My girlfriends always say to me “you’re a PT, so you know what to do post baby right?” Wrong- the fun thing about being a PT is that there are various advanced certifications and specialized areas of practice within our profession. One area that is very specialized and niche is Women’s Health Physical Therapy. Women's Health Therapist are amazing individuals trained to help women from all stages of prenatal, postpartum recovery, and pelvic floor health. Pelvic floor weakness and tightness can indicate cause for seeing a Women's Health Therapist. Pelvic floor dysfunction can stem from natural aging, deconditioning, pregnancy, poor C-section healing, lifting injury, or low back injury. Symptoms can vary amongst women and are not limited to only pain or incontinence. Women's health Physical Therapy is a critical step to allow healing of pelvic floor secondary to the trauma of delivery. This would be similar to doing Physical Therapy to heal a rotator cuff injury. I have seen a Women’s Health Specialist in the past for pelvic floor pain multiple years ago and WOW did it help. It not only helped the pelvic floor pain, but it helped my ongoing low back pain I had when sitting and lifting.
So back to having a baby! My pregnancy was smooth for most all of the 36.5 weeks. On 7/1/2021 I delivered a beautiful baby boy, Carter Leroy Schenk. Hats to all the mama’s out there because unlike my pregnancy, my delivery was not smooth. The delivery was the hardest marathon I have ever completed. Not to mention it took me longer than it takes me to run one >3.5 hours. Like most mama’s I felt having that little bundle of joy in my arms was the most amazing reward in the end. I was not, however prepared for what my body was going to feel like during recovery. I have always felt like I maintained a high level of fitness after competing as a Cross-Country and Track athlete in College. My pre-pregnancy routine consisted of 5-7x a week of fitness including cardio, strength, and endurance. This regiment included lifting weights, Olympic lifting, resistance band training, running, rowing, and cardio/hiit training. The break down was roughly running, biking or rowing 3-4x a week, strength training 2-3x a week, and cardio/hiit training 1-2x a week. I had some recovery and soft tissue days in there too - probably not enough! During pregnancy I maintained my fitness with the above and modified along the way. I also had some guidance from a friend, Kristine, owner and personal trainer at FIT Project. Kristine has additional certifications in strength and conditioning with emphasis on training during pregnancy.
As most, at 6 weeks I was cleared by my OBGyn to return to prior level of working out and fitness. Even being a Physical Therapist I was like ok...what does that look like?! As you can see from my video with our very own Women’s Health Therapist, Ashley Dougvillo I had a lot of questions and concerns with pelvic floor and return to fitness. Since I had pelvic floor issues in the past, I knew that carrying a baby for 9months could not have been easy on an old injury. Plus, I had already started to experience some new symptoms such as pelvic floor heaviness, incontinence, pressure/pain. I knew it is NOT ok to pee your pants, have pain with sex, have heaviness when squatting, or back pain when lifting. However, I did not exactly know what to do to prevent this. So, I reached out to our Women's Health Therapist, Ashley, and we discussed how to properly transition back to fitness, running, and when to see a specialist to guide you along the way.
Here is my takeaway:
See Ashley and I dive deeper into this discussion and her thoughts on specifics for return to run/work out!
Here are some examples of exercises I have been currently working on 10-12 weeks postpartum.