By Sarah Thabet PT, DPT
As a physical therapist (and recent new mother), I have come to realize the importance of preparing the body for pregnancy and the postpartum period.
It is no secret that this time in a woman’s life places great demands on her body. What I have found (both in working with patients and in my own experience) is that little to no education is provided during pregnancy and postpartum on the importance of a consistent strengthening program during pregnancy and how to safely navigate this in the postpartum period.
In the past, women have been told to “take it easy” to avoid injury (such as a back strain). While this is true in some special cases, we now know it is often more harmful to avoid strength training as this inactivity can be the cause of aches and pains during pregnancy (especially during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters) and postpartum.
Seeing a physical therapist can ease a lot of the anxiety that can come with attempting a strength training program and exercise in general in the prenatal and postpartum period. Just make sure your OBGYN has cleared you for exercise and obtain a referral for outpatient physical therapy. The main muscle groups that should be targeted are the pelvic and spine stabilizers such as the abdominals and gluteal muscles. Often forgotten but quite important are the hamstrings as well. Education on proper body mechanics to avoid injury is essential (especially while picking up a heavy/ growing baby).
A physical therapist who has experience with prenatal/ postpartum patients can offer a safe way to exercise these muscle groups to avoid injury and help you feel better during this physically demanding time. Let’s spread the word and create a new narrative– the female body is strong and can handle it!
If you have questions about how physical therapy may help you or someone you care about, please don’t hesitate to ask your health care provider or local physical therapist for information.
You can learn more about the VNA Outpatient Therapy clinic by visiting us on the web at www.vermontvisitingnurses.org or calling 802.362.6509.