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    Article Written by Maria Gonzalez — Medically reviewed by Cosimo Simeone and Rohini Prasannan 

Introduction

Congratulations on your pregnancy! We understand pregnancy can be overwhelming, whether you’re an expecting mother or supporting a loved one. We can assist you in understanding the changes a woman’s body goes through during pregnancy and how to manage them.

It’s completely normal to experience changes during pregnancy that are essential for your baby’s growth. You may notice swelling in your hands and feet, as well as pressure and inflammation in your belly and other areas. 

Pregnancy can be tricky, and it’s common to experience pain. But don’t worry; there are ways to ease those aches and pains. It’s crucial to take care of yourself during pregnancy, and physiotherapy can help manage any pain you may experience. It can also help prevent any issues from becoming more significant problems both before and after pregnancy.

This article covers everything from prenatal care to postnatal physiotherapy and when to seek treatment. Plus, we provide examples of exercises and what to expect during your physiotherapy appointments. Whether you’re an expectant mother or someone looking to support a loved one through this exciting time, we’ve got you covered.

Prenatal Care

Prenatal care, also referred to as antenatal care, is the key to a healthy pregnancy. After all, it can be overwhelming to navigate all the changes and what is right or wrong in pregnancy. Seeing your doctor regularly ensures the best care for you and your baby.

These appointments help you keep track of the changes happening in your body and ensure a healthy outcome! When you go, your doctor will check your blood pressure and weight to make sure everything is going well. They’ll also listen to your baby’s strong heartbeat, exciting! It’s also a great chance to talk to your doctor about any symptoms or problems you might be having (1)

Starting prenatal care early is a great idea to make everything easier. That’s why, during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, it’s best to begin. Starting early gives you more time to bring up any questions, and as a result, your journey can be smoother. 

Why is it Important?

Pregnancy is an amazing journey that brings about many changes to your body. Seeking guidance and support during pregnancy is crucial to learn about its various aspects and potential health problems. Don’t forget that taking good care of yourself is the most effective way to care for your baby.

Being pregnant can be tough on your body, with all the changes that come with it. Some of these changes can be uncomfortable, like swelling in your hands and feet or feeling sick in the morning. But don’t worry; you can improve these by taking vitamins, eating healthy food, and getting plenty of rest.

However, some changes can be more challenging to deal with. For instance, you might experience lower back, hips, or pelvis pain. As your baby grows, your center of gravity shifts, making you lean forward to support the extra weight, adding additional stress to your back and pelvis (2).  

Fortunately, there are ways to make your pregnancy more comfortable. You can make changes to how you sit, move, and sleep. But if you find that the discomfort persists or worsens, it’s critical to seek help. Prenatal physiotherapy is an option that can provide specialized care and support to address your specific needs.

What is Prenatal Physiotherapy?

Prenatal physiotherapy is a beautiful way to prepare your body for the changes that come with childbirth. In these sessions, you’ll learn exercises that target essential muscles and improve your posture. 

During your pregnancy, your physiotherapist will guide you in finding positions to make you feel more comfortable during delivery. Additionally, they will teach you how to reduce the risks of experiencing harm or complications during delivery.

The techniques created are intended to assist you in handling any discomfort you may experience during your pregnancy. By utilizing these techniques, you will have a more comfortable and stress-free pregnancy.

What can you expect from prenatal physiotherapy?

Physiotherapy can be beneficial during the early stages of pregnancy. It plays an important role in prenatal care by focusing on strengthening the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. These muscles are essential for keeping you comfortable and healthy during pregnancy as well as after your baby is born.

The pelvic floor muscles are crucial in supporting the pelvic area and controlling bowel and bladder movements. It’s important to note that each group of muscles supports the body in a different way!

  • The first group of muscles supports the bladder. When these muscles weaken, it can lead to a more frequent urge to use the restroom.
  • The second group of muscles, including the anus and rectum, supports the back. If these muscles become weak, it can make it difficult for you to go to the toilet when you need to.
  • The third group helps support the area where the organs are, especially since, during pregnancy, these organs move around frequently.

Along with the hip muscles, the transverse muscle is also an important one. It’s the deepest layer of abdominal muscles that goes around the stomach like a corset. It keeps the spine and hips stable and supports them. 

The transverse abdominis plays a vital role in stabilizing your core. It assists with functions such as breathing, coughing, and giving birth. A condition called diastasis recti can happen when the growing uterus causes the abdominal muscles to stretch and separate. This can make your core weak and cause pain in your lower back (3).  

What are the benefits of prenatal physiotherapy?

