The post-natal period can be incredibly overwhelming, with so much conflicting information about what you should or shouldn’t be feeling and doing! Often bub becomes the primary focus, leaving your health and recovery after delivery to be put on the back burner.
It’s important to remember that every woman and every birth is different, so don’t compare your experience or healing process to anyone else’s.
If you’ve seen one of us during pregnancy or even on the wards, you’d know that we recommend popping in for a 6-week appointment to touch base and see how your recovery is going.
Why it’s a great idea to see a physiotherapist six weeks after birth?
It’s quite common at this point that women present wanting to feel like themselves again, keen to return to some form of exercise.
A physiotherapist can check how your muscles, joints and ligaments are tracking after delivery and provide you with specific exercises to help your recovery. It’s also an opportunity for you to ask any questions about your post-natal journey so far.
What happens at the 6-week check-up?
At the 6-week check-up, we’ll ask you how your recovery has been going and whether you have any concerns. We’ll also assess your posture and how your body is tracking and perform a pelvic floor assessment.
It’s important to recognise tissue healing timeframes and load progression. By this, we realise that for most women, it’s been months since they had done high-intensity training, pilates, long walks etc., and the body needs time to strengthen and be ready for those same loads.
Additionally, evidence shows that soft tissue healing takes a minimum of 6-12 weeks and consistent strength training over two months leads to muscle adaptation and growth.
On top of this, we need to factor in lactation and changing hormones as they can impact your recovery timeframes further.
Your 6-week appointment will likely involve
- Discussion of your birth history and how the past 6-weeks have been.
- Assessment of tummy muscles and whether there is any separation
- Pelvic floor muscle assessment
- Assessment of bladder/bowel function
- Musculoskeletal screening (i.e. sore back/shoulders)
- Discussion around return to exercise and any goals you might have!
From your initial post-natal appointment, your physiotherapist will likely give you some homework, including basic core activation and pelvic floor exercises.
Pelvic floor muscle assessment
Your pelvic floor is like any other muscle group in the body, but we just can’t really see it. The most accurate way to assess the strength of your pelvic floor is with an internal examination. We are able to assess how strong that muscle is, whether or not it switches on with a cough or sneeze, and how well you can isolate just switching on your pelvic floor muscles. If you’re not comfortable with that option, we can also assess your pelvic floor via a real time ultrasound.
Abdominal muscle assessment
It is common to have some abdominal separation during pregnancy as bub grows. Some women may notice a coning or bulge through the midline of their stomach which indicates abdominal separation. Postnatally we assess what your separation is, and provide appropriate strengthening exercises to rehabilitate your core.
Bladder and bowel function screening
How many times are you emptying your bladder per day? Are you having to strain to empty your bowels? Do you get a really strong urge that you can’t defer? These are just some of the questions that give us information about how efficiently systems are functioning in relation to your pelvic floor.
Return to exercise plan and goal setting
It’s important to start thinking about your return to exercise gradually and mindfully. Depending on your birth history, you might need a little more (or less!) time before returning to heavier loads and training.
A physiotherapist can help guide you with this process and offer advice on what is appropriate for your individual situation.
Additionally, if there are any niggles present or if something doesn’t feel quite right, it’s always worth getting checked out by a professional who can advise you of the best management plan.
Exercise prescription post-natally
It’s important to build a strong foundation of strength before complicating activity further. Once a strong foundational layer has been achieved, we will start to strengthen other muscle groups, tailoring your exercises based on what goal you may have.
You may be itching to go for a 10km run, return to netball, footy or just want to be able to chase your kids in the park.
Most importantly, we don’t want you to get injured, so ensuring the correct technique and prescription of appropriate exercises is a must.
One exercise to try at home
The traverses exercise is a great way to activate your deep abdominal muscles. These muscles attach from your ribcage to your pelvis and help support your spine, provide stability through your trunk and act as a corset around your organs.
On hands and knees, draw your belly button towards your spine, then relax and let your belly bulge. Aim to hold for 5-10seconds and complete ten times. Tip: make sure you don’t hold your breath.
Fitwise Home Classes
At Fitwise, we have an online video library that you can access from the comfort of your own home. We also have a weekly post-natal class, a great way to ease back into exercise and meet other mums.
Final thoughts on Post-natal recovery
Post-natal recovery can be a long and challenging process, but it’s important to stick with it. A physiotherapist can provide you with specific exercises and advice to help make the process a little bit easier. At your 6-week check-up, they will assess how you’re healing and may give you some homework to do to continue your Post-Natal Recovery journey.
Now is the time if you haven’t booked your 6-week post-natal appointment! Post-natal recovery is vital for your long-term health and wellbeing.
For more information on Post-Natal Recovery, contact Fitwise Physiotherapy for more information.