Pregnancy Symptoms: A pregnant Physiotherapist’s perspective

Posted on Posted in Physiotherapy, Pilates, Total Health, Women's Health

IMG_6878There is certainly a lot of accessible information out there about pregnancy, birthing and parenthood.

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Being a first time mum myself, I know how many hours can go by whilst you search the Internet looking for answers. Plus everyone we come across loves to share their thoughts and advice and of course there are the horror stories…we have all heard about the friend of a friend who’s birth was completely traumatic or the comments about how our bodies will never be the same again. Yep, we just don’t want to hear it!! But out of all of the information we have around us, what should we actually listen to and take on board?

As a physiotherapist I like to think I have some aspects covered such as the pelvic floor, looking after aches and pains and appropriate exercise prescription but there are many other areas that I’m not sure on and need to look to others for support. We as health practitioners who treat pre and postnatal women are often looked to for advice and I think each of us make up one piece of the puzzle. So here are my thoughts on how to help our clients through pregnancy, childbirth and beyond:

  1. Recognising the individual: We are all different and deal with situations in our own special way, particularly in pregnancy (hello hormones!). It is not possible to apply one-size fits all. I believe it is vital to recognise the individual and what they consider important in order to help with their specific situation.
  1. Help establish a support network: Once we have gotten to know our clients we can help them establish their support network. Do they need nutritional or dietary help following an awful bout of morning sickness, or help dealing with birthing anxieties? Does the client need assistance with time management strategies, aches and pains or just reliable resources to help with their own self-directed learning? Recognising our own expertise and referring onto other health practitioners where necessary will help develop a support network for the client so they know where to turn if and when they need assistance.

A few things I can suggest….

  1. Positioning: Being pregnant can often mean discomfort, particularly as we enter into the 3rd Tips to try and assist clients to find comfort would include:
    1. Use pillows – whether sitting or lying they can be used for support. Try to ensure that the client is sitting or lying straight – so no twisting or leaning to one side. It can often feel ok at the time but when they get up or if they repeatedly sit like this, it can make them sore and cause longer term dysfunction.
    2. Lying on the back – I believe past 20 weeks it is not advised to lie flat on the back. This is just a general guideline and dependent on individuals. I am 30 weeks now and feel quite comfortable lying on my back but that would not be the case for all. Lying flat on the back can cause compression of the vena cava (the main vessel returning deoxygenated blood to the heart) that can result in dizziness and nausea. Clients are likely to feel this quite clearly so there is no need to worry if they aren’t sure. However to err on the side of caution, it is best to lie on the left in a well-supported position.
  1. Overstretching: During pregnancy the body releases the hormone relaxin to prepare for childbirth. Relaxin increases the laxity of the ligaments through the pelvis that for some can cause pain and discomfort from instability, but for others it means they can finally achieve those difficult yoga poses. Although it can be great to feel a little more elastic, it is very important to not overstretch as this can cause injury. Always tell clients to be controlled and move within their usual range of movement. Move slowly and purposefully into positions and it is a good idea to not hold any stretch for a prolonged period of time – perhaps up to 30 seconds.
  1. Aches and pains: They can crop up anywhere in the body and can change everyday but they definitely should not be ignored. If clients report continued discomfort, a Physiotherapist should complete an assessment to ensure things don’t worsen. The Physio will also be able to prescribe tailored exercises so clients can move safely. A fabulous exercise approach for pregnancy is Pilates. It is individualised and specific including gentle release, stretching and strengthening within a safe and controlled environment. Pilates is excellent for keeping active but not overexerting ourselves as exercise that is too strenuous can increase blood pressure and cause overheating which can put unnecessary stress on the baby. It is a good idea for clients to check in with their midwife or doctor to ensure they are cleared for exercise as it can be contraindicated if there are complications.

Pregnancy, childbirth and transitioning into parenthood does not mean we have to stop everything and completely change our usual routines but it does mean we may have to alter a few things. Seeking advice from health professionals will allow our clients to understand their own bodies and gain a deep understanding of their needs. Remember we are all different and we should listen to our own bodies.

Once you have delivered your little one into the world, it doesn’t stop here! Movement, exercise and life goes on. Alison from BabyJoggerStroller has some great ideas for this next chapter in your life here!

If you would like to book a consultation with one of our experienced therapist, please click here or call 02 85441757.

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