Did you know that during pregnancy, the pelvis expands to prepare for delivery? This can cause more movement than usual, causing lower back or pelvic pain. But don’t worry; working with a physiotherapist can help! The guidance of a physiotherapist will help you to:

  • Reduce the intensity of the most common types of pain in your lower back, pelvis, and ankles.
  • Creating a safe exercise plan that can help you manage your weight! Exercise can improve the chances of reducing both post-partum weight and weight gain during pregnancy. This plan will help you stay healthy and maintain a balanced weight throughout this changing time in your life.
  • Reduce the chances of getting urinary infections during and after pregnancy. By targeting your pelvic floor and other important muscles, your physiotherapist can make them stronger, reducing the likelihood of developing it.
  • To increase the flexibility of specific muscles in your pelvis, you can make the birthing process easier. These exercises help the muscles stretch more quickly and reduce resistance, making delivery smoother for you (4).

Prenatal physiotherapy exercises program:

Before performing this program exercises is important to know that this is a general program. I recommend before starting any program exercises also to consult a physiotherapist either in person or digitally. This because everyone is different and it will be better to have a specific tailored program exercises on your needs and characteristics. 

Warm-up:
  • Deep breathing: 5-10 repetitions, inhaling deeply through the nose and exhaling slowly through the mouth.
  • Shoulder rolls: 10 repetitions, rolling your shoulders forward and backward.
 Pelvic floor exercises:
  • Kegels: 3 sets of 10 repetitions, holding each contraction for 5 seconds, and releasing for 5 seconds.
  • Pelvic floor bridges: 2 sets of 10 repetitions, lying on your back with knees bent, gently lift your hips off the floor while squeezing your pelvic floor muscles.
Core strengthening exercises:
  • Standing pelvic tilts: 2 sets of 10 repetitions, standing with your back against a wall, tilt your pelvis forward and backward while engaging your core muscles.
  • Modified plank: 2 sets of 10 repetitions, kneeling on all fours, engage your core and extend one leg straight behind you while maintaining a neutral spine.
Upper body exercises:
  • Seated rows: 2 sets of 10 repetitions, using resistance bands or dumbbells to perform rowing motions, focusing on the back muscles.
  • Bicep curls: 2 sets of 10 repetitions, using light dumbbells or resistance bands to curl your arms up toward your shoulders.
Lower body exercises:
  • Squats with pelvic floor activation: 2 sets of 10 repetitions, standing with feet shoulder-width apart, engage your pelvic floor muscles as you squat down and stand back up.
  • Standing side leg lifts with core engagement: 2 sets of 10 repetitions on each side, standing next to a wall or holding onto a stable surface, lift one leg out to the side while engaging your core muscles.
Stretching exercises:
  • Standing calf stretches: Hold for 30 seconds on each leg, placing one leg behind you with the heel on the ground and gently leaning forward.
  • Seated hamstring stretches: Hold for 30 seconds on each leg, sitting on the edge of a chair with one leg extended and gently reaching toward your toes.
Relaxation and breathing exercises:
  • Deep belly breathing: 5-10 repetitions, inhaling deeply through the nose, expanding your belly, and exhaling slowly through the mouth.

Remember to maintain proper form and alignment during each exercise. If you experience any pain or discomfort, stop the exercise and consult with your healthcare provider. Hydrate well and listen to your body’s needs.

But can you exercises during all month of your pregnancy? Yes you can, but most important thing is to feel your body and mind. You don’t need to stress but you need to do something beneficial for you and your baby. 

Certainly, in the last month of pregnancy, I would recommend reducing the intensity of the exercises. I would suggest focusing on cardio activities such as walking, stretching, and low-intensity strength exercises.

Postnatal Care

The postpartum period can be challenging, but with the proper care, you can recover comfortably. Your body will naturally start healing during the first six weeks, and you may experience a decrease in pain and discomfort. 

Taking care of yourself after giving birth is super important, so here are a few things to keep in mind. First, make sure you’re eating healthy and getting enough rest to help your body recover. It’s also important to take care of your vaginal area and keep it clean to avoid infections. 

You’ll also learn more about breastfeeding, bladder and bowel function, and exercise options. If you notice anything that worries you during this time, it’s crucial to seek medical advice right away.

How can postnatal physiotherapy support a faster return to normal activities?

After having a baby, your body might not feel the same as it did before. It’s totally normal! When can you safely start exercising, and what exercises are best? A physiotherapist can be a great help in making the transition easier. If you would like to be assessed and treated by our expert you can book an appointment here

We recommend visiting a physiotherapist for a postnatal examination 6 to 8 weeks after giving birth. However you can start exercising gently as soon as you feel ready and not feeling pain. Don’t worry; caring for your pelvic floor health can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to do it alone. A trusted professional can guide you and provide support to help you achieve a healthy and active lifestyle.

What are the benefits of postnatal physiotherapy? 

Postnatal physiotherapy can be a great way for new moms to be more comfortable and confident.  Moreover, working with a physiotherapist can enhance recovery, regardless of whether you had a vaginal delivery or a C-section.

