Having a baby brings dramatic changes to a woman’s body both during the pregnancy and after, which can lead to pain and problems if not handled well. Perinatal physiotherapists can help overcome some issues and teach women to avoid others.
Bethany Lezama is a staff physiotherapist at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax. She trained as a general physiotherapist in university and supplemented that with continuing education courses to focus specifically on helping women before, during and after pregnancy.
Lezama says common complaints are muscular-skeletal dysfunction, back pain, pubic joint pain and other problems related to pregnancy. During pregnancy, the added passenger puts new strains on the mother’s body, which can lead to back pain. The changing shape of her body can also create problems. Physiotherapists like Lezama help make sure the office desk is still comfortable as a work station, for example. Getting the ergonomics right can sidestep a lot of pain and discomfort.
“You might be twisting to reach for something in a drawer and it doesn’t bother you when you’re not pregnant, but when you’re pregnant, it may cause or exacerbate a problem,” she explains. “If they have little toddlers at home or babies, you’re looking at proper lifting techniques.
A lot of her work is preventative, helping women develop stretching and strengthening routines to keep active and safe. Education is important, too, as she helps women learn about body mechanics so that they aren’t injured.
Physiotherapists can be involved post-partum, too, if the mother develops physical problems. Lezama encourages women to become more physically active during and after pregnancy to ward off trouble.
“I enjoy it. It’s wonderful to work with the women. It’s a very exciting time in their lives,” she says. “Trying to get them physically active is important. It’s a good time to reinforce that and hopefully they’ll be able to maintain that. It’s fun – no two women are the same.”