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  • Emily McGuire

Postpartum Physical Therapy: Recovering from Pregnancy, Delivery, and C-Sections

Pregnancy and childbirth are profound experiences that bring a barrage of emotions as well as physical changes. For many new mothers, the postpartum period can be challenging as you navigate recovery and adjust to life with a newborn. Postpartum physical therapy plays a crucial role in this recovery process, addressing various physical issues that can arise from both vaginal deliveries and C-sections. This post will explain the benefits of postpartum physical therapy, highlighting key areas of focus including treatment options for those who have undergone C-sections.

Physical therapist working with postpartum patient

Who Does Postpartum Physical Therapy Benefit?

Postpartum physical therapy is designed to help new mothers regain strength, function, and overall well-being after childbirth. Whether a woman has had a vaginal delivery or a C-section, the body undergoes significant changes and stress during pregnancy and delivery. While anyone can benefit from postpartum physical therapy, some common issues PT can address include:

  • Pelvic Floor Dysfunction – pregnancy and delivery can weaken the pelvic floor muscles, leading to incontinence, pelvic pain, and sexual dysfunction. Physical therapy can help regain strength, mobility, and functionality.

  • Diastasis Recti – this condition, characterized by the separation of the muscles at the center of the abdomen, is common after pregnancy. Physical therapists will use specific exercises to help close the gap and restore core strength.

  • Scar Tissue Management – C-sections, perineal tears, and episiotomies can result in scar tissue that may cause pain and restrict movement. Physical therapists can help mobilize and soften this scar tissue.

  • Postural Changes – the weight and positioning of the baby during pregnancy can alter your posture, leading to back, neck, and shoulder pain. Physical therapy can address these postural changes through targeted exercises and education.

  • Strength & Mobility – after months of carrying extra weight and the physical demands of childbirth, new mothers often need help restoring overall strength and mobility.


The Importance of Physical Therapy for C-Sections

C-sections require a unique approach to recovery. Physical therapy for C-sections focuses on:


Restoring Abdominal Strength

Regaining abdominal strength is a key component of recovering from a C-section, as the surgical incision can weaken these muscles. Physical therapists offer gentle yet effective exercises to strengthen the core without putting undue strain on the healing incision. Over time, these exercises help restore function and support overall physical health.

Pain Management & Mobility

Pain is common after any surgical procedure. Physical therapists provide strategies to manage pain, including gentle movements, positional adjustments, and advice for self-management. Treatment will also focus on improving mobility through stretching and strengthening exercises, helping you regain your full range of motion.

Scar Tissue Management

C-sections result in significant scar tissue, which can cause pain and restrict movement. Physical therapists use various techniques to reduce the appearance of the scar, improve flexibility, and decrease discomfort, including manual massage, stretching exercises, kinesiology tape, and instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM). IASTM involves using specialized tools to enhance soft tissue movement. This includes using scraping tools over the affected area to reduce scar tissue and promote healing. Myofascial decompression, sometimes referred to as “cupping therapy,” can also be employed to release tension and improve blood flow around the c-section scar.


Pursuing Postpartum PT

Recovering from pregnancy, delivery, and C-sections is a multifaceted process that requires care, patience, and support. Postpartum physical therapy offers essential benefits, helping new mothers regain strength, function, and confidence.

If you are a new mother navigating the postpartum period, consider reaching out to the physical therapists at Rehab United in San Diego to guide you through a tailored recovery plan. Seeking professional support can make all the difference in feeling like yourself again.


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Emily McGuire is a Marketing Associate and staff writer for Rehab United. With a Bachelor's degree in International Business from UC San Diego, she is a California native with a passion for writing, digital marketing, health, and wellness.

Medically Reviewed By: Whitney Landis, PT, DPT, FAFS, a physical therapist, Director of Pelvic Health, and Fellow of Applied Functional Science. Whitney graduated with her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Chapman University in 2010 and has taken numerous continuing education courses pertaining to Women’s/Pelvic Health through Herman and Wallace Pelvic Rehabilitation Institute and Pelvic Guru. She has also completed the Gray Institute of Functional Transformation (GIFT) Fellowship in 2015.

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