What role does physical therapy have during pregnancy? Well, it is basically in charge of physical preparation for childbirth and addressing problems and pathologies that may appear during pregnancy and postpartum. Follow these exercises
Obstetrics is also a field that physiotherapy encompasses, and due to its high demand there are more and more specialized physiotherapists in this field. The techniques and resources used have shown great benefits in the face of the physical changes experienced during pregnancy and natural childbirth. Now, what role does physical therapy have during pregnancy ? Well, it is basically in charge of physical preparation for childbirth and addressing problems and pathologies that may appear during pregnancy and postpartum. Next, we will detail how and what are its real benefits and some exercises that you can practice.
Changes during pregnancy, what are they and what do they cause?
Hormonal changes such as the secretion of estrogens and progesterone cause physical changes in the pregnant woman in order to be able to accommodate the fetus during gestation and pregnancy. These changes affect the biomechanics of the body and can cause disorders such as instabilities or dysfunctions in the body.
- The increase in progesterone leads to a decrease in the tone of the smooth muscles, so the bladder and urethral pressure are affected, in addition to the perineum muscle. Problems such as urinary incontinence, prolapse or discomfort in sexual intercourse appear.
- The increase in relaxin causes all the connective tissue to decrease its tension causing it to be looser, affecting ligaments and fasciae in general. This phenomenon causes low back pain due to instability of the ligaments of the lumbar vertebrae, abdominal diastasis (distention of the abdominal muscles) or instability in different joints such as knees, wrists, etc.
At the respiratory level, more oxygen is consumed, so the appearance of dyspnea (shortness of breath) due to exertion is greater. Furthermore, the normal breathing pattern changes from abdominal to thoracic due to the elevation of the diaphragm due to the pressure exerted by the pregnant woman’s uterus.
How does physiotherapy intervene in pregnancy?
Physiotherapy in pregnancy is easy to combine with other treatments since the therapy used is non-invasive and drugs are not used. Taking into account that pregnant women have restricted medication, the physiotherapist has become a benchmark during pregnancy, not only for analgesic treatments, such as to treat lumbopelvic pain or the typical swelling of the legs, but also throughout the process from preparation to delivery and postpartum recovery.
How it works
The main goals of obstetric physiotherapy are to facilitate natural childbirth and postpartum recovery… But how?
- Prepare the perineal tissue so that it does not tear during vaginal delivery and the appearance of dysfunctions can be prevented.
- Work on muscle control at the time of delivery, for example practicing Pilates.
- Acquire respiratory control during contractions.
- Reduce ailments and circulatory problems during childbirth.
- Prevention of urinary incontinence , prolapse and dysfunction of the pelvic floor through hypopressive exercises and training of the pelvic muscles.
During preparation for childbirth …
If there are no contraindications, preparation for delivery can begin during the second trimester . Exercise sessions can last up to an hour and you must avoid sudden movements , jumps and postures that put your balance at risk and can cause a fall or injury. The type of exercise that is carried out is gentle, prescribed and adapted to the pregnant woman and is based on the following:
- Exercises to tone the pectoral and pelvic muscles.
- Toning of the perineum to avoid episiotomy (tear of the perineum) during vaginal delivery through exercises and improve sexual intercourse.
- Gentle stretches to relax the muscles and reduce the tension in the muscle groups that can be affected by morphological changes such as the hip, gluteal or hamstring rotators or the cervical and pectoral muscles in the upper limb. Better if they are directed not to overdo it due to joint laxity caused by relaxin secretion.
- Exercises for circulation . They consist of ankle and leg movements, and self-massage of the plantar arch with a tennis ball to stretch the plantar fascia.
- Postural reeducation . It seeks to become aware of the body and to integrate the postural corrections of the new morphology of the pregnant woman’s body during daily life.
- Exercises to train breathing and expulsion : relaxation techniques are used to improve pain during contractions, postures are also worked to improve labor during dilation and expulsion with the pilates ball or fitball.
- Kegel exercises : the selective contraction of the pelvic floor muscles is worked to prevent urinary incontinence and prolapses. It is recommended to perform them before pregnancy or after childbirth for the recovery of the muscles.
- Hypopressive exercises : to recover the deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles that are weakened by bearing the baby’s weight and hormonal changes. It is only indicated to perform them after quarantine. The physiotherapist specialized in obstetrics performs an assessment of the state of the musculature and guides the relevant exercises for its recovery.
You should always consult with the gynecologist if there is any contraindication to performing these exercises, especially if you want to start during the first trimester to prepare for childbirth and also during the postpartum period, since each situation is different. If there are any warning symptoms such as leaks, for example, the exercise will be stopped immediately and a doctor will be referred.
What you should know…
- As pregnant women have restricted medication, the physiotherapist has become a benchmark during pregnancy.
- Not only for analgesic treatments, such as for treating lumbopelvic pain or the typical swelling of the legs, but also for the entire process of preparation for childbirth and recovery during postpartum.
- You should always consult with the gynecologist if there is any contraindication to perform the exercises in preparation for childbirth.