Physiotherapy During Pregnancy
Physiotherapy can either be preventive or remedial. It is a medical science that helps to restore the movement and bodily functions of people affected by disability, illness, or injury. It also reduces the risk of injury, sickness, and disability. Physiotherapy is a health practice that offers numerous benefits to pregnant women.
Pregnancy is physically challenging and can hurt a woman’s physical and mental health if not properly managed. Physiotherapy helps to manage the pain and discomfort that come with the bodily changes caused by pregnancy. This article will examine the role and importance of physiotherapy at Concept of Movement Physiotherapy as a part of antenatal care.
Physiological Changes During Pregnancy
The mother’s body undergoes numerous dramatic changes throughout pregnancy to accommodate the growing baby. While this process is expected and fascinating, it may come with various discomforts and challenges. Changes the body undergoes during pregnancy include hormonal, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, etc.
The fluctuation of hormones during pregnancy is normal, and it plays an essential role in physiological changes. Hormones such as human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), progesterone, and estrogen support a healthy pregnancy.
- Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG): The body starts to produce hCG immediately after conception. It sends signals to a temporary endocrine structure, the corpus luteum, to start producing progesterone in the early stages of pregnancy.
- Progesterone: During the early stages of pregnancy, progesterone production increases to support the development of the placenta. An increase in progesterone helps to maintain the uterine lining for embryo implantation and prevents uterine contraction, which could lead to miscarriage.
- Estrogen: The body’s estrogen levels rise during pregnancy and impact the body in various ways. This hormone increases the blood flow to the uterus, enlarges the uterus and the breasts, and stimulates the development of fetal organs.
As life develops inside you, your cardiovascular system also experiences an increased demand to sustain the mother and the developing fetus with blood, oxygen, and other necessary nutrients. Cardiovascular changes that occur during pregnancy include:
- Increased Blood Volume: A pregnant woman’s blood volume may increase by 50% to meet the oxygen and nutrient needs of the growing fetus. This increase in blood volume may lead to changes in blood pressure and heart rate.
- Increase in heart size: During pregnancy, your heart may increase in size to ensure that it pumps blood more efficiently. This increase in heart size may lead to shortness of breath and palpitations.
- Varicose veins: During the third trimester, you may experience increased blood pressure levels. This rise in blood pressure, combined with an increase in blood volume, may result in the development of varicose veins, particularly in the legs.
This change is one of the most significant changes that occur during pregnancy. The musculoskeletal system transforms to accommodate the growing fetus and prepare the body for childbirth. Some musculoskeletal changes that occur during pregnancy include:
- Loose Ligaments: Relaxin is a hormone that is commonly associated with pregnancy. Both men and women secrete relaxin. However, women increasingly secrete relaxin, especially during the second trimester of their pregnancy. Primarily, the increase in relaxin production aims to loosen the birth canal and prepare a woman’s body for childbirth. However, the high relaxin levels in a pregnant woman’s body loosens other ligaments. This situation leads to discomfort, joint instability, and increased risk of injury.
- Postural Changes: During pregnancy, the uterus expands to accommodate the growing baby. As this happens, the pregnant woman’s center of gravity shifts forward. This shift in the center of gravity leads to changes in posture and increased pressure on the lower back. As a result, the lumbar spine curves further, leading to lower back pain.
Common Problems Caused by Physiological Changes During Pregnancy
While physiological changes in pregnant women are beautiful to watch, they come with some discomfort. Some problems caused by these changes include:
Back pain is one of the most common complaints during pregnancy. Several factors, including hormonal changes, postural changes, weight gain, etc., lead to back pain during pregnancy. As the fetus grows, the mother puts on additional weight. The extra weight strains the mother’s spine and back muscles. Also, postural changes from a shift in the center of gravity may escalate back pain. Finally, hormonal changes such as increased relaxin production may affect the spine and contribute to back pain.
Another discomfort that pregnant women may experience is pelvic pain. They might feel this pain in the lower abdomen or the pubic area. Pelvic pain may be because of the hormonal and musculoskeletal changes during pregnancy.
Edema is swelling caused by excess body fluid trapped in the body tissues. Swelling, especially in the feet, ankles, and legs, is caused by fluid retention from increased blood volume and pressure on the blood vessels.
The Role of Physiotherapy in Pregnancy
Physiotherapy is an essential part of antenatal care. Some of the numerous benefits of physiotherapy in Barrie, ON, for pregnant women, include:
- Pain Management: Pain is one of the most common complaints made by pregnant women. Pregnancy-related pain, such as lower back pain, pelvic girdle pain, etc., affects the quality of life of pregnant women. Physiotherapy techniques, such as manual therapy, exercises, and postural education, can relieve pain associated with pregnancy.
