Pregnancy is usually a wonderful time in a woman’s life; however, it can impose normal anatomical and physiological changes in a woman’s body.
Ligament laxity: Hormonal changes make ligaments (whose job it is to hold one bone to another) looser. This makes joints more mobile and prone to injury.
Weight gain: The weight a pregnant woman gains results from the need for expanded blood supply, a growing baby, uterus and amniotic fluid. Weight gain can put extra stress and strain on muscles, ligaments and joints.
Abdominal and pelvic floor weakness: As the uterus expands and the fetus grows heavier, there is increased demand on the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. The muscles become stretched out, and an overstretched muscle becomes mechanically weaker.
Postural changes: The weight of the breast tissue, the growing uterus and ligament laxity all contribute to postural adaptation. The curve in the small of your back (lumbar curve) tends to increase and the shoulders and head roll forward. The center of gravity also shifts forward. These changes challenge the muscles, ligaments and joints.
A woman’s ability to adapt to these changes, her physical condition prior to becoming pregnant and her past medical history play a role in her musculoskeletal response to pregnancy. Most common musculoskeletal problems include low back pain, sciatica, pain in the pubic or coccyx area, headaches, neck pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and incontinence. When problems arise in the musculoskeletal system, the physical therapist is uniquely suited to manage the symptoms.
How can a physical therapist help? A physical therapist is a health professional whose education and knowledge focus on anatomy, physiology and muscle function. Treatment may include manual therapy to restore alignment and improve soft tissue guarding, therapeutic exercise programs for improving postural, abdominal and pelvic floor strength and posture and body mechanics education.