Women’s Health Physical Therapy During Pregnancy
New aches and pains, numbness and tingling in an arm or leg, as well as leaking urine when sneezing or coughing can be a common part of pregnancy. There are treatments available to help manage these symptoms to keep you feeling as good as possible. If you find yourself experiencing new or worsened aches or pains, urinary or fecal incontinence, numbness, tingling, or any concern for your body’s changes, a referral to physical therapy could help you.
Physical therapists who are specially trained in women’s health can safely and effectively help women overcome issues that arise during the childbearing year so that women can focus on these amazing life experiences without pain or further undue stress.
Tips to help you feel your best during pregnancy:
Pelvic Floor Strengthening (Kegel Exercises)
How to find the pelvic floor muscles:
- Squeeze and lift the muscles around the vagina and anus together, as if you are trying to hold in gas. No one should be able to tell you are doing this. Try to keep your buttocks, thigh muscles, and all other muscles as relaxed as possible.
How to exercise the pelvic floor muscles:
- Squeeze the pelvic floor muscles as described above. Try to hold the contraction for a count of 5. Then relax for a count of 10 seconds.
- Try to contract your pelvic floor muscles as you begin to exhale may make it easier.
- Work up to 10 second holds and 10 contractions at a time. Repeat 5 to 6 sets of 10 holds a day for a total of 50-60 reps per day.
- Begin doing these while lying on your back, then sitting and standing.
- Practice doing a quick and strong squeeze before you sneeze, cough, laugh or while lifting heavy objects.
Posture and Body Mechanics
Your posture and the way that you move during the day can directly contribute to pain, numbness/tingling, incontinence, and other problems. Below are some reminders for maintaining good body mechanics.
- When standing or sitting, draw your shoulder blades back and down.
- Keep your back slightly arched and bend your knees when lifting.
- Before standing or lifting, contract your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles and continue to breathe.
- When sleeping, a body pillow may help to support belly.
Footwear During Pregnancy
Changing hormones during pregnancy make your ligaments lax which decreases joint support. As your belly grows, your center of gravity shifts forward. All of these changes can lead to back, hip or foot pain. To counteract these changes, wear supportive footwear with good arch support, sufficient width and preferably tie up laces. As feet often get slightly longer during pregnancy, your shoes should be one thumb width longer than your longest toe.
Exercise During Pregnancy
Obstetricians recommend that pregnant women get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. An aerobic activity is one in which you move large muscles of the body (like those in the legs and arms) in a rhythmic way. Moderate intensity means you are moving enough to raise your heart rate and start sweating. You still can talk normally, but you cannot sing. Examples of moderate-intensity aerobic activity include brisk walking or doing yard work. You can divide the 150 minutes into shorter workouts through the week.
If you are new to exercise, start out slowly and gradually increase your activity. Begin with as little as 5 minutes a day. Add 5 minutes each week until you can stay active for 30 minutes at a time.
If you were very active before pregnancy, you can keep doing the same workouts with your health care professional’s approval. However, if you start to lose weight, you may need to increase the number of calories that you eat.
- Avoid jerky, bouncy, or high-impact motions or anything that causes joint pain.
- Drink plenty of water during and after exercise and avoid overheating.
- Limit standing still and avoid lying flat on your back.
- Avoid sports and types of exercise that risk injury to the abdomen.
Pregnancy and Postpartum Exercises
The exercises on the right will help to support your pelvis, hips, and trunk during and after pregnancy. It is recommended to perform 10-20 reps of each exercise, 2-3 times per week. A customized home exercise program can also be developed for you with a women’s health physical therapist at Active Physical Therapy.
- Leg Lifts
- All fours round back & lift belly
- Quadruped alternate leg lifts
- Quadruped alternate arm lifts
- Seated shoulder blade squeezes