- Pelvic floor health: Pregnancy weakens the pelvic floor muscles, leading to problems such as urinary incontinence. Barrie Pelvic Therapy for women helps to ensure that the pelvic floor of pregnant women remains healthy.
- Improved posture and mobility: As the baby grows, there is a significant change in the mother’s stance. However, physiotherapists can help pregnant women maintain good posture through exercises and other methods. Also, physiotherapy exercises enhance flexibility and strength.
- Reduction of Stress: Pregnancy impacts the physical and emotional health of women. Physiotherapy exercises and activities can help alleviate the stress pregnant women go through.
- Preparation for childbirth: Physiotherapy exercises like pelvic floor exercises and breathing techniques can make labor easier. In addition, physiotherapists provide education on things to avoid.
- Faster recovery: Recovery after pregnancy is essential. Physiotherapy strengthens your core and pelvic floor muscles to ensure postpartum recovery.
Physiotherapy during pregnancy is very safe and effective at relieving pain and managing other antenatal challenges.
Common Pregnancy Conditions Treated by Physiotherapy
Common pregnancy conditions that physiotherapy can treat include:
- Pelvic Girdle Pain: PGP results from joint instability, hormonal changes, and muscle imbalances. It causes pain in the pelvis and lower back.
- Back Pain: Lower back pain during pregnancy occurs due to several factors, including the growing baby's weight and changes in the center of gravity. Physiotherapy methods like manual therapy, personalized exercises, and ergonomic advice can relieve back pain during pregnancy.
- Sciatica: This condition causes pain and tingling in the leg. It results from pressure on the sciatic nerve due to the growing uterus. Physiotherapy activities such as postural correction, nerve gliding exercises, and stretches can manage sciatica.
- Urinary Incontinence: This condition is the involuntary loss of urine. It is a common condition during pregnancy, caused by the pressure of the growing baby on the bladder and pelvic floor muscles.
Other pregnancy conditions that physiotherapy can treat include neck pain, round ligament pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, shoulder pain, constipation, insomnia, and postpartum recovery.
What Does Antenatal Physiotherapy Care Entail?
Physiotherapy care during pregnancy employs various specialized techniques and treatments to promote expectant mothers’ physical and mental well-being. Physiotherapy also aims to manage the several challenges pregnancy poses. The following are the techniques that antenatal physiotherapy care entails:
Assessment and Evaluation
Before the commencement of antenatal physiotherapy care, the expectant mother will undergo a thorough assessment to determine her physical health and other pregnancy-related concerns. Your physiotherapist could do a physical examination to assess specific physical characteristics and guarantee optimal physical health.
Individualized Exercise Programs
Each pregnant woman has a unique need. Therefore, physiotherapists design customized exercise programs that meet every pregnant woman’s needs. Antenatal physiotherapy exercises focus on strengthening specific muscles and improving flexibility and balance. Some of these antenatal physiotherapy exercises include:
- Pelvic floor exercises (Kegels): These pelvic floor exercises strengthen the muscles supporting the bladder, uterus, and bowels.
- Pelvic Tilts: The pelvic tilt exercise strengthens the abdominal muscles of a pregnant woman.
- Prenatal Yoga and Stretches: Yoga helps to maintain flexibility, strength, and relaxation during pregnancy. Gentle yoga poses and stretches are safe for pregnant women.
- Breathing exercises: Physiotherapists teach proper breathing techniques that help you to relax and manage pain during labor.
Other antenatal physiotherapy exercises include calf stretch, wall push-ups, garland pose, lunges, piriformis stretch, etc.
Pain Management Techniques
Pain is one of the most common complaints associated with pregnancy. Examples of discomfort during pregnancy include back pain, sciatica, round ligament pain, pelvic girdle pain, etc. Physiotherapists in Barrie use various techniques to manage and alleviate pregnancy-related pain. These techniques include manual therapy, joint mobilization, massage, etc.
Postural Correction and Education
Weight gain and shifts in the center of gravity destabilize a pregnant woman’s posture. Antenatal physiotherapy care educates expectant mothers on maintaining proper posture and body mechanics during pregnancy. It teaches them how to adapt daily activities to reduce strain on the spine and muscles.
Monitoring and Follow-Up
After physiotherapy sessions, your physiotherapist may schedule regular check-up appointments to track progress and adjust the treatment plan.
Physiotherapy during pregnancy is an essential aspect of antenatal care for expectant mothers. This healthcare practice helps to alleviate pain, improve posture, and prepare the expectant mother’s body for labor and postpartum recovery. Whether you're experiencing back pain or pelvic discomfort or simply want to stay active during pregnancy, consider undergoing antenatal physiotherapy at Concept of Movement Physiotherapy.