Postpartum Rehab: Local Options, Tips, Introductions & Info!

Postpartum Rehab: Local Options, Tips, Introductions & Info!

If you’ve recently given birth, you’ve probably wondered how to really help your body heal as you navigate the postpartum period and adapt to your post-baby body. Over the years I have developed a greater passion to see women really cared for and their bodies aided in this healing process, realizing that taking the postpartum period seriously can have long-term benefits for mom’s health & well-being in a variety of areas.

One component to long-term women’s health that often lacks attention is that of the physical rehabilitation needed after birth.  If you think about all the changes that the body goes through during pregnancy (stretching, repositioning of internal organs, increased blood volume, muscle strain, weight gain, uterine growth, etc.) and then during birth (the physical exertion, movement, muscle & tissue stretching, internal organ placement changes, and more!), we should consider it normal that our body might need some help in recovering and rehabilitating in order to be able to function optimally. But there are SO MANY voices out there telling you what you should & shouldn’t do, and it can feel overwhelming to know where to start and who to listen to! In light of this (and because I wanted some better information to give to my postpartum clients!), I reached out to several local experts who provide support and services to postpartum women in our area.  I’m grateful that they were willing to share a little bit about themselves, the services they have to offer (if you’re local, they are great options to consider as you prepare for postpartum recovery!!), and give us a few tips when it comes to understanding the recovery process and how to integrate physical exercises that will actually help our bodies heal without causing further trauma or injury.

By introducing you to these women who are aiding local moms specifically in their pelvic floor and post-birth rehabilitation health, I am hopeful it can give you an idea of some of the options you have right here in Centre County. Any of these providers will be happy to aid you in recovery from the marathon of growing a baby and giving birth! I also know that many moms are hesitant to reach out for this type of support and therapy, sometimes due to having many unanswered questions about what physical therapy or other services might entail. After learning more about these professionals and the specific focus and background each one has in their respective areas of expertise, you will hopefully have some of your questions answered, and perhaps have a more informed idea of what care might be best for your situation, preference, and recovery.

Dr. Julie Kulig, Chiropractor@ Kulig Chiropractic & Rehabilitation:

Dr. Julie & family

Hi! I’m Dr. Julie Kulig, a chiropractor in Bellefonte at Kulig Chiropractic & Rehabilitation. I have a strong interest in treating pregnant and postpartum women (and their littles). I have 2 children currently of my own and find joy in observing and assessing these littles movement patterns and developmental milestones. 

My educational background is Doctor of Chiropractic, Webster Certified (for all you pregnant mommas),  Birthfit professional, DNS (dynamic neuromuscular stabilization), and MDT (the mckenzie method of mechanical diagnosis and therapy.) Previously I held BIRTHFIT postpartum classes 2x/ wk for 4 weeks to help women improve core and pelvic floor function postpartum. I still treat pregnant and postpartum women daily and am happy to offer this service alone if you are interested (no adjustment needed). 

Dr. Julie gently caring for my own newborn!

The BIRTHFIT exercises are based on DNS: dynamic neuromuscular stabilization. These are a series of exercises based on the study of babies and their motor milestones that occur 0-18 months. We use these movements to help treat moms both pre – and post – baby! The exercises are based off of diaphragmatic breathing and the relationship the diaphragm has with the pelvic floor (much more intricate and we can talk about that more!!) 

We treat: pain, pelvic floor pain, urinary stress incontinence, diastasis rectus abdominus and more. Trunk stability is the basis of all of our movements and essential in our recovery postpartum. Wondering if we could help you?? ASK: drjuliekulig@gmail.com. I’m always happy to chat more!  www.kuligdc.com

Becca Beck

Becca Beck MovementRestore Your Core® Certified Teacher:

Hello! I’m Becca Beck. Originally from GA, I live in State College with my husband and 3 sons. I am a Functional Movement Teacher who specializes in the Core and Pelvic Floor and a Certified Restore Your Core® Teacher. Restore Your Core® is a movement program, founded by Lauren Ohayon, that takes a whole-body approach to the Core and Pelvic Floor. It uses exercises that are a mixture of corrective exercises, yoga, pilates, and functional movement to help women reboot their core and pelvic floor. I educate my clients on the contributing factors to core and pelvic floor dysfunction, help them to uncover their movement blind spots and repattern their core and pelvic floor to be functional, reflexive, responsive, and supportive to their bodies. 

