Hormonal fluctuations, weight gain, and more can lead to various discomforts during pregnancy, such as low back pain, hip pain, pelvic floor dysfunction, and urinary incontinence.Prenatal physiotherapy, also called pregnancy physiotherapy or antenatal physiotherapy, specifically addresses the unique needs of women during pregnancy. This type of therapy helps expectant mothers handle the physical changes and challenges that come with pregnancy—benefiting both mother and baby. Below, we explore what pregnancy physiotherapy entails and why you might want to consider a pregnancy physiotherapist in Wynnum, Brisbane.
What is pregnancy physiotherapy?
During pregnancy, the body undergoes many physical changes. Pregnancy hormones, including relaxin, stretch and loosen the body’s ligaments (the connective tissue connecting bone to bone). This creates room for the growing fetus and eventually prepares the body for birth. The stretching of these ligaments can lead to various imbalances and pain. Additionally, shifts in a woman’s centre of gravity and weight gain frequently lead to lordosis (curving) of the lower back, kyphosis (rounding) of the upper back, and a forward shift of the neck. As a result, low back pain is a common complaint among pregnant women.
With an antenatal physio, prescribed exercises, gentle manual therapy techniques, and education are used to alleviate associated discomforts, improve flexibility, and enhance core strength.
All of the above further equips expectant mothers for labour. A pregnancy physio may also help the baby assume the correct position for birth. This can significantly reduce the risk of complications during birth.
How can a pregnancy physio help you?
A pregnancy physio ensures a more comfortable and healthier pregnancy experience. With that in mind, here is a breakdown of how an antenatal physio can help you:
- Decreases low back pain: As the baby grows, a mother’s centre of gravity shifts. This, plus the added weight, puts pressure on the back and pelvis, often leading to discomfort. A pregnancy physio can provide targeted exercises that strengthen the back muscles, improve posture, and reduce strain on the spine.
- Reduces pelvic pain: Changes in hormone levels and the added weight of the baby can strain the pelvic joints. This can lead to a condition called Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP). Through specific strengthening and stabilising exercises, a pregnancy physio can help alleviate these symptoms. They can also provide advice on how to move and rest in ways that minimise discomfort.
- Decreases swelling in the legs and feet: Swelling during pregnancy is often due to fluid retention and decreased circulation in the body. However, gentle exercises and massage techniques provided by a physio can help improve blood flow and reduce swelling.
- Maintains and improves muscle strength: Diastasis recti, separation of the abdominal muscles, can occur during pregnancy or 12 months afterward. A pregnancy physio can help you safely improve or maintain abdominal strength with suitable exercises. Additionally, your physio can help alleviate joint pain. As such, they may recommend lower body exercises to help support you during pregnancy.
- Leads to an easier birth and delivery: With improved strength, you may have an easier time pushing during labour. Perineal massage techniques may further reduce the risk of tears.
- Enhances postpartum recovery: Prenatal physiotherapy can set you up for success postpartum. It decreases pain and helps with bladder control. By maintaining good physical health throughout pregnancy, mothers can often enjoy a smoother transition after birth, both physically and emotionally.
- Improves pelvic floor dysfunction: About 40% of women experience some form of pelvic floor dysfunction. Your pelvic floor muscles support your reproductive organs and bladder. When dysfunction occurs, common symptoms include incontinence, increased urination, discomfort, pain during sexual intercourse, bowel issues, and organ prolapse. Your prenatal physio, however, can prescribe exercises to strengthen this area and improve function.
- Improves sleep: Many pregnant women struggle with finding a comfortable position for sleeping. A pregnancy physio can make recommendations, as well as alleviate contributing discomforts.
- Enhances breathing: Shortness of breath is another common complaint during pregnancy due to the growing fetus. Your physio may be able to prescribe appropriate breathing exercises. These exercises aim to reduce stress and promote oxygen delivery throughout the body.
What does pre-natal physiotherapy involve?
A pregnancy physiotherapist provides tailored support to manage the common physical challenges of pregnancy. From back and pelvic pain to swelling and sleep issues, their expertise can make a significant difference in comfort and well-being during this special time.
At your first visit with a pregnancy physio, you will undergo an assessment. Your physio will listen and understand your complaints. They will also perform tests for musculoskeletal imbalances and weaknesses. In turn, this will help your physio determine your unique treatment plan.
Techniques included in this plan may include:
- Soft tissue massage
- Manual therapy
- Lymphatic drainage
- Joint taping or bracing
- Joint mobilisation
- Stretching exercises
- Strengthening exercises.
Common exercises to improve pregnancy symptoms further include:
- Pelvic floor exercises
- Breathing exercises
- Abdominal and core exercises
- Back exercises
- Postural exercises.
The exact exercises prescribed will depend on your assessment and symptoms. These exercises will further be adapted as you move through the different stages of pregnancy.
Your physio can also provide advice regarding your concerns or discomforts. For instance, they may suggest compression socks or pants to help ease swelling. They may also provide education regarding the changes your body is experiencing.
Antenatal physio FAQs
Is physiotherapy safe during pregnancy?
Yes, physiotherapy is a completely safe option during pregnancy. It can contribute to effective pain management, increased strength, and, in turn, lead to a healthier and happier pregnancy.
When should I start physiotherapy during pregnancy?
It’s never too early or too late to start seeing a pregnancy physio. At any point in your pregnancy or afterward, physiotherapy can help alleviate aches and pains and improve function.
What positions should you avoid while pregnant?
Particularly during the later stages of pregnancy, it’s best to avoid lying on your back. The baby’s weight may press on critical blood vessels. Instead, try lying on your side with your knees slightly bent. Pillows between the knees and behind the back may also provide increased support and comfort.
What are the benefits of prenatal physiotherapy?
Prenatal physiotherapy has many benefits. These include:
- Reduced back or pelvic pain
- Improved overall body strength
- Easier labour and birth
- Reduced postpartum recovery
- Improved sleep
- Decreased swelling.
After your initial assessment, your prenatal physio will determine a personalised plan specific to you.
How do I find a pregnancy physio?
At Advantage Healthcare & Physiotherapy in Wynnum, our Women’s Health Physiotherapy services are here to help; we can provide support for you, your body, and your baby during pregnancy and afterward. Book your appointment with our caring and compassionate pregnancy physios today.