Postpartum Rehabilitation Washington DC
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Postpartum Recovery: Helping New Moms Get Their Bodies Back
By Debbi Goodman, MSPT
The postpartum time period is very exciting for most women, but it can be very stressful as well. Women are going through the process of healing their bodies after the birth, dealing with drastic hormonal changes, and adjusting to life with a newborn. Most women are physically exhausted and may have extreme emotional swings. Regaining their prepregnancy body is often a main concern.
In order to work with postpartum clients, Pilates instructors should have knowledge about the physical transformations of pregnancy and how they impact the musculoskeletal system.∗ It is common knowledge that the abdominal muscles stretch a great deal over the course of the pregnancy, and it is our challenge to help women restore the proper length, strength and tone of these extremely important muscles.
The Postpartum Body
During the course of pregnancy, the abdominal muscles will stretch over 50% of their original length. During the fifth month of pregnancy, the majority of women will begin to notice that their rectus abdominus is no longer united in the center and has moved laterally. This is called a diastasis recti . The diastsis recti is a normal occurrence and is actually a protective response. It’s able to occur due to the hormonal softening that occurs in the body’s soft tissue structures. The rectus abdominus is a narrow muscle with less surface area to stretch, so the separation and lateral movement helps prevent excessive stretching.
After the birth, with time, the abdominal muscles will shorten due to the demands of normal activities of daily living, but without specific exercises and focus, they often do not shorten to their pre-pregnancy state. The diastasis recti, likewise, may naturally close without too much attention, but in most women, specific focus on abdominal rehabilitation is necessary to close the diastasis.
Guidelines for Postpartum Rehab
After giving birth, obstetricians and midwives generally instruct women to abstain from exercise for six weeks. This is a very vague guideline, and although the obstetric community is very knowledgeable in most aspects of prenatal and postpartum care, typically they are not well trained when it comes to dealing with the musculoskeletal system, particularly when it comes to making exercise recommendations. The six-week guideline is based on the fact that it takes about six weeks for the uterus to heal from the birth. Resuming a high activity level too quickly following the birth can impede the healing process.
However, it is unlikely that a new mother is actually going to be resting. The demands of new motherhood are quite taxing. Babies need to be fed throughout the day and night, which means new repetitive movements, whether she is breastfeeding or bottle feeding, as well as lots of sitting. Several days after the birth, the baby will need to be seen by the pediatrician. This means loading the baby into the car seat, lifting the ...
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