We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: the postpartum period is intense.
Those weeks after giving birth aren’t just packed with activities like learning to breastfeed (or bottle feed, or pump), adapting to no sleep, and recovering physically from giving birth. The seemingly endless stream of follow-up appointments and calendar management alone is enough to make you want to tear your hair out! (But don’t, because postpartum hair loss will kick in soon.)
We’re not here to add yet another impractical appointment to your diary. Girl, we know what it’s like trying to leave the house with a new baby in tow. (Hell.)
But what if we told you that you could alleviate that back pain? Or that you could have comfortable sex again? (Maybe you’re not even thinking about that yet!) Or that someone could help you get back into exercising? Or that you could poop without fear?!
Seeing a women’s health physio (ideally at around the 6-week postpartum mark) is truly the postpartum check up every woman needs. Women’s physiotherapist Brooke Hile chatted to us about why.
So my badass body made a baby. Now what?
First of all, congratulations! How are you feeling? Utterly in love, but aching in places you didn’t even know existed?
Brooke said, “As you may have realised, after you’ve had a baby you tend to put yourself last.”
Most of us mothers do this, even though the weeks after giving birth are as much about mum as baby.
“BUT, this is a really important time to take care of you – and a great starting place is seeing a women’s health physio. Yes, you may have seen your obstetrician or doctor, however, they unfortunately don’t have a lot of time, and may not assess everything from your core to your pelvic floor.
“Ideally your postpartum women’s health physio session takes place at the 6-week mark. If you’re past that point, that’s fine. You can see a women’s health physio at any stage in your postpartum journey. Once you’ve had a baby, you’re postpartum for life!”
What is this checkup about?
Checking in with a women’s health physio after giving birth is a chance to have someone assess your body’s recovery beyond stitches and blood loss. They know what your muscles and joints have been through in the process of carrying and delivering a child, and they’re equipped with strategies to get you feeling strong and active again.
While eating nutritious food and taking care of yourself emotionally is important to postpartum recovery, a physio can suggest exercises to speed things up.
There are typically two parts to this checkup. Brooke said, “In this session, we talk about your body and your birth (vaginal or caesarean). Then, we assess how your pelvic floor and abdominal wall are recovering.”
What does a postnatal women’s health physio assessment involve?
Discussing the birth
The first part of your checkup will involve talking your physio through your birth and how you’ve been coping since then.
“We talk about how YOU are mentally and emotionally.
- How are you sleeping?
- Are you eating enough?
- Did you experience birth trauma and need assistance finding help?
- Can we get you back exercising in a way that feels good?”
All the invasive questions (but for a good cause)
Then, you’ll dive into the details of life with a recovering postpartum body.
“Once we’ve listened to your birth story, we’ll start asking more specific questions.
- Have you noticed any changes to your bladder like leakage, urgency, more frequent urination, or feeling like you’re not totally emptying your bladder?
- Have you had any constipation or pain or hemorrhoids?
- Have you returned to sex and did you experience any change in sensation?”
Don’t be alarmed! This information is vital to your physio doing their job. They want to help you get back on track with things like exercise, sex, and going to the toilet. (Things we sure took for granted before having a baby.)
Planning around your goals
Maybe you’re keen to get back to the gym, or perhaps you’d just like to know how to get around without stooping over in pain. Your physio will help you identify what your goals are, and work towards them.
“We will chat about your goals, each of which we can address and assess. This could include:
- Assessment of your abdominal wall functionally and under ultrasound
- Ultrasound and/or internal vaginal examination of your pelvic floor strength, tone, and coordination
- Musculoskeletal assessment of how you are moving through your back, hips, and ribcage
- Functional assessment of different movements that meet your goals, e.g. squats, crunches, picking up your baby, running.”
Perhaps you saw a women’s health physiotherapist during pregnancy, or maybe you’re just exploring this option after giving birth. Either way, a postpartum physio session may just change your life.
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Expert Contributor: Brooke Blair
Brooke is a female health physio based in Sydney. You can find her on Instagram here.