They will look at your posture, check for gaps in your abdomen, and evaluate pelvic floor function. These will help you regain your strength and feel more comfortable in your body. This can have a positive impact on your overall well-being and quality of life as a new mom. They can also:

  • Help you to get back your muscle strength.
  • Improve your mood and increase your energy levels
  • Teach you how to exercise safely after having a baby
  • Promote weight loss
  • Teach you about your bladder, your stomach, and the next steps in your sexual life.

Postnatal physiotherapy exercises program:

It’s important to note that every woman’s postnatal journey is unique, and it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional or a postnatal physiotherapist before starting any exercise program. They can provide personalized recommendations based on individual needs and recovery progress. Also in this case, the following exercise program is general.  

Phase 1: Initial Recovery (0-6 weeks postpartum)
  1. Pelvic floor exercises:
  • Kegels: Perform 10 repetitions, holding each contraction for 5 seconds, and releasing for 5 seconds. Gradually increase the number of repetitions over time.

    2. Deep breathing and gentle stretching:

  • Deep belly breathing: 5-10 repetitions, inhaling deeply through the nose, expanding the belly, and exhaling slowly through the mouth.
  • Gentle neck and shoulder stretches: Perform 5-10 repetitions, gently rolling your neck and shoulders in different directions.

    3. Gentle walking:

  • Start with short walks of 10-15 minutes at a comfortable pace.
  • Gradually increase the duration and intensity of walks over time, based on how you feel.
Phase 2: Rebuilding Strength and Stability (6-12 weeks postpartum)
  1. Pelvic floor and core exercises:
  • Kegels: Continue with 10 repetitions, focusing on proper contraction and release.
  • Pelvic tilts: Perform 2 sets of 10 repetitions, lying on your back with knees bent, gently tilting your pelvis backward and forward while engaging your core muscles.

    2. Whole-body strength exercises:

  • Bodyweight squats: 2 sets of 10 repetitions, focusing on proper form and engaging the glutes and leg muscles.
  • Modified push-ups: 2 sets of 10 repetitions, performing push-ups against a wall or on an elevated surface to gradually rebuild upper body strength.

    3. Low-impact cardio exercises:

  • Brisk walking or stationary cycling: Aim for 20-30 minutes of cardio, 3-5 times per week. Choose an intensity that feels challenging but comfortable.

    4. Stretching and flexibility:

  • Whole-body stretches: Hold each stretch for 30 seconds, targeting major muscle groups like the calves, hamstrings, chest, and back.
Phase 3: Increasing Intensity and Fitness (12+ weeks postpartum)
  1. Pelvic floor and core exercises:
  • Progress to more challenging variations of pelvic tilts, such as marching or lifting one leg at a time while maintaining a stable pelvis.
  • Consider seeking guidance from a postnatal physiotherapist for additional pelvic floor exercises.

    2. Full-body strength exercises:

  • Dumbbell squats or lunges: 2 sets of 10 repetitions, gradually increasing the weight as tolerated.
  • Push-ups: 2 sets of 10 repetitions, focusing on maintaining proper form and engaging the core.

    3. Moderate-impact cardio exercises:

  • Low-impact aerobic workouts, such as dance classes or swimming, for 30-45 minutes, 3-5 times per week.

    4. Flexibility and mobility exercises:

  • Incorporate yoga or gentle stretching routines that target flexibility and mobility in all major muscle groups.

Remember to start each exercise session with a warm-up and cool-down period, and listen to your body’s cues. If any pain, discomfort, or unusual symptoms occur during or after exercise, modify or stop the activity and consult with your healthcare provider. Postnatal recovery varies, so progress gradually and adjust the program as needed based on your individual circumstances.

Conclusions

As an expectant mother, you carry a lot of responsibilities. But, it is natural to feel conquered at times. However, please know that there are ways to promote health and well-being during and after pregnancy. 

That is why prioritizing pre and postnatal physiotherapy is crucial. You deserve to feel confident in your body’s ability to handle the physical needs of pregnancy.

Postnatal physiotherapy can also be beneficial for returning to normal activities and rebuilding your core strength. They provide personalized guidance and support throughout the journey. Remember, you are strong and capable of handling anything that comes your way! 

3 Comment

  1. Johanna

    Excelente información … los ginecólogos deberían sugerirnos hacer estos ejercicios pre y post para poder incorporarnos más rápido a la rutina

  2. Dubraska Romero

    Excellent article with interesting facts. A valuable information that helps future mothers.

  3. Alejandra

    Excelente información ya que se teme hacer terapias durante el embarazo por miedos o temores a ocasionar pérdidas u otras lesiones y resulta que son indicadas … hay que seguir haciendo hincapie en esto porque se tienen mitos negativos al respecto y otra importante como es el cuido del piso pelvico que es tan resentido durante el embarazo!!!

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