Did you know that up to 65 percent of post-natal women will experience lower back pain in the 18 months after giving birth?
Or that 45 percent of all post-natal women will experience incontinence within seven years of pregnancy?
What about the fact that 10 percent of women who experience pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy will continue to have persistent pain for two years or more following delivery?
What do these stats tell us? That post-natal injury is normal, right?
No – it just tells us that it’s common. But common does not necessarily mean normal.
What I’m talking about here is not just an issue of semantics. It’s more an issue of acceptance, attitudes and belief.
The post-natal period is an extremely vulnerable one for many women – both emotionally and physically. During this time our bodies are recovering from the enormous strain which has been placed on them over the past 40 weeks or so. I’m not just referring to the struggle to get our flat tummy back (mine was never flat to start with!). What I’m talking about is restoring our posture and alignment after several months of having a changed centre of gravity. Allowing our joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments to return to their pre-natal state after being stretched, pulled and pressurised in so many different ways to accommodate our growing baby and our changing body structure. Allowing our hormonal balance to be restored.
This all takes time (did you know it can take up to 500 days for some tissues to fully heal?), and often the body can’t do it on its own. This is when we have the potential to develop what appears to be a chronic injury.
Because it happens so often, society just accepts it as “normal”.
“Oh you’ve got back pain – yeah, that’s just normal after having a baby.”
I say don’t use the word “normal”.
My mission through my private practice and this blog is to encourage women to challenge this notion that postnatal injuries are “normal”. By giving them this label, we are subconsciously telling women that they should just expect these injuries to occur – “It happens to everyone, just get used to it and get on with life.”
Last year during my post-graduate studies I completed a literature review on the incidence of soft tissue injuries among post-natal women. One of the more concerning themes that emerged in my research was the often dismissive nature regarding these injuries – both from the women themselves and also from their treating health professionals. Issues such as back pain, pelvic pain and diastasis recti (abdominal separation) were often considered to be “normal” post-pregnancy states which would eventually improve spontaneously given time – therefore they sometimes weren’t given proper consideration or treatment early in the pre-natal period. This belief is a concern to me. It tells me that health professionals need to be proactive in the physical rehabilitation of post-natal women. Not only to provide early-intervention treatment or referral to other practitioners, but also to educate women on the difference between “common” and “normal” post-natal injury and recovery.
For the vast majority of situations, these injuries can be addressed, overcome and even prevented – with the right support, treatment and advice.
So please, if you are struggling with one of these conditions and have been told – “don’t worry, it’s just normal, it’ll go away eventually”. Don’t accept that. Demand a treatment option. Seek a different practitioner. Find a qualified Women’s Health Occupational Therapist, Women’s Health Physiotherapist, or Women’s Health trained Pilates Instructor.
If you want to work with me here in Adelaide, you can undertake my one to one OT Core Restore program,
Or if you’re from anywhere else around the globe, you can join my five week online Core Floor Restore postnatal wellbeing program.
Addressing injuries early and appropriately will speed up your healing and recovery time. And that will mean you can get back to “normal” much sooner.
Until next time,
ps. Just in case you want the references:
Gustafsson, J. & Nilsson-Wikmar, L. (2007). Influence of specific muscle training on pain, activity limitation and kinesiophobia in women with back pain post-partum – A ‘Single subject research design’. Physiotherapy Research International, 13(1), 18-30. doi: 10.1002/pri.379
Lee, D.G., Lee, L.J. & McLaughlin, L. (2008). Stability, continence and breathing: the role of fascia following pregnancy and delivery. Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies, 12(4), 333-348.
Vermani, E., Mittal, R. & Weeks, A. (2009). Pelvic Girdle Pain and Low Back Pain in Pregnancy: A Review. Pain Practice, 10(1), 60-71.