BY KELLY JONES | PELVIC & WOMEN'S HEALTH PHYSIOTHERAPIST
The fourth trimester is often a challenging time for parents. Adjusting to life with a baby can be overwhelming; understanding your baby and their routines, feeding and sleeping patterns, and going to various appointments are just some of the things that you need to think about. While focusing on your baby, the person who is often forgotten about is MUM!
During pregnancy, your birth, fourth trimester and beyond, your body goes through incredible and significant changes. It only makes sense that the mother needs time and support for recovery as well. In addition to a postpartum check at 6 weeks with your relevant medical professional (e.g. obstetrician or GP), it's highly recommended to have a postpartum appointment with a women's health physiotherapist.
This usually happens at around 6 weeks as well (particularly for the internal pelvic floor assessment). However, there is so much that can be done to help with even earlier than 6 weeks, and it's encouraged to attend earlier if you can and/or need to. A women's health physiotherapist can support you if you are 6 months or 6 years postpartum too!
What can a women's health physiotherapist help with postpartum?
Women's health physios are specialised in treating women in the postpartum period, and can treat (and is not limited to):
- Abdominal separation
- Mastitis and blocked ducts
- Pelvic floor function
- Pelvic conditions e.g. incontinence, prolapse, constipation and pelvic pain
- Common postpartum aches and pains
- Perineal and caesarean section scar care
- Birth debrief
- Return back to exercise and movement
So... what does a "6 week check" with a women's health physiotherapist involve?
1. A detailed discussion about you, your body, your history and your goals.
Your women's health physio will ask you about your pregnancy, your birth story, and how you have been feeling during the last few weeks. It will involve an in-depth discussion about your obstetric and medical history, and any other pelvic health history. There is no such thing as TMI when you are speaking to a women's health physio!
If you have any specific goals or exercise that you would like to return back to, your women's health physio will discuss this with you. Understanding what your life is like now is also important to understand how to best support you with your recovery and needs. Your physio will talk to you about what sort of movement and exercise you have done previously, what you'd like to do or need to do moving forward and any other goals you'd like to achieve.
2. A physical assessment.
A physical assessment should be specific to you and your body. This might include looking at the way that you move, use your body and recruit muscles. If you are experiencing specific niggles or symptoms, your women's health physiotherapist will investigate why this might be occurring. Don't be surprised if your women's health physio looks at the way you breathe!
Commonly, your abdominal wall and the way your abdominal muscles are being used are assessed, as well as whether you have any abdominal separation. If you gave birth via caesarean section, your scar will also be assessed.
3. A pelvic floor assessment.
Your pelvic floor may be assessed during your session (with your consent). This can be done in a variety of different ways; an external or internal assessment, or via ultrasound. On assessment of your pelvic floor, this might include looking at:
- how well your pelvic floor squeezes and lifts
- How well your pelvic floor can relax
- The endurance and speed of your pelvic floor
- The sensitivity of your pelvic floor
- If there are any tight areas of your pelvic floor muscles
- Any scarring
- positioning of your uterus, bladder and bowel
4. A treatment and plan moving forward.
Based on the assessment, your women's health physiotherapist will give you a plan of what to expect in terms of your recovery, treatment and time frames. Your treatment and exercises should be specific to you, your body and your goals and needs. This might include:
- Pelvic floor exercises or releases
- breath work
- strength exercises
- mobility work or stretches
- movement training
- management of pelvic health conditions
- addressing any other symptoms or concerns
- Guidance in terms of exercises and movements that are safe for you right now
- Advice on any modifications that may be needed
Take the time to prioritise you and your needs. Book in to see a women's health physio for your postpartum care - no matter how far post-partum you are!
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Pelvic & Women's Health Physio