What happens to my body during pregnancy and how can Physiotherapy help?
During pregnancy a woman’s body undergoes many physiological changes to allow for development and delivery of the infant. These physiological and anatomical changes affect the pelvic floor musculature, which stretch from your pubic bone to the base of your spine, and also include connective tissue, joints and nervous tissue. The pelvic floor supports pelvic organs and allows for passage of the urethra, vagina and anus through what is called the levator hiatus.
Read part two: What happens to my pelvic girdle during a vaginal delivery?
Prenatal pelvis and pelvic floor changes
It is well known that relaxin is a hormone that increases in production during the first trimester and towards the end of pregnancy. Relaxin can alter a woman’s musculoskeletal system in many ways during pregnancy. Relaxing assists in relaxing ligaments, muscles, and tendons enabling the pelvis and uterus to expand as the baby grows. These physiological changes within the tendons and ligaments may affect joint stability, particularly within the pelvic region potentially causing pelvic or lumbar pain. As well, the expansion of the pelvis and uterus secondarily lengthens muscles, which causes weakness in the pelvic floor. A key anatomical change found in most prenatal woman is the widening of the levator hiatus. This change in pelvic floor structure is essential for vaginal deliveries.
Symptoms during pregnancy associated with the pelvis and pelvic floor structures
- Pelvic pain
- Hip pain
- Pubic symphysis pain
- Low back pain
- Muscular pain
- Nerve impingement due to swelling (can occur in pelvic floor as well as wrists, low back)
- Urinary and fecal incontinence
What can I do to prepare my body for these changes at home?
- Practice diaphragmatic breathing for relaxation and to train effective pelvic floor mobility.
- Keep active throughout your pregnancy (after clearance from a physician). Safe activities include: walking, swimming, and non-contact sports
- Use supportive body pillows while resting to reduce tension on joints and relaxed ligaments
What can physiotherapy do for me while I am pregnant?
A physical therapist can help you prepare by examining your pelvic floor to determine if you need to strengthen through kegels or learn to relax your pelvic floor prior to strengthening. If you are experiencing pelvic pain associated with hip pain we can help determine if you require a hip belt and which one would be the most suitable or if you require an exercise program to train your core musculature to stabilize your pelvis instead of using a belt. A physical therapist is also able to assist you in developing a strengthening and stretching program to help you prepare for delivery as well as advise on birthing positions and pain management strategies during delivery.
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Pregnancy & Women’s Health Physiotherapist in Burnaby BC
Blog written by Heather Baker, our physiotherapist at Absolute PhysioCare in Burnaby BC. She has completed additional coursework in pelvic health and is an advocate for physiotherapy treatment of incontinence.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, or have any questions regarding women’s health, feel free to book an appointment at Absolute Physio Care. Call us at 604-558-CARE (2273) or get in touch with us online!