Here are some things I want my clients to consider and try in their Postpartum Recovery

  • Rest. Even if you are feeling good, you still went through a dramatic physiological experience and you still have a dinner plate sized wound on your uterus. I hear all the time from women who regret getting back into things too soon after birth but I have never heard a woman regret giving her body time and space to rest and heal. You have to think of it as an investment. This time you take to rest now, sets you up for a better recovery and getting back to the things you love sooner. 
  • Reconnect With Your Core. Your first 6 weeks do not have to be without movement but we want to be smart about how we approach it. You wouldn’t sprain an ankle, rest 6 weeks and then jump into the same movements you were doing before without doing some rehab. Your abdominal system just spent 9+ months rearranging itself and being stretched to new limits. Those early postpartum days are a great time to start reconnecting with your core, waking up your brain to this area of your body, and preparing your body to return to the daily movements of life and the activities you love. 

Where to start: Dandelion Breath. Sitting, standing, or laying down. Place one hand on your lower abdominals. Imagine you are holding a dandelion right in front of your mouth. Inhale, and then on a long exhale blow all the seeds off your dandelion and keep blowing smooth and steady until you have no air left. Did you feel a natural drawing in of your abdominals away from your hand? It’s okay if you didn’t. Try a set of 5 about 1-2 times a day. You may not feel it right away, but the more times you ask the stronger that brain connection will become and you will get there eventually! When you feel more comfortable with this exhale and feel that natural corseting in use this Dandelion Breathing whenever you are going to lift or exert. Remember, “Blow before you go.”

  • Show Your Back Some Love. Early post-partum can be a beast on the low back with all the sitting, feeding, bending over for changes and lifting out of the crib.

A few tips to try:

  • When sitting, try to sit on your sits bones (the bony parts you feel where your legs and butt meet) instead of letting your pelvis tuck under (don’t feel militant about this advice, slouching isn’t evil we just want you to change it up some!). You may find it easier to sit up if you place a pillow under your sits bones.
  • When you bend over, think about sticking your bottom out vs tucking your tail like a sad puppy dog. Also consider putting a step stool by your baby’s crib so you don’t have to round as much in the upper back to get baby in and out of the crib. This will allow you to use a squat for lifting and lowering baby putting less strain on the low back.

Working with me or a Pelvic Floor PT can be a great way to learn exercises for early postpartum and how you can progress them as you move through the 4th trimester and beyond. It is never too late to get started.  www.beccabeck.com or email: beccabeckmovement@gmail.com

Kyla Dunlavey

Kyla Dunlavey, PT at CorePhysio:

Hello! My name is Kyla Dunlavey and I am delighted to be included in this group of women! I have been an orthopedic/sports med physical therapist for almost 25 years and I launched my private practice Core Physio LLC in February 2021 with a special interest in helping active women stay active. I am originally from NW Pennsylvania and spent 14 years of my career at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington DC before moving back to Pennsylvania in 2018.
            I started my own practice in order to practice the way I wanted to… Instead of the typical PT clinic ‘mill’, I wanted to see fewer clients for longer sessions, offering the true one-on-one, in-depth, unique, holistic attention to my active clients deserve. I don’t do any internal pelvic floor work, but rather I approach the entire system through exercise, pressure management, breath work, and mindfulness. I refer as necessary to pelvic floor PT. I look at the entire person and empower them with knowledge about their bodies, movement, and the breath, for greater carryover into activities like running, or even just picking up and carrying a child!

I have an endless curiosity and fascination about the human body and I constantly strive to keep up on the latest research and treatment techniques, as what we know about the human body is continually evolving! Case in point, over the past few years, research has started honing in on the pelvic floor and its connection to low back, SI joint, and hip health…and vice versa! Not only this, but also identifying it’s buddy the diaphragm and proper breathing technique, as part of a missing link in establishing true core stability, along with its teammates: the pelvic floor, the abdominals, spinal extensors, and intra-abdominal pressure.
            The way women stand, move, and breath typically changes during pregnancy, as the baby grows and hormone levels alter. Ligaments become more lax, abdominals are on stretch, the back extensors may become taut, it’s difficult to get a breath down into the abdominal cavity, and postural alignment changes impacting optimal muscle recruitment like the glutes. This often carries over into postpartum life, impacting return to activity or just simply keeping up with the demands of motherhood. Women may experience things like diastasis recti, leaking (with coughing, sneezing, laughing, or jumping), hip pain, SI joint pain, pelvic floor pain, or low back pain. A bonus, in establishing proper breathing technique, is tapping into our parasympathetic nervous system which gets us out of the tense fight, flight or freeze state most of us stay in all day!
            Try the 10 minute-Time Out: Go to a quiet area. Have hubby watch the kids. If you don’t have 10 minutes, do 2 minutes! Lie down on the floor with your legs up on the wall and a pillow under your head, (or on your bed with legs up on the headboard if it is flat). Without getting into specifics of proper breathing, just breathe through the nose slowly for 4-5 seconds, letting go of any tension in the body. Exhale. How long did you exhale for? It should be at least 4-5 seconds, if not double your inhalation! How do you feel afterwards? Hopefully relaxed and energized!

