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Is Prenatal Physical Therapy Beneficial?

Prenatal physical therapy is a type of physical therapy specifically targeted to the unique symptoms of pregnancy. While many people are unaware of this type of physical therapy, it provides a wide range of benefits to expectant mothers. Pregnancy is a time of constant change, as the fetus grows, and the mother’s body accommodates these various stages. Due to the associated hormonal and physical changes of pregnancy, the mother may experience insomnia, pain, and incontinence.

While growing a new life is a miracle, it can feel less than miraculous for mother’s experiencing the discomforts of pregnancy. If this sounds familiar, you could be a good candidate for prenatal physical therapy. When you invest in this form of self-care, you may reap many benefits including, increased feelings of well-being, lower levels of back and/or pelvic pain, better sleep, improved mood, less stress, reduced issues with incontinence, as well as reduced discomfort from muscle aches/pains. With so many great benefits to reap, consider if prenatal physical therapy could help improve your pregnancy experience!

Why Choose Prenatal Physical Therapy?

Probably the most obvious reason to choose prenatal physical therapy is to better your health both physically and emotionally during pregnancy. Simply put, when you are experiencing constant pain, it impacts your ability to enjoy life. When you add chronic pain and reduced mobility on top of pregnancy hormones, prenatal depression and anxiety are a common result. When you choose prenatal physical therapy, you are choosing to care for your entire person, so you can get back to loving and living life again.

But, Is It Safe?

A frequent concern of expecting mothers is whether or not prenatal therapy and its associated exercises are safe during pregnancy. Many people falsely believe that exercise during pregnancy is dangerous, when the converse is typically true. Generally, prenatal physical therapists see the majority of their patients referred directly from their OBGYN to address the different issues of pregnancy. Giving birth is often likened to running a marathon. Being in your best shape physically will help you feel your best during pregnancy, better the outcome of your labor and delivery, and aid in a faster postpartum recovery.

However, even though there are numerous benefits to prenatal physical therapy, if you have certain conditions, it may not be helpful and could even be dangerous. So, while, physical therapy and exercise are generally recommended for pregnant women, if you have an underlying condition, such as ruptured membranes, incompetent cervix, or placenta previa you may need to avoid prenatal physical therapy programs for the safety of yourself and your unborn baby. Ultimately, since no two pregnancies are alike, the best policy is to always seek the advice of your OBGYN prior to starting any new therapy or exercise program during pregnancy.

Why Do I Have Increased Pain During Pregnancy Anyway?

There are two primary reasons that many women will experience aching, pain, and/or incontinence during pregnancy: the expansion of the fetus and the hormone relaxin. While this hormone is fundamental in preparing your pelvis/cervix for the birth event, it also causes other ligaments in your body to loosen. This frequently results in hip, back, or even sciatica like pain. On top of this change, each month the baby increases in length and weight, putting increased pressure on your body and bladder as the months go on. These changes, while necessary for a healthy pregnancy, can impact your ability to perform normal activities and may even hinder your quality of life. Physical therapy is a great way to strengthen your body and mitigate issues of pain, without taking painkillers which are largely restricted during pregnancy.

How Does Prenatal Physical Therapy Work?

Prenatal physical therapy works by addressing the root cause of your pain rather than just treating the symptom. Through gentle stretching, strengthening, and mobilizing techniques, therapists work to restore proper function to your muscles and joints, helping them to become more flexible and stronger.  The use of therapeutic massage helps to release tension in your muscles and connective tissue, allowing them to relax and heal. In addition, focusing on core strength helps stabilize your spine and pelvis so that you have less stress on your back and hips. The ultimate goal is always to get you back to being able to perform all of the things you enjoyed doing before becoming pregnant.

What Can I Expect from Prenatal Physical Therapy?

Prenatal physical therapy should be performed at least once per week throughout your entire pregnancy. If you are experiencing pelvic girdle pain, back pain, or lower extremity weakness, you may need to see a physical therapist twice weekly.

Typical modalities used during prenatal physical therapy include:

  • Therapeutic Massage
  • Soft/Connective Tissue Mobilization
  • Ultrasound Used In Real Time To Ensure Core Muscles are Activated Correctly
  • Postural Training
  • Stretches
  • Neural Mobilization
  • Biofeedback To Assist With Pelvic Floor Issues
  • Core Strength Exercises
  • Educational Resources 

While the above treatments are common treatment options, it is crucial to remember that no two patients are the same. Thus, a reputable physical therapy clinic will work with each individual to tailor their treatment plan to their unique needs.

Who Is a Good Candidate for Prenatal Physical Therapy for Pain Relief?

If you are pregnant, have a normal, low risk pregnancy, and are experiencing pain or pelvic floor issues related to your pregnancy, prenatal physical therapy may be right for you. Some common conditions that may benefit from prenatal physical therapy include:

  • Painful Backaches
  • Hip Dysfunction
  • Sciatica Like Symptoms
  • Lower Extremity Weakness
  • Sciatic Nerve Pain
  • Incontinence
  • Pelvic Pain 
  • Or Other Pregnancy Related Aches and Pains

Are You Ready to Get Started?

If you have been suffering from pregnancy related pain, the first step towards healing is by scheduling an appointment at a reputable physical therapy clinic. Be sure to choose a clinic that has therapists on staff who specialize in prenatal therapy. The right therapists can make all the difference in your comfort and healing journey. Don’t keep suffering in silence, believing the lie that chronic pain is just part of pregnancy. Allow an experienced prenatal physical therapist to conduct an evaluation and thorough medical history, so your therapy plan can be tailored to specifically address your unique needs!