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Can Pregnant Moms Do Physical Therapy?

pregnant moms and physical therapy

Pregnancy impacts nearly every part of a woman’s body. The mother's body must accommodate the growing child, as well as endure significant hormonal shifts, which often leads to a variety of aches and pains. With this in mind, many pregnant women wonder if physical therapy is an option during pregnancy and if it is, could it possibly be safe?

The good news is physical therapy while pregnant is typically considered to be safe. There is an entire specialty within the practice of physical therapy treatment known as "prenatal physical therapy." With an experienced professional, you can receive the help you need all throughout your pregnancy. Read on to learn more about prenatal physical therapy, so you can feel comfortable seeking the medical care you need, even during pregnancy.

What Is Prenatal Physical Therapy?

Prenatal physical therapy is a specialized form of physical therapy designed specifically for pregnant women. It focuses on providing relief from the aches and pains that often accompany pregnancy. It may also help to increase mobility and reduce stress, helping to improve the mother's overall comfort and relaxation during pregnancy. 

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How Does Treatment Work?

On your initial visit, the physical therapist will begin with a thorough evaluation. Expect the therapist to ask questions regarding your symptoms and medical history, as well as conduct a physical examination. This evaluation will provide the therapist with the necessary information to develop a specialized treatment made specifically for you based upon your unique needs. Typically, physical therapists developing a prenatal physical therapy plan use a variety of techniques which may include:

  • Biofeedback to improve pelvic floor strength or relaxation (depending upon your unique needs)
  • Real Time Ultrasound (to check for correct activation of the core muscles) 
  • Soft tissue and connective tissue mobilization
  • Neural mobilization
  • A home exercise plan designed with your needs in mind
  • Patient and family education and training

What Types of Conditions Does Prenatal Physical Therapy Treat?

Prenatal physical therapy can help pregnant women manage a wide range of conditions, including back pain, incontinence, sciatica, foot swelling, pelvic pain and instability, headaches and neck pain, plantar fasciitis, pubic symphysis dysfunction, rib pain, round ligament pain and other generalized aches and pains related to pregnancy. Postural dysfunctions, such as hyperextension of the lumbar spine, swayback posture, and rib flare can also benefit from prenatal physical therapy.

Ultimately, the goal of prenatal physical therapy is to do more than treat the symptoms of pregnancy, but rather address the underlying cause of your pain and discomfort. Bringing new life into the world is an amazing gift that should be enjoyed rather than suffered through. With prenatal physical therapy, you can enjoy reduced pain and healing, for a better pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum period.

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Does Prenatal Physical Therapy Pose a Risk to My Baby?

Prenatal physical therapy has been extensively studied and is widely considered a safe option for the management and reduction of pregnancy related pain and discomfort. Not to mention, your physical therapist will always take into account any risk factors associated with your unique pregnancy and make sure to use techniques that do not put you or your baby at risk.

Despite this, it's important to note that you should always talk with your Obstetrician before beginning any type of physical therapy as in certain circumstances, prenatal physical therapy is not recommended. Typically, conditions like preeclampsia, placenta previa, ruptured membranes, or incompetent cervix make it unsafe to engage in prenatal physical therapy. Even though most healthy pregnancies can benefit from prenatal therapy, it is always best to err on the side of caution and allow your doctor to determine if prenatal physical therapy is the best option for you and your baby.

Why Should I Consider Prenatal Physical Therapy?

When it comes to pregnancy, every woman's experience is unique. Depending on your individual needs, prenatal physical therapy can offer a variety of benefits. Here are just a few of the potential advantages:

  • Relief from musculoskeletal pain and discomfort caused by the physical changes in your body (i.e., lower back pain, pelvic pain, and muscle aches/pains)
  • Improved posture, which can reduce back pain, neck pain, and strain on other joints
  • Reduced stress and improved relaxation
  • Improved quality of sleep
  • Prevent the onset of diastasis recti
  • Mitigate sacroiliac joint pain
  • Heal pubic symphysis pain
  • Increased mobility and flexibility
  • Improved circulation throughout your body
  • Strengthening of your pelvic floor muscles (which will help reduce labor pains)
  • Strengthening of your abdominal muscles, which will help during the delivery and during the postpartum recovery period
  • Mitigate or improve issues of incontinence
  • Increase self-esteem and perception of health

Ultimately, if you are pregnant and suffering from pain or discomfort, don't try to power through it. Consider seeking help from a trained specialist who can provide effective relief through prenatal physical therapy. Your body and your baby will thank you!

When Should I Schedule My First Prenatal Physical Therapy Appointment?

It's best to schedule your first prenatal physical therapy appointment as soon as you feel comfortable doing so. This ensures that you get the help you need before pregnancy-related pain becomes unbearable. The earlier you begin treatment, the better you will feel throughout your pregnancy and beyond.

Does Insurance Cover Prenatal Physical Therapy Sessions?

Typically, most insurance companies will cover some or all of the costs associated with prenatal physical therapy, since it is classified as a medical treatment. However, it is important to note that coverage may vary from one policy to another. Thus, for the most accurate answer, be sure to contact your insurer prior to scheduling your first appointment, so you are fully aware of what coverages you have, any potential out of pocket expenses, and what providers are in network. That way you don't end up with unexpected expenses later.

If you find that you don't have any coverage through your insurer or if you do not have medical insurance at all, don't go without the benefits of prenatal physical therapy. You may be able to find a clinic that offers a sliding scale fee structure for those who are unable to pay the full amount of a session putting this form of treatment within reach.

After learning more about prenatal physical therapy and its many benefits, it is apparent this form of medical treatment is worth your time. Don't go another day suffering with annoying pregnancy related pains that leave you on the sidelines. Get back to feeling like yourself with prenatal physical therapy!

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