Tips for Pregnancy and Postpartum Health

By Dubuque Physical Therapy Team

December 16, 2021

Written by Molly Hoppenjan, PT, DPT, ATC

Hey everyone! I’m Molly Hoppenjan, a physical therapist and one of the new moms at Dubuque Physical Therapy. As all moms know, pregnancy, birth, and postpartum times are truly a journey.  A journey that can be very different between moms, and even between kids of your own. Our bodies are amazing! We not only grow and develop a baby, but bring them into this world, then care and nurture them afterwards. Now that I have gone through it once, I feel like I have a little more knowledge to share. Don’t get me wrong, I know there is still plenty to learn. With my experience, as well as my knowledge as a physical therapist, I want to give a few helpful tips for each stage. Please keep in mind that everyone and every journey is not the same, so feel free to reach out to your OBGYN, Midwife or favorite Physical Therapist for help to tailor to your own specific needs. 

Pregnancy 

The body is made to move, and continuing to do so throughout your pregnancy, to the best of your ability, is a great idea! However, this isn’t a great time to pick up a new form of high level activity if you weren’t used to doing it before becoming pregnant. If you have concerns about your baby being able to tolerate your activity, you can always ask your health care provider if you are cleared for certain exercise programs.

Some of the great benefits of exercise during pregnancy include:

  • improved energy levels
  • better circulation and less swelling
  • improved sleep
  • better digestion with less constipation
  • reduced backaches and muscle/joint soreness. 

The further along you are in your pregnancy, the more your body releases a hormone called relaxin. This hormone is responsible for allowing your ligaments to relax and stretch so your pelvis can expand for your baby to pass through the birth canal. This is when having enough strength in your back, hips, pelvic floor, and abdomen is important to provide your pelvis with support. It is also important to remember to drink plenty of water throughout your pregnancy.

 

Early Postpartum 

Congratulations! You are a Rockstar and don’t let anyone tell you differently! This time is for loving on your new beautiful bundle of joy and giving your body time to rest and recover. You can start some kegels to help get some of the strength back in your pelvic floor, but don’t feel like you have to get back to exercises right away. If you had a c-section you will have to be a little more careful about not overexerting yourself with lifting or bracing with your core. However, once your incision has healed, roughly 2 weeks post delivery, it is important to start scar massage to help with sensitivity and mobility of your scar.

Breastfeeding and Bottle Feeding 

If you missed the video that I made in our baby ergonomics series, (check it out!) here are my 4 key tips for positioning with nursing and bottle feeding. I also want to remind you that regardless of if you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding, the saying is “fed is best”. So again, you’re a Rockstar regardless of your journey! 

Top 4 baby feeding tips:

   1: Sit with your back supported 

   2: Bring baby to you, not you to baby (for nursing mommas)

   3: Avoid always keeping your hand in the supinated (palm up) position 

   4: Avoid excessive/prolonged neck flexion 

Lifting/carrying your baby

Try to remember the trusty saying of “lift with your legs, not your back” for all your lifting tasks. That includes lifting baby off the floor, out of bed, out of a car seat, out of the tub, and in a car seat. When carrying your baby’s car seat longer distances or when lifting into the car or onto a taller surface it is best to use both arms. (check out the rest of our baby ergonomic video series for crib transfers, carrying a car seat, and lifting your child off the floor)

Common vs Normal

There are a lot of things that our body goes through when having a child and unfortunately that can be the excuse for problems such as urinary urgency and frequency and leakage even long after baby is born. Even though it is common for women to leak when they laugh, cough, or sneeze, that is not normal. There are a few other common vs. normal things listed below. If you are experiencing any of these common, but not normal things, it is time to see a physical therapist! There are so many simple things that can be done to help you improve incontinence and your pelvic health! 

Common Normal 
Voiding less than 3 times or more than 9 times a day 5-8 voids in a 24 hour period, so voiding every 2-4 hours
Just in case peeing: going before you leave a place “just in case” you have to go even though you just went a little bit ago  Voiding every 2-4 hours
Waking up several times throughout the night to void 0-1 times if you are under 65 years old.

Only 1 time is considered normal for 65+

Leaking a few drops with activity like running or jumping or with laughing, coughing, or sneezing NO leaking 
Urgency with triggers like cold weather, putting the key in the door, or with running water Feeling urgency when the bladder is full
4-6 servings of fluid a day with some being water and some other fluids ½ of your body weight in ounces, with ⅔ of that being water 

The human body is truly amazing for everything it goes through to have a baby. New moms are usually very wrapped up in taking care of their baby afterwards, however it is also important to take care of yourself. Getting back to certain activities after having a baby can be challenging and a physical therapist may be exactly what you need to get you there.