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The Staff of Femina Physical Therapy Blogs About Vaginismus, Pregnancy, Incontinence, and More

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On May 6, communities across the country including downtown LA gathered to march for changes to improve the health of mothers and birthing families in the United States. Femina Physical Therapy was there to join the national movement to address the maternal health crisis in our country.  It was a wonderful day connecting with the community of concerned parents, community members, and health practitioners.

Together, we were able to call attention to issues affecting moms in Los Angeles.

Maternal Death

Maternal mortality rates in the U.S. surpass those of any other industrialized nation and continue to rise, unlike any other industrialized nation. According to the CDC, there are considerable racial disparities in pregnancy-related mortality. Black women have a maternal death rate that is nearly four times the rate of white women. During 2011–2013, the pregnancy-related mortality ratios were–

  • 12.7 deaths per 100,000 live births for white women.
  • 43.5 deaths per 100,000 live births for black women.
  • 14.4 deaths per 100,000 live births for women of other races.

Over 50% of maternal deaths are considered preventable.

Perinatal and Postpartum Depression

It is estimated that 15-21 percent of pregnant women experience moderate to severe symptoms of depression or anxiety. The National Instituted of Mental Health warns that without treatment, “postpartum depression can last for months or years. In addition to affecting the mother’s health, it can interfere with her ability to connect with and care for her baby and may cause the baby to have problems with sleeping, eating, and behavior as he or she grows.” Without appropriate intervention, poor maternal mental health can have long term and adverse implications for mother, child and family.

Read more: Femina Physical Therapy and the March for Moms in Los Angeles

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Updating Standards of Care

Last month the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) updated their position on postpartum care and the “fourth trimester”.--the first 12 weeks after your baby is born. This is such a huge step for better healthcare and support for women after delivery. In other countries (France, Belgium, Northern Ireland and other European countries), postpartum physical therapy is a routine referral for women both in the hospital and for ongoing support when they are discharged.

The statement updates the previous recommendation of a 6 week visit, and instead supports a paradigm shift of postpartum care that not only adds contact with their Ob-Gyns within the first 3 weeks of delivery, but also address the need for ongoing care:

“Timely follow-up is particularly important for women with chronic medical conditions. The initial assessment should be followed up with ongoing care as needed, concluding with a comprehensive postpartum visit no later than 12 weeks after birth. This visit should serve as a transition to ongoing well-woman care and the timing of the visit should be individualized, woman-centered and the follow-up should include a full assessment of the following: 

• mood and emotional well-being

• infant care and feeding
• sexuality contraception and birth spacing
• sleep and fatigue
• physical recovery from birth

• chronic disease management
• health maintenance

Read more: Redefining Postpartum Care in the US

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After delivery via cesarean section, hysterectomy or other laproscopic procedure, there will be an incision site that you will have to manage according to the directions of your doctors and nurses to keep the site from becoming infected. Although the incision site will close after about 2-3 weeks, scar tissue will continue to form. It is important to begin scar massage and desensitization techniques to help prevent scar tissue build up, puckering, and ongoing pain.

Managing Scar Tissue

A trained physical or occupational therapist can perform soft tissue mobilization and other modalities such as cold laser over the scar site. As a part of your treatment, your therapist will teach you skills to manage the scars at home for the following benefits:

  • Prevent scar tissue build up and puckering of scar site
  • Soften and flatten scar tissue by promoting collagen remodeling
  • Decrease itching
  • Provide moisture and flexibility to the scar
  • Desensitize the scar tissue, reducing pain

Read more: Scar Management and Desensitization After C-Section, Hysterectomy and Laproscopic Procedures

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Physical and occupational therapy can help you in your recovery after a C-section by giving you skills to regain optimal body function and help you get back on your feet, doing the activities you value in addition to taking care of your new little one. In this article we review some ways that a therapist at Femina Physical Therapy can help you through your recovery. You can see a trained therapist as soon as you have the energy to do so.

Scar management and desensitization

Physical and occupational therapists are trained in soft tissue mobilization techniques to help soften and flatten scar tissue after your cesarean incision is healed. As a part of your treatment, your therapist will teach you techniques such as scar massage to help prevent scar tissue build up and puckering. Check out our full article on scar tissue management here.

Additional benefits of scar tissue management:

  • Soften and flatten scar tissue by promoting collagen remodeling
  • Decrease itching
  • Provide moisture and flexibility to the scar
  • Desensitize the scar tissue

Diastasis recti recovery

Diastasis recti, or diastasis rectus abdominis (DRA) is a condition in which the 2 sides of the “six-pack” muscle (A.K.A. rectus abdominis) separate.

Read more: Physical and Occupational Therapy after Cesarean Section

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Today we talk about ergonomics with baby care after a cesarean section. It’s important for all new parents to conserve energy and protect their own bodies while adjusting to the care of a new baby, especially those who have had a cesarean. Today we will discuss body mechanics of picking up a baby, breastfeeding, and the like after a C-Section.

Lifting Restrictions

As a cesarean section is an abdominal surgery, your doctor will likely advise you to not lift anything over 8-10 lbs, depending on the doctor as well as the details regarding your cesarean and your personal health. Lifting restrictions typically last anywhere from 6-8 weeks. This may prevent you from lifting household items heavier than a gallon of milk… That means no carrying baskets of laundry or heavy bags of groceries. This will also mean that you won’t be able to lift and carry an older sibling during this time. If possible, encourage the older sibling to climb onto your lap, into bed, into the car, etc. Also, get help around the house and with chores such as grocery shopping, lifting heavy loads of laundry, and other activities that require moderate to heavy lifting.

Read more: Ergonomics with Baby Care and Self Care after Cesarean Section

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It’s Cesarean Section Awareness Month! Trauma to the body is something all who give birth to a baby experience. With those who deliver via cesarean (c-section), there is the added trauma of an abdominal surgery in addition to the trauma of labor and delivery.

Today we will talk about post-delivery rehabilitation, with an emphasis for those who have had a cesarean. This information is all about self care to recover birth and is useful for ALL new mothers, whether delivering via the vaginal canal or a cesarean section.

In an upcoming blog post this month, we will discuss body mechanics of picking up a baby, breastfeeding, and the like after a C-Section.

Taking it Easy

The first 6 weeks after the birth of the baby will be a period of lots of change. The body will feel tired and worn out, with low energy. Labor scars (tears, episiotomy, cesarean section) may feel painful. Giving birth to a baby is no joke, so allow your self time to heal. Do not over-exert your body and try to involve members of your support system for help. Avoid stairs for the first two weeks unless necessary. Gradually add activities every day once your strength and endurance improves.

Avoid strenuous activity such as weight training, jogging and running until after 12 weeks following a C-section, or when cleared by your doctor or licensed pelvic health therapist.

Read more: Cesarean Awareness Month: Early Recovery Exercises

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