The postpartum period is a critical period in which a woman goes through physical, emotional, and hormonal changes after childbirth. These changes can affect different body parts, including the uterus, vagina, breasts, abdominal muscles, and overall physical fitness. According to the World Health Organization, 3 out of 10 women do not receive postpartum care, which can be debilitating, leading to multiple injuries, chronic pain, and maternal mortality if unmanaged. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology states that 40% of women do not attend postnatal follow-ups. Due to the negligence of mothers, their chronic health problems remain unattended, leading to poor health status, obesity, comorbidities, and complications in the next pregnancy.
As a healthcare professional or a physiotherapist, you can help your patients recover from postpartum problems and regain their prepartum fitness. This blog outlines critical checkpoints for physiotherapists to support their patients with the postpartum fitness journey step by step. Let’s get straight into it!
Why Do You Need To Focus on Postpartum Patients?
A recent study published in the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology states that 49% of women suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction in their postpartum period. Postpartum physiotherapy and regular exercise can treat these postpartum problems related to pelvic floor dysfunction, abdominal muscles, vagina, and urinary incontinence. Exercise can improve cardiovascular health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, improve mental health, help regain muscle strength, and prevent diastasis recti and uterovaginal prolapse. Physiotherapy aids in the weight loss journey and helps women regain their pre-pregnancy fitness levels.
The Fourth Trimester:
A 12 weeks period after childbirth is referred to as the fourth trimester, equally important as the first three trimesters. Worldwide, 4-6 weeks of postpartum follow-ups are not well attended, leaving postpartum problems unmanaged.
A study in 2015 indicated that only 50% of obstetricians and gynecologists reported counseling on diastasis recti, urinary incontinence, and fecal incontinence. 70% of postpartum patients did not discuss these problems with their practitioners.
A literature review by Critchley emphasizes the need for physiotherapists to be the first to resolve postpartum musculoskeletal problems (mainly pelvic floor dysfunction and diastasis recti abdominis) instead of general practitioners.
Check Points For Postpartum Physiotherapy:
As a physiotherapist or a practitioner, you must consider a range of factors to ensure the safety and effectiveness of physiotherapy in postpartum patients. Always talk about the patient’s medical history, mode of delivery, and complications during pregnancy or delivery, such as caesarean section or vaginal tears, and perineal tears that may affect her recovery. Evaluate the mother’s current physical state, pelvic floor strength, tone of abdominal muscles, and any pain or discomfort. Then design a personalized physiotherapy program to address her specific needs and goals.
Additionally, educate your patients about the importance of maintaining good posture, performing exercises correctly, and gradually increasing the intensity of their workouts to avoid injury. Follow a comprehensive approach to postpartum physiotherapy to support her recovery and transition into motherhood. The following are the guidelines for physiotherapy in postpartum patients:
1-Start Slowly and Progress Gradually:
Although labor is a normal physiological phenomenon, it is associated with significant changes in abdominal muscles, the vagina, the uterus, and the perineal muscle. Start slowly with low-impact exercises and progress gradually to prevent further injuries. Allow the body to heal and adapt naturally. Start with low-impact exercise such as walking and running and gradually increase the intensity and duration of their workouts. Consider the individual health status of postpartum patients; for example, if a postpartum patient has heart disease, she will have shortness of breath while exercising.
2-Incorporate Resistance Training:
Resistance training is beneficial for postpartum patients. It helps them to rebuild muscle strength, improve muscle tone, and recover from the physiological changes of pregnancy and childbirth. A woman’s body goes through weight gain and hormonal shifts during pregnancy, affecting muscle mass and strength. Resistance training involves using weights or resistance to build muscles and restore muscle function.
Specifically, resistance training helps postpartum patients improve posture, reduce back pain, and prevent pelvic floor dysfunction. It improves cardiovascular health and increases bone density, especially in patients at risk of developing osteoporosis later in life.
3-Monitor the Intensity Of Exercise:
Always monitor the exercise intensity of your patient to prevent overexertion. Overexertion can lead to muscle injuries and strains and delay the recovery process. As a physiotherapist, consider mothers’ fatigue and sleep deprivation levels while designing an exercise program. Avoid high-impact exercises such as running, swimming, jumping, aerobics, and skipping, as they exert stress on pelvic floor muscles and abdominal muscles.
4-Consider Pelvic Floor Health:
Pelvic floor dysfunction is the most common problem in postpartum women. As a physiotherapist, evaluate pelvic floor health when designing an exercise program and modify or provide specific exercises to address the dysfunction. Pelvic floor exercises can address urinary and faecal incontinence after childbirth. Kegel exercises, in particular, have been shown to be effective in preventing and treating dysfunction.
5-Support Mental Health:
Postpartum depression, postpartum blues, and anxiety are common mental health issues in new mothers. Besides psychological treatment, exercise is an effective way to manage these problems. Support your patient’s mental health and provide a safe and supportive environment for exercise. Encourage your patients to seek psychological opinion if symptoms are severe.
6-Allow the Body to Rest and Heal:
The body needs time to heal and recover after childbirth. The human body heals when a patient rests. During the early postpartum period, advise your patients to focus on rest, hydration, and good nutrition. Encourage your patients to rest instead of pushing themselves too hard.
7-Abdominal Bracing Exercises:
The abdominal muscles undergo significant stretching with the growth of the fetus during pregnancy, leading to diastasis recti. Gentle abdominal bracing exercises help activate the deep core muscles and promote healing.
8-Focus on Core Strength:
Core strength is critical for postpartum recovery and rehabilitation. Advise your patients to incorporate exercises targeting deep core muscles, such as planks and bridges. These high-impact exercises must be recommended when the body has healed.
How Does ANF Therapy®️ Help Patients After Childbirth?
ANF Therapy®️ is a specialized approach to correct neurological frequencies in the nervous system. ANF Devices (with specific incorporated frequencies) are applied in certain areas of the body, which send correction signals to correct weakened frequencies of the neurons. This non-invasive holistic practice treats muscle injuries, orthopaedic injuries, chronic pain, muscle strains, and many other problems.
ANF Therapy®️ is focused on finding the root cause of the problem. ANF Education provides a step-by-step guide to patient examination, thorough evaluation, palpation, and treatment.
Why Opt for ANF Therapy®️ As A Physiotherapist Or Healthcare Practitioner?
ANF Therapy®️ helps your patients recover after childbirth. Multiparous women usually feel tired and fatigued due to hormonal deficiencies and osteoporosis. ANF Therapy®️ helps women return to pre-pregnancy fitness level and perform sports. With a variety of devices help heal chronic problems aiming to strengthen the nervous system and biochemical functions of the body without using any chemicals or needles.
Join ANF Therapy®️ Education today to learn more about ANF Devices.