Guide To Postpartum Physical Therapy After Childbirth

Guide To Postpartum Physical Therapy After Childbirth


The journey doesn’t end at childbirth; it’s merely the beginning of another profound chapter. Childbirth is a miraculous event that brings joy, but it can also leave new mothers with unexpected physical challenges. Understanding the importance of postpartum recovery is crucial in helping women rebuild their strength and health.

Navigating the terrain of motherhood includes attention to a mother’s own well-being. Postpartum physical therapy is a specialized field that focuses on the rehabilitation of women after giving birth, addressing specific issues that arise from the strains of pregnancy and labor. It stands as a crucial part of the healing process.

In this guide, we will explore the numerous benefits of postpartum physical therapy, the specific conditions it addresses, and appropriate exercises that aid recovery. We’ll also discuss when to seek the help of a physical therapist, all to ensure a smoother transition into postpartum life. 

Understanding Postpartum Physical Therapy

What is Postpartum Physical Therapy?

Postpartum physical therapy is an intervention focusing on the rehabilitation of new mothers in the weeks and months following childbirth. It is designed to address various postpartum symptoms. The therapy encompasses several treatment options tailored to the individual needs of postpartum patients.

The process begins with a comprehensive assessment by a licensed physical therapist who formulates a treatment plan that may integrate a variety of modalities, including pelvic floor exercises, respiratory strategies, manual therapies like myofascial release, and, in some cases, modalities like electrical stimulation.

Why is it Important?

The importance of postpartum physical therapy cannot be overstated. Childbirth significantly stresses the body, and without proper care, some women may face persistent issues, such as pelvic floor dysfunction, that affect their quality of life. By addressing common postpartum challenges, therapeutic interventions offer crucial relief and aid in the recovery process. 

Thus, postpartum physical therapy is a key component in a mother’s recovery, leading to a healthier and more comfortable postpartum period and improved overall well-being. Mothers are encouraged to explore these essential services to support their postpartum recovery.

Benefits of Postpartum Physical Therapy

Benefits of Postpartum Physical Therapy

Navigating the journey back to pre-pregnancy fitness and comfort can be difficult for many new mothers. Experiencing a range of physical challenges, postpartum physical therapy emerges as an important component in facilitating recovery and encouraging overall well-being. 

Here are some of the benefits of engaging in physical therapy during the postpartum period:

Pain Relief

A primary benefit of postpartum physical therapy is the relieving of pain that often follows childbirth. Techniques like manual therapy, myofascial release, and specific therapeutic exercises are employed to target areas of discomfort, reduce inflammation, and promote healing. Especially common concerns such as hip, back, and pelvic pain can be effectively addressed, enabling new mothers to perform everyday activities with less discomfort and a greater sense of ease.

Improved Mobility

Physical therapy after delivery often focuses on restoring joint mobility and tissue elasticity that may have been compromised during pregnancy or childbirth. Through guided stretches and movements, postpartum patients can reclaim their range of motion, making it easier to carry their baby, bend, lift, and go about daily tasks. The gradual reintroduction of physical activity is tailored to each woman’s unique recovery timeline, ensuring a progression that encourages healing without overexertion.

Enhanced Strength

The postpartum period can lead