If you think you might be interested in tackling your issues, call for free 15min consultation: 814.314.8880 www.TheCorePhysio.com

Mieke Haeck & family

Mieke Haeck, PT at Pelvic Shanti:

I have 20 years of experience working as a physical therapist. Born and raised in Belgium, I graduated from the Catholic University of Leuven as a Physical Therapist in 2001. Afterwards, I pursued a 2 year program at the University of Ghent to become an Orthopedic Manual Therapist. I have worked as a physical therapist across the world: in Belgium, the Netherlands, Turkey, New York City and State College, PA. 

Becoming a mom in 2010, I became more acutely aware of the need for pelvic rehab in the US compared to Europe. I decided to expand my practice and become a Pelvic Health Specialist. I have done extensive continuing education through Herman and Wallace, the APTA Women’s Health Section, Pelvic Guru, and others. I take pride in staying up to date in the emerging field of pelvic rehab, women’s health physical therapy and pre- and postpartum care with extensive continuing education, literature, and books. 

I feel extremely passionate about providing the best possible care to all people experiencing challenges with their pelvic health. Being able to help people achieve their goals and highest potential is my biggest reward. 

Why Pelvic Shanti? 

Pelvic Shanti was founded to provide resources to women during their pregnancy and in the postpartum period (and beyond). A lot of the symptoms that we experience during this time in our lives are quite common but not normal. 

 We recommend a consultation with a pelvic floor physical therapist if you experience:

● Urinary or fecal incontinence 

● Urinary or fecal urgency 

● Heaviness, pressure, bulge or dragging in the pelvic area 

● Pain with sexual intercourse 

● Constipation 

● Rounded abdomen, separated abdominal muscles or decreased abdominal muscle strength 

● Hip, pelvic and low back pain 

We are here to answer all your questions and guide you as you return to your physical activities. To best support the new moms we work with, we offer office or in-home visits and remote consultations.  www.pelvicshanti.com

Dr. Rudavsky

Aliza Rudavsky, DPT, PhD

I’m a licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy and a researcher at Penn State University. My clinical practice focuses on treating women with pelvic floor problems like incontinence, pelvic pain and prolapse (heaviness in the pelvic organs), and my research aims to better understand pelvic floor muscle function, how it works with the rest of the trunk, and develop innovative new treatments for pelvic floor problems.

Pelvic floor physical therapy aims to restore optimal function in the muscles that support bowel and bladder use, sexual function, and keep the pelvic organs lifted. These muscles get stretched and can even tear during pregnancy or delivery and can contribute to problems of leaking (bowel or bladder), scar tissue or painful areas of the muscles, and poor support of pelvic organs causing dropping or prolapse. Treatment with a physical therapist may involve local pelvic floor interventions to improve the scarring, strength, mobility and tone in the muscles. It may also involve exercises and movements focused on the whole integrated body so people can return to the movement that matters most to them, whether that is playing on the floor with babies or training for a triathlon. In my practice, I treat the pelvis and pelvic floor as a piece of the puzzle and will also address the whole body and the whole individual.

I will be resuming my private practice in the spring/summer of 2022 and will provide updated information on my website: www.centered-physio.com

NOTE: Dr. Rudavsky will also be recruiting participants for her research in pelvic floor functioning in the spring of 2022. For more information on participating in pelvic floor research, please email Dr. Rudavsky at axr5794@psu.edu

In closing, I want to thank each one of these women for taking the time to share their thoughts, suggestions & tips as well as providing us with an introduction to themselves and the services they provide. If you’re local and end up using one of these providers, please let them know you read about them here! And if you’re not local, it’s my hope that you at least learned more about the services pelvic floor therapists, chiropractors and other professionals can provide to postpartum moms, and perhaps you can use this information to aid you in your search for good postpartum care. I know you won’t regret taking care of your body now and avoiding potential long-term challenges!

