengthening postural positions to decrease the chance of future flare-ups.
The Iowa Clinic Physical Therapy Department can help restore healthy movement, function and comfort so you can focus on what’s really important – your new baby.
If you prefer to make an appointment over the phone, please call our Physical Therapy Department directly at 515.875.9706.