Obstetric Physical Therapy Exercises

Exercises and Techniques Used in Obstetric Physical Therapy

Hello there! Welcome to this article where we will explore the exercises and techniques used in Obstetric Physical Therapy. Whether you are someone who is looking for ways to stay physically active during pregnancy or a physical therapist interested in specialized training, this article is for you!

But before diving into the exercises and techniques, let’s first understand what Obstetric Physical Therapy (OPT) is all about.

Understanding Obstetric Physical Therapy

OPT is a branch of physical therapy that focuses on women’s health, specifically during pregnancy and postpartum. The goal of OPT is to help pregnant women maintain good musculoskeletal health, reduce discomforts associated with pregnancy, prepare for childbirth, and recover after delivery.

Benefits of Opting for Obstetric PT Exercises

OPT exercises offer numerous benefits to both the mother and baby. These include:

  • Improved posture and alignment: As a woman’s body changes during pregnancy, she may experience changes in posture due to the growing belly. OPT exercises help maintain proper alignment and prevent excessive stress on the spine which can lead to pain.
  • Reduced discomforts: Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause aches and pains, especially in the lower back, hips, and pelvis. With regular OPT exercises, these discomforts can be reduced or even prevented.
  • Preparation for childbirth: Labor requires strength, endurance, and flexibility. By following an appropriate exercise routine recommended by an obstetric physical therapist, expecting mothers can prepare their bodies for the physical demands of labor.
  • Faster postpartum recovery: After childbirth, a mother’s body goes through numerous changes, and it takes time to recover. OPT exercises can aid in faster postpartum recovery by strengthening the muscles used during pregnancy and childbirth.

Common Exercises Used in Obstetric Physical Therapy

Now let’s take a look at some common exercises and techniques used in OPT:

1. Pelvic Floor Exercises

The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that support the bladder, uterus, and rectum. During pregnancy, these muscles can become weakened due to hormonal changes and increased pressure on the pelvic floor from the growing baby. Pelvic floor exercises help strengthen these muscles and prevent issues such as urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.

To perform pelvic floor exercises, commonly known as Kegels, simply squeeze and release the muscles used to stop the flow of urine. Hold for a few seconds and then relax. Repeat this 10-15 times, three times a day.

2. Core Strengthening Exercises

The core muscles include the abdominal and back muscles, which play a vital role in maintaining stability and supporting the spine. As the baby grows, these muscles can become weakened, leading to back pain and poor posture. Core strengthening exercises help maintain strong core muscles during pregnancy and prepare them for labor.

Some examples of core strengthening exercises are planks, side planks, bridges, and modified crunches. Always consult with your obstetric physical therapist before attempting any exercises.

3. Breathing Techniques

Proper breathing techniques play a crucial role during labor and delivery, and obstetric physical therapists can teach you various techniques to help manage pain and cope with contractions. These techniques involve deep belly breathing, which helps relax the pelvic floor muscles and reduce tension in the body.

During pregnancy, practicing diaphragmatic or deep belly breathing can also aid in improving lung capacity and oxygen flow to both the mother and baby.

4. Prenatal Yoga

Prenatal yoga is another popular technique used in obstetric physical therapy. It involves gentle stretching, breathing exercises, and relaxation techniques tailored specifically for pregnant women. Prenatal yoga can help improve flexibility, balance, strength, and posture – all of which are essential during pregnancy and labor.

Yoga is also known to reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep quality, and promote overall well-being for pregnant women. Always seek guidance from a certified prenatal yoga instructor who can modify the poses according to your stage of pregnancy.

5. Aquatic Therapy

Exercising in water has many benefits for pregnant women. The buoyancy of water reduces the strain on joints and muscles, making it an ideal exercise option during pregnancy. In addition, the resistance provided by water helps strengthen muscles without putting excessive pressure on the body.

Aquatic therapy sessions with an obstetric physical therapist may involve various exercises such as walking or jogging in water, squats, and arm movements. It is a low-impact exercise that can help improve cardiovascular health, reduce swelling in the legs and feet, and decrease back pain.

6. Postpartum Exercises

The journey of pregnancy does not end after delivery – it continues into the postpartum period. Obstetric physical therapists play an essential role in helping women recover from childbirth and return to their regular activities.

Postpartum exercises may include gentle stretching and strengthening exercises for the pelvic floor muscles, abdominal muscles, and lower back. These exercises can help improve bladder control, restore muscle strength and flexibility, and prevent postpartum complications such as diastasis recti (separation of abdominal muscles).

In addition to these specific techniques, obstetric physical therapists may also recommend general exercises such as walking, yoga, and swimming to promote overall postpartum recovery.


Obstetric physical therapy is a specialized field that focuses on the unique needs of pregnant and postpartum women. Through various exercises and techniques, it aims to improve their quality of life during pregnancy and facilitate a smooth postpartum recovery.

As with any exercise program, it is crucial to consult a certified obstetric physical therapist before starting any exercises. They can assess your individual needs and tailor the exercises according to your stage of pregnancy or postpartum recovery.

So if you are expecting or have recently delivered a baby, consider incorporating obstetric PT exercises into your routine for a healthy pregnancy and postpartum experience. Remember, taking care of yourself is vital for taking care of your little one. Happy exercising!