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Growing pains
Physical therapy offers benefits during pregnancy and later

BY JOANN PETASCHNICK

 

The joy that comes with pregnancy can sometimes be overshadowed by the discomfort and pain of the physical challenges that accompany it. But women don’t have to live with the discomfort. They can benefit from physical therapy that focuses on increasing strength and stability and eliminating pain during and after pregnancy.

Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare offers this kind of specialized therapy at all of its hospitals throughout the metro area. "Women can experience postural changes, low back pain, sciatica, pelvic pressure and leg cramps, just to name a few issues. We’re trained to help alleviate those problems," says Kelly Gebheardt, a physical therapist at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Milwaukee.

Women can begin therapy at any point during their pregnancy depending on the restrictions of their OB/GYN, but the typical time to start is 20 to 30 weeks. "When a woman is referred to us by her doctor, we do a complete evaluation, ask questions about her medical history and symptoms. Any specific problems are evaluated and then an individual plan of care is developed," Gebheardt says.

Abigayle Syrios of Elm Grove began pregnancy PT at about 25 weeks and continued until a week before her baby was born. "My doctor told me about the program because I was having a lot of back pain and she thought it would help. I had suffered a miscarriage a few months prior to this pregnancy and my doctor cautioned me against a lot of activity. The therapists took this into consideration and gave me gentle but effective exercises to ease my pain and help keep me from gaining too much weight," Syrios says.

After pregnancy, a different set of problems may arise. "Women often need help with body mechanics because they’re now lifting the baby carrier and other items. Upper back problems can also result from incorrect posture during nursing. And we can address the all too common problem of urinary incontinence," Gebheardt says.

Four months after her baby was born, Syrios went back to therapy for weekly sessions. "The biggest benefit I gained from physical therapy was that it helped me develop muscle strength. I have recommended it to all of my pregnant friends because it was so helpful to me," she says. m