Exercise and the “Fourth Trimester”: What New Moms Should Know

Our health care system has been slow to address deficiencies in the provision of care to the mother after pregnancy. Awareness of this deficiency is gaining momentum, and the medical community is beginning to embrace the importance of “fourth trimester” care. Mothers still report feeling uninformed and unprepared for the many physical and emotional changes and potential problems that can arise in those crucial weeks and months after giving birth. While visits to the maternity provider are scheduled relatively frequently during pregnancy, one trip to the doctor at the six-week mark is still the norm. Indeed, some women don’t visit their maternity providers at all after discharge from the hospital or birth center.

As you bond with your newborn, you are also adapting to plunging hormone levels, differences to your physical body, nursing, general fatigue and soreness, lifestyle adjustments, as well as the emotional vulnerability these changes can bring. Even if you have a supportive partner or family, a sense of isolation can set in. Sadly, many women are overwhelmed by what is happening to their body, even embarrassed to talk about these things with their providers. At DPT, our women’s health physical therapists regularly hear “I wish I had known this months ago!”

During your fourth trimester, exercise might be the last thing on your mind. Yet studies show that some exercise not only helps your body recover from the strains of pregnancy and childbirth, it can also (with professional guidance) help address more serious physical and emotional issues that can develop in the near- or long-term, such as incontinence, diastasis, pelvic organ prolapse and postpartum depression. However, serious complications need not be present; exercise can keep the everyday aches and pains of motherhood at bay and helps create the foundation for good quality of life as you raise your children.

Our physical therapists can help provide guidance to new mothers during this important time. We even have clinicians who specialize in women’s health and conditions of the pelvic floor. Call us for a free consultation or an appointment!