This is the second post in a two-part series on orthopedic issues and pregnancy by physical therapist Anna Ribaudo. You can read the first post about joint pain during pregnancy here.
The number one cause of orthopedic problems for women who have recently given birth is abnormality in posture. Whether recovering from a c-section or a vaginal birth (which may or may not have included an episiotomy), women often take on an abnormal posture during the healing process simply because it’s more comfortable, usually by bending forward to alleviate any tension off of any incisions and/or abdominal regions. Even after your body has healed, you are left dealing with huge life changes. Sleep deprivation, feeling overly fatigued, and sitting in one position during long feeding sessions, to name a few, all of which can keep you bent forward for long periods of time. If you have a history of lower back pain, thoracic pain, or cervical spine pain, this bent position can aggravate your condition, causing a relapse or an initial onset of dysfunction.
After a new baby arrives, the last thing on your mind is keeping yourself in good posture, but doing so can be the key to alleviating pain and stress on your back and spine. Although it is not the easiest thing to do, try to think about maintaining good mechanics-while you are dressing, changing, and feeding your baby. Use pillows to support yourself while breastfeeding or feeding, and make sure the surface that you use for changing does not cause you to bend forward too far. To the best of your ability, try to set yourself up to be as comfortable as possible. Wherever it is that you spend most of your time should be arranged so that it is conducive to you keeping yourself in an upright position without much effort, since your focus will be on your baby. You can also do an ab set as you are doing different activities throughout the day (like lifting the baby). An ab set is a gentle drawing in of your abdominal muscles towards your spine, in order to give you more support.
If you are experiencing any orthopedic problems when you go for your 6 week follow-up appointment, ask your physician for a physical therapy referral. A physical therapist that specializes in pre and post natal care can help give you further strategies to take care of your baby while keeping your musculoskeletal system healthy.
Anna Ribaudo is a doctor of physical therapy at the Integrative Care Center at Hospital for Special Surgery and a certified orthopedic specialist. She completed her doctorate degrees at New York Institute of Technology in 2003 and has completed an orthopedic residency at Hospital for Special Surgery.