I blame Hollywood celebrities for the downfall of woman safely recovering from childbirth. Women are constantly seeing a barrage of images where celebrities give birth and then a few days later they look as if they’ve never been pregnant. As a result, women and men alike have this vision of women going back to their pre-pregnancy body within weeks or even days after childbirth. We know intuitively that it is unrealistic, they are a unicorn in the vast landscape of postpartum recovery. However, we still hold faith that if they can get their body back quickly, so can we. They’re not superhuman after all.
However, these unrealistic expectations cause beliefs and behaviors that put the long-term wellness of postpartum women at risk. New moms, in a haze of hormones and sleep deprivation, try the newest fad diet and exercise programs promising to help them “get their pre-pregnancy body back”, as if it’s been lost in the mail.
It’s considered a badge of honor to leave the house with your newborn as soon as you can slip real clothes on. Gone are the days where neighbors and friends ban together for meals being delivered, house being cleaned, and baby being tended. That’s now for the weak.
I read messages from moms on social media bragging about lifting their 40 lb. toddler days after their c-section, or going to an amusement park at 2 weeks postpartum, or training for a road race starting at 6 weeks postpartum. All of this as if their core muscles hadn’t undergone a major trauma just 6 weeks before. Women are rarely encouraged to relax, accept help from friends and family, and give their bodies the time and attention necessary to heal.
Why do we think that is? Is it because childbirth has become so commonplace, so publicized, so openly talked about? Hard to say, but I’m here to say we need to allow our moms time to rest and recover post childbirth whether they deliver vaginally or via c-section. Both methods of delivery impact the core system and need proper rehab to resume optimal function. It is not the standard of care for women to receive rehab after childbirth, far from it. And I’m hard-pressed to explain why. Many other injuries, surgeries, or conditions qualify for therapy, but not childbirth.
Women are given the green light to resume exercise as tolerated at their 6 week postpartum check-up with no regard for their method of delivery, pregnancy complications, birth complications, or any other musculoskeletal complaints. If someone has a hip replacement, postoperative rehab includes consideration of the type of approach the surgeon used, what activities or movements they may need to avoid immediately after surgery, what type of activity that want to progress to, if they have any job requirements, and many more factors. All of this information shapes their rehabilitation program.
As a society, we need to take better care of our mothers, and I’m not just saying that because I am one. Postpartum rehab should be standard of care for all mothers whether they have had a cesarean delivery or vaginal birth. Last year, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) announced their new recommendations for postpartum care. It involves recommending earlier and more comprehensive follow-up with mothers post childbirth and referral to physical therapy as appropriate. This is great news! But we all know real change will take time.
Luckily, until appropriate postpartum care becomes a universal standard of care, women have the option to educate themselves and pursue their own course of postpartum rehab. Many states, including Massachusetts, have direct access to physical therapy and chiropractic care. This means you do not need a referral to see a physical therapist or chiropractor of your choice. Inner Strength Physical Therapy and Seaside Chiropractic frequently coordinate care to develop individualized physical therapy and chiropractic treatment plans for our clients. Pursuing postpartum rehab with practitioners that are well-versed in the changes that the female body goes through during pregnancy and childbirth can help to guide you toward a safe return to physical activity. We can help you learn to manage “mom problems” that, despite being common, do not need to be your normal. Moms do not need to live with incontinence, low back pain, pelvic pain, or mummy tummy. Pelvic floor physical therapy and chiropractic care can help! If you are a postnatal mom or are currently pregnant, educate and advocate for yourself! Make your health and well-being a priority!
Author Alicia Bertoni-Hickey is the owner of Inner Strength Physical Therapy. To connect with her please visit: http://www.istrengthpt.com/