Contributing post by Amy Boutry, DPT, Physical Therapist specializing in women’s pelvic and perinatal health at Marathon Physical Therapy
I’m 39 weeks pregnant, and waiting in eager anticipation for my little one to arrive (though not quite as patiently as that makes it sound). As I’ve reflected on what life is like as a pregnant woman and as a physical therapist who works with the perinatal population, here are some things I’ve learned:
- Physical therapy actually works. I know, I know, I’m supposed to say that, right? But it’s true – and not just from my experience as a physical therapist, but also from my personal experience as a pregnant woman. Throughout my pregnancy, I’ve been fortunate to not encounter significant medical complications which might otherwise affect my health and limit my ability to be active. So, I’ve worked on my TA (transversus abdominis) and strengthening and stretching exercises diligently (it has helped to have my patients keep me in line with this!), I’ve continued aerobic exercise with walking, swimming, and prenatal yoga, and I’ve tried to keep my posture from completely deteriorating as my body changes. And you know what? I’ve felt pretty great!
- Side note: I had to laugh at myself as in the middle of the night a couple of days ago, I massaged out a painful trigger point in my glute and did an exercise to help with sacroiliac joint stability…it ended up being a good way to make use of insomnia!
- Prenatal education is crucial. Pregnancy is a pretty remarkable time – a woman’s body changes dramatically over the course of 40+ weeks, and these changes can be scary if you aren’t “in the know.” Pregnancy affects our musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems, urinary and bowel function, and the list goes on and on; learning what’s normal and what’s not can be critical for ensuring a happy and healthy pregnancy. This can also be helpful for the postpartum time, too. I attended a great, comprehensive childbirth and postpartum education class, but even then, it lacked some key information regarding recovery and rehabilitation after delivery. Yes, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms that would require medical care (such as for an infection), but it’s also important to know what to do and where to go to heal after a c-section, or a perineal tear, or a prolapse, or an abdominal muscle separation, or if you’re having unresolved leakage. Many simply accept or are just never made aware of some of these pretty common—yet treatable—issues.
- There is no “one size fits all” during pregnancy. Everyone’s story is unique. Pregnancy is certainly a shared experience among women of all backgrounds, but what works for one woman may not work for another. It’s so important for us as women to empower and encourage other pregnant women, and to avoid the tendency to do just the opposite – to comment on a pregnant woman’s size (regardless of how big or small you think she should be), to jump to sharing “horror stories” instead of tempering these with the joy and rewards of motherhood, and to judge other women for their personal preferences during pregnancy, labor, and delivery (midwife vs. OB, home vs. hospital birth, vaginal vs. c-section delivery, and the like).
Pregnancy has been an adventure for me, one that has brought both a lot of excitement and a lot of questions. I’m so excited to be a part of the Share MayFlowers movement because we have a chance to answer questions that many (ok MOST) expectant moms don’t even know to ask. We’ve included those types of issues over at ShareMayFlowers.org and will be continuing to provide vital information that will help women with perinatal and postpartum physical rehabilitation—something that truly affects quality of life in the short- and long-term! I hope that all of us can find joy in this season of life and celebrate it with one another!