 If you’ve used a pelvic floor therapist, chiropractor or other professional during the 4th trimester and beyond, would you tell us about your experience?

Preparing Well for Postpartum Recovery

Preparing Well for Postpartum Recovery

The longer that I am a mom and midwife, the more I have come to realize how important it is to adequately rest and recover after giving birth. But this does not “just happen”…it takes some serious thought and planning!! Why is it that we spend hours and hours preparing for pregnancy and birth, yet no time or focus is given to what happens AFTER the baby arrives? With this in mind, I’m hoping that these questions and comments will help families to come up with a plan on how to cultivate an intentionally restful and healing postpartum period. I’d encourage you as a couple to sit down and talk about these questions, and figure out what you could do to be better prepared emotionally, mentally and physically for the initial 6 weeks after giving birth.

If you want to read more about some of my own favorite items to have nearby during the initial days postpartum, check out the link here

Reading and Preparation:

Let’s start with some book suggestions. We spend lots of time reading books about pregnancy and birth, right?!? So why not read about how to care for oneself postpartum? Here are some titles to get you started. I’ll note that I don’t endorse everything these authors share, but I do appreciate the way they help me to think through our thoughts and expectations surrounding postpartum adjustments and recovery.

Some Facts to Consider:

As you talk about your expectations for postpartum, it’s good to think about some facts, especially for the dads who wonder if it’s really necessary for mom to spend so much time resting! I love to show the new parents the placenta after the birth, which is generally the size of a small dinner plate. Picture a wound of the same size on the inside of mom’s uterus. Seriously! That’s the wound that needs to heal, and even though the uterus continues to contract and get smaller over those first days/weeks, there is a still a significant amount of healing that needs to happen inside. Add to this any amount of blood loss, any stitches/tears, the length of labor, swelling, and the amount of work it takes to push a baby out, and you can quickly see why it’s important for mom to take care of herself! All of a sudden the reasoning behind “not lifting anything heavier than your baby” makes complete sense, doesn’t it? Along the same note, almost anyone recovering from any type of surgery is usually given a two week minimum recovery time…new moms need AT LEAST that long!

As the postpartum days progress, mom’s body is going through a lot of changes, which include a drop in hormones from the expulsion of the placenta and baby, and a surge of more hormones as her body transitions into producing milk. Keep this in mind those first days…mood swings and emotional roller coasters are NORMAL. But it sure helps if you are expecting that as part of those initial days. And it’s good for husbands to know that this is a normal part of adjustment. Mom needs rest, understanding, and sometimes NO MORE VISITORS!

Another thing to remember is that you won’t be getting a lot of sleep those first few weeks. It’s good for baby to eat every 2-3 hours to establish good nursing habits and milk supply, but it does not contribute to a restful mom. Keeping life low key, and expectations to a minimum can really make a difference in allowing this time to be as stress-free as possible. Along the same lines, nourishing foods and lots of liquids are also hugely important in helping to establish a plentiful and healthful milk supply.

Lastly, try to view the postpartum period as a 6 week MINIMUM. I understand you may not be able to take that much “time off” of your normal home duties. But the longer you can rest and care for yourself in the initial weeks, I can promise you the better off your long-term postpartum experience will be. These initial 6 weeks your baby needs you as much as he needed you when he was inside, and this means an unpredictable schedule, lots of nursing, skin-to-skin time, and lots of cuddles. A slow re-entry into normal life will be beneficial to everyone, and lowering your personal expectations of this time can be a life saver!

Initial days postpartum:

  • Consider staying in bed for several days, getting up only to use the restroom, and perhaps joining the family for one meal a day. This can be beneficial for several reasons: visitors don’t stay as long if you’re in bed, you can sleep when baby does, and it reminds everyone that you are recovering!!
  • Prepare your room or a special corner ahead of time to make it a pleasant place for recovery. You’ll relax better if you find your space enjoyable and refreshing. Think about getting some special reading material or audio books together ahead of time to enjoy while you spend hours nursing your new baby. And don’t forget to have some comfortable clothes to wear that promote easy nursing access and yet allow you to rest well!
  • Limit visitors, and the amount of time that they stay. This can be dad’s job: remember that even if your wife loves people, new moms find extra company more draining than they initial expect. Short 10 or 15 min visits are sufficient, and this allows mom to not be separated from baby too long (since many visitors want to hold the new baby the entire time they are present).
  • Have nourishing snacks, foods and drinks gathered ahead of time: a new nursing mom is ALWAYS hungry and thirsty that first week!
  • Remember that your body is going through some major changes and may need some help: have some ibuprofen, nipple cream, icepacks, heat packs, hemorrhoid balm and magnesium available in case you need them.
  • Consider some ways to have meals taken care of: freeze some ahead of time, or ask a friend to organize a meal train or signup list where friends can bring food. It can be nice for the entire family to have meals provided for the first days/weeks as the whole family adjusts to the new baby.
  • If you have older children, it’s a good idea to think about how to implement the “no lifting” rule…sometimes it can be helpful to invest in a step stool that the older sibling can use to climb up beside mom so that she isn’t tempted to lift him or her up.

