Obstetric Physical Therapy

The Power Of Obstetric Physical Therapy


Pregnancy is an exciting and wonderful journey that brings about many physical changes to a woman’s body. As the baby grows, a pregnant woman’s body undergoes significant changes in order to accommodate and support the growing fetus. While these changes are necessary for the development of a healthy baby, they can also lead to discomfort, pain, and other issues for the mother. This is where obstetric physical therapy comes in.

Obstetric physical therapy is a specialized branch of physical therapy that focuses on women’s health during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum recovery. It aims to promote optimal health and well-being for expecting mothers by addressing any musculoskeletal or pelvic floor issues that may arise during this time.

Common Conditions Experienced During Pregnancy

Many conditions can occur during pregnancy that may require the expertise of an obstetric physical therapist. These conditions include but are not limited to:

  • Low Back Pain: As the baby grows, a pregnant woman’s center of gravity shifts forward, causing strain on the lower back muscles.
  • Pelvic Girdle Pain: This condition involves pain in the pelvic area due to increased relaxin hormones and changes in posture and alignment.
  • Diastasis Recti: This is a separation of the abdominal muscles that occurs due to the stretching of the abdominal wall during pregnancy.
  • Urinary Incontinence: Pregnancy and childbirth can weaken the pelvic floor muscles, leading to bladder control issues.

These conditions can significantly impact a woman’s quality of life during pregnancy and beyond. Obstetric physical therapy can help address these issues and improve the overall well-being of pregnant women.

How is Obstetric Physical Therapy Unique?

Obstetric physical therapy is unique in that it takes into account the specific needs of pregnant women. The treatment approach differs from traditional physical therapy as it considers the changes in a woman’s body during pregnancy.

Some ways in which obstetric physical therapy differs include:

  • Specialized Techniques: Obstetric physical therapists are trained in specialized techniques to help alleviate pain and discomfort during pregnancy, such as manual therapy, therapeutic exercise, and pelvic floor rehabilitation.
  • Individualized Treatment Plans: Every woman’s body is different, and so are her needs. An obstetric physical therapist will work with each patient to create an individualized treatment plan tailored to their specific needs.
  • Gentle and Safe: Obstetric physical therapy is gentle and safe for both the mother and the baby. The therapist will take precautions and use techniques that are safe during pregnancy, such as avoiding lying on your back or using equipment that puts pressure on the abdomen.
  • Postpartum Care: Obstetric physical therapy doesn’t end with childbirth. It also includes postpartum care to help women recover from delivery and any potential complications during childbirth.

Overall, obstetric physical therapy aims to provide pregnant women with a safe and effective way to manage their discomforts and improve their overall well-being during this unique time in their lives.

Common Conditions Treated by Obstetric Physical Therapy

As mentioned earlier, obstetric physical therapy takes into account the changes in a woman’s body during pregnancy. These changes can lead to various conditions that can cause discomfort and pain for pregnant women. Some of the most common conditions treated by obstetric physical therapy include:

Low Back Pain

This is one of the most prevalent conditions experienced by pregnant women, with research showing that up to 70% of pregnant women experience low back pain at some point during their pregnancy. This pain is often caused by an increase in weight and pressure on the spine, as well as hormonal changes that loosen ligaments and joints in preparation for childbirth.

Obstetric physical therapists use specialized techniques such as exercise and manual therapy to help alleviate low back pain during pregnancy. They also teach proper posture and body mechanics to help prevent further strain on the back.

Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP)

PGP is another common condition experienced by pregnant women, with studies showing that up to 20% of pregnant women develop this condition. PGP can cause pain in the pelvic area, hips, and lower back, making it difficult for women to move around comfortably.

Obstetric physical therapists use techniques such as pelvic stabilization exercises and manual therapy to help manage PGP. They also provide education on safe and proper movements and positions during pregnancy to avoid aggravating the condition.

Diastasis Recti

Diastasis recti is a separation of the abdominal muscles that occurs during pregnancy due to the stretching of the abdominal wall. This condition can cause weakness and pain in the abdominal region, leading to difficulties with daily tasks such as lifting and carrying.

Obstetric physical therapists use exercise techniques to help strengthen the abdominal muscles and reduce the separation. They also provide guidance on safe movements and activities during pregnancy to prevent further strain on the abdomen.

Urinary Incontinence

Many pregnant women experience urinary incontinence due to pressure on the bladder from a growing uterus. This condition can be embarrassing and inconvenient for women, but obstetric physical therapists can help manage it through pelvic floor muscle exercises and bladder retraining techniques.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition that affects many pregnant women due to swelling in the hands and wrists. This swelling can put pressure on the nerves in the wrist, causing numbness, tingling, and pain.

Obstetric physical therapists can provide splints and braces to support the wrists and reduce pressure on the nerves. They also use manual therapy techniques to alleviate symptoms and teach women stretches and exercises to help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy.

How Obstetric Physical Therapy is Unique

One of the key ways that obstetric physical therapy differs from traditional physical therapy is its focus on the changing needs of pregnant women. As a woman’s body goes through significant changes during pregnancy, it is essential for her physical therapist to understand these changes and tailor treatment accordingly.

Obstetric physical therapists must also consider the health of two individuals – both the mother and baby. This requires specialized knowledge and training to ensure the safety and well-being of both individuals during treatment.

Furthermore, obstetric physical therapy often involves a multidisciplinary approach, collaborating with other healthcare professionals such as obstetricians, midwives, and doulas. This coordination ensures that all aspects of a woman’s pregnancy are taken into account for comprehensive care.


Obstetric physical therapy plays an essential role in supporting pregnant women throughout their journey to motherhood. By addressing common conditions such as diastasis recti, urinary incontinence, and carpal tunnel syndrome, obstetric physical therapists help alleviate pain and discomfort while promoting overall health and wellness.

Additionally, the unique focus and specialized training in treating pregnant women make obstetric physical therapy an invaluable resource for women during this transformative time in their lives. So, if you or a loved one is expecting, consider adding obstetric physical therapy to your prenatal care plan for a healthier and more comfortable pregnancy journey. Remember, taking care of yourself also means taking care of your growing baby – and obstetric physical therapy can help with both. Let’s empower women to have the best pregnancy experience possible through the power of physical therapy! So, don’t hesitate to reach out to an experienced obstetric physical therapist today.

Now that we’ve explored how obstetric physical therapy differs from traditional physical therapy and its unique focus on pregnant women, let’s take a closer look at some common conditions that this population may experience during pregnancy.