Women’s health physical therapy is restoration and strength
In retrospect, it feels like no one told me what would happen to my body during pregnancy. But I often wonder if during those months of baby bliss – that excitement of housing the little human being my husband and I created together – made me tune out what sounded like pessimists out to ruin my mood:
“Your back – the sciatica – is going to be baaaaad.”
“Say g’bye to the breasts you once knew and be prepared for sag, especially if you plan to breastfeed!”
“’ Incompetence’? No, I mean ‘incontinence’! Depend® underwear will be your best friend from here on out.”
These are the complaints women hear from our mothers, aunts, sisters, and girlfriends who have had children. There didn’t seem to be a remedy or support to follow. You were just supposed to accept that life after having a baby would leave your body eternally ravaged and, well, less able.
My world opened up when I learned about women’s health physical therapy, a sub-specialty of physical therapy focused on women – women planning to get pregnant, already pregnant, nursing, and those who just needed some pelvic care, no matter what age or stage of life. Through a friend’s referral, I partnered with a women’s health physical therapist, Beth Stegora, during my second pregnancy.
In the months before delivering my son, Beth and I had many sessions, including home therapy (yes, I had homework!) that would help me with:
- Back pain, before and after birth
- Minimizing my diastasis recti, the separation of your six-pack muscles (I have some?) during pregnancy. Newsflash: Those abs shouldn’t have to completely submit to your growing belly and baby!
- Bladder incontinence. When a sneeze or cough is your bladder’s worst nightmare, get professional help!
- Pelvic alignment and strength-building to prepare me for labor
- Labor and delivery positioning (that required my husband to do some work)
- Breastfeeding support. I had constant blocked ducts for weeks following delivery. Beth and her team’s use of an ultrasound machine to release blocked ducts was one reason I was able to commit to breastfeeding.
As you can imagine, the sessions I had with Beth stretched into the long term. I needed her expertise before, during, and after pregnancy. When my son turned two, I was still working with Beth on a program to minimize back pain but also rebuild strength to rejoin a competitive all-women’s flag football league.
Although I often equated our sessions with a spa treatment – with her gentle hands mobilizing back and other pains away – my greatest takeaway from our sessions was coming to understand that I was not a helpless victim to the physical (and emotional) changes that come with bringing life into the world. Yes, the changes aren’t the most positive and can often be debilitating, but women’s health physical therapy is at its core, an almost defiant and empowering act of strength and agency. I’m going to do something about these changes and I’m going to make my body work for me, not against me.
Your body, heart, and spirit will change with having children. You take the good. But with the bad, you don’t have to let it beat you into submission. When you partner with a women’s health physical therapist like Beth, you embark on a journey of restoration and strength.
Best of all, now you have a rebuttal and solution for all those pessimists out to ruin your mood.
Beth Stegora, PT, DPT practices at Hennepin Healthcare’s Richfield Clinic & Pharmacy. Beth received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Pre-Physical Therapy with a Sports Medicine Minor. She received her Doctorate from the University of Southern California. Beth enjoys working with patients to develop a treatment plan that helps them get back to the activities they enjoy.