First Two Weeks:

  • An old midwife’s adage is “5 days in the bed, 5 days on the bed and 5 days around the bed”. While many moms balk at this amount of recovery time, it’s not a bad idea to consider! Mom will continue to bleed for around 2 weeks, and the longer she rests oftentimes the shorter the time she bleeds.
  • Continue to follow the “no lifting anything heavier than baby” rule until at least 2 weeks to maximize the uterine healing that needs to happen.
  • Keep stressful visitors to a minimum-this may mean telling well-intending friends and family that they need to wait to come see mom and baby, especially if that entails a lengthy visit of several days. Sometimes it’s hard for people to remember that mom is recovering and needs to spend time with baby, so this is NOT the time to be socializing and holding a newborn for hours on end.
  • Consider getting some household help these first weeks (longer if possible!). This would preferably be someone who can come and keep up housework, prepare food as needed, entertain older children if present, and take care of household duties so that mom can rest mentally as well as physically. As you consider this possibility, keep in mind that this works best if it is someone that mom feels completely comfortable with-sometimes this is a family member, but sometimes it is someone totally unrelated, and even hired for this express purpose. Talk honestly about what type of person would work best in your family situation. After my fourth child was born, we were blessed to have a girl who was willing to come spend 2 days a week with us during the first three weeks. This was sufficient time to catch up laundry, clean the house, and keep after work that wasn’t getting done, as my husband had a flexible work schedule the other days of the week. I found it much easier to rest when I knew the house wasn’t falling apart while I rested!
  • As you feel your energy increasing, start slow…remember that the sooner you jump in to “normal life”, the sooner everyone else will expect you to stay that way!
  • If people offer to help, take them up on it! An offer to babysit can mean an extra nap for mom, and many friends are more than willing to run get your groceries if they know you need something. Don’t turn any offers of help down!

Weeks 3-6:

  • This is when it can get hard to remember to rest. Even though you feel much better by now, remember that you need to go slow, and say no to anything extra in life, even if you FEEL energetic. Your baby still needs lots of time to nurse, and your body is still going through significant changes. One day you feel on top of the world, and the next you are in the dumps…all of this is part of your body learning to regulate it’s hormones again! There are supplements you can take to help with this-check with your midwife if you experience lots of these swings.
  • Start slow with exercise. It’s best to wait the full 6 weeks before engaging in anything specific to rehab, but I do encourage moms to get out in the fresh air and start taking slow walks if they are having minimal or no bleeding by week 2 or 3. Put baby in a stroller or in a carrier, and stroll. Don’t push yourself, just give yourself the chance to get some sunshine and fresh air.
  • Make sure you are taking your prenatal vitamins and consider adding some extra Vitamin D and Evening Primrose Oil to help with hormonal balance.
  • Try figuring out a way to get just a little bit of time to yourself each day…perhaps your husband can take care of the children while you slip out for a short walk, or perhaps you can meet up with a friend for coffee (and let her hold the baby!), or even get a chance for a short nap by yourself. These things can help with managing the mental load, and can be a big step in preventing postpartum depression.
  • Find a friend you can talk with and share with as you go through the many adjustments during these weeks. It’s always reassuring to be reminded that this stage of life doesn’t last forever, and you will sleep again someday!
  • Continue to get help with basic household duties as you can, and don’t turn down the offer of food!
  • Consider trying to get some intentional time as a couple: the unique stress of this period, combined with mom’s unpredictable hormones, interrupted sleep, and all the other factors can add some significant stress on your marriage. Getting away for an hour (with baby in tow) to concentrate on your relationship can really help you to navigate this time and grow stronger in your relationship.
  • Eat nourishing, healthy foods, and don’t worry about weight loss while your body is establishing milk supply!

 

In closing, I’d love to hear what you would add to this list? What was most helpful to you when you were anticipating the arrival of your little one? What helped you recover? Please share your tips and input!