Spotlight on Postpartum Care: How A Formal Rehabilitation Program Can Prevent Future Problems
Dr. Heidi Henson, D. C.
The weeks and months following the birth of a child can be some of the most cherished and beautiful in life. This is a time for family bonding, healing, and settling into a new chapter of life. The forty weeks (give or take) of pregnancy bring tremendous change to the body: ligaments become more lax, hormones shift, and the body prepares for birth. So much care and attention goes into caring for the body during pregnancy. However, postpartum, this care and attention often shifts to the new baby, effectively forgetting the tremendous changes and healing the mother’s body undergoes in a relatively short period of time in the weeks following giving birth.
The first days and weeks postpartum are a crucial time for care and attention to be paid to the mother’s body and health as well. Ensuring proper alignment of the spine and joints as the ligaments and hormones re-set can help prevent injury and future problems such as sacroiliitis, an inflammatory condition of the joints of the pelvis. In addition to ensuring proper alignment, a preventative rehabilitation program, typically initiated six to eight weeks postpartum, can help reengage the core, strengthen the pelvic floor, and protect the low back from future injuries. Completing a postpartum rehabilitation program can help you safely return to or begin a fitness regimen, while preventing injuries and back pain in the future.
Other services complimentary to a postpartum rehabilitation program to consider during the postpartum period are acupuncture and holistic nutrition. Acupuncture can aid in balancing hormones, assist with milk regulation, regulate bleeding, and help heal c-section scars. A holistic nutritionist can help you build a plan for healthy eating for you and your family during postpartum and beyond.
As you care for your new baby, dedicating time to sit down and make a plan to heal your own body naturally through postpartum chiropractic care and a postpartum rehabilitation program is an essential investment in your ability to be the healthiest mom you can be for years to come.
During pregnancy, a woman’s center of gravity shifts forward, increasing the stress on her joints. As the baby grows, the curvature of the mother’s low back is increased, placing more stress of the spinal discs. Getting adjusted by a chiropractor during pregnancy can help reduced this stress, help you feel better, and even help you have an easier and shorter labor. Having your pelvis in proper alignment prior to giving birth gives the baby more room to come out. At Southern Oregon Spine + Rehab, we have chiropractors who are trained in Webster Technique, which can encourage babies to turn head-down for birth.
Massage therapy during pregnancy can help you reduce stress, stimulate circulation, and ease tight muscles. Our massage therapists are trained in specific techniques for pregnancy to help you achieve relaxation.
We recommend pregnant and breastfeeding women take a high quality prenatal vitamin, fish oil, and probiotic. Supplement quality is important to aid in absorption of nutrients and avoid additives. To order supplements, visit our online store SOSpineandRehab.metagenics.com
The Ergonomics of Motherhood
For 40 weeks you will do everything right; take great care of yourself by eating a healthy diet, exercising and preparing your home and mind for the arrival of your new baby. But if you’re like most of us, once the baby is born your focus will move away from your own needs and onto that new bundle of joy.
It’s important for expecting moms to know that hormonal changes in pregnancy can loosen the joints and ligaments that attach your pelvic bones to your spine. In the 6-8 weeks it takes to recover from these changes you may feel like you’re in a weight training program. You will constantly tote around a baby that weighs 7 lbs. or more PLUS gear like diaper bags, baby carriers, groceries and possibly another child, all of which can easily lead to serious neck and back aches.
Just as in the workplace, good ergonomics at home can help keep you from developing pains and strains that can make it difficult to be the mom you want to be.
Here are some things to be aware of:
Feeding your baby – by breast or bottle – can be a lengthy process.
Ease tension on your neck and upper back muscles by not leaning too far forward. If breast feeding, pull the baby to your breast instead of bending yourself forward.
Sit in a comfortable chair with your back against the cushion.
Place your legs flat on the floor or on a stool instead of crossed to avoid twisting through your low back and pelvis.
Place a pillow underneath baby to take some of the weight and strain off of your arms.
The constant hunching over to pick up your child, feed, bathe and play will strain an already tired back.
Instead of stretching your arms out to pick up your baby, bring the child close to your chest before lifting. Avoid twisting your body.
Use a baby changing station that is a tall enough to avoid bending forward too much.
When lifting a child from the floor, bend at your knees and not your waist. Squat down, tighten your stomach muscles and lift with your leg muscles.
When carrying a baby on your hip, its weight can overload back muscles and cause you to shift your normal stance to compensate for the extra weight of the child. Try changing the side you carry the baby on often to reduce pain. Using a baby sling or wrap can keep baby close while limiting the strain on your arms, back and neck.
Infant car seats alone can weight 10 lbs. Add your infant to that seat, and you’re easily hauling around and extra 17 pounds. When transporting baby from your car, take advantage of strollers that the carrier can be clicked into instead of trying to manage the weight on your own.
Fatigue, lack of exercise, extra “baby” weight and poor nutrition can all contribute to postpartum back pain. Moving, stretching and gradually returning to an exercise program is just what your body needs to restore abdominal and back muscle tone is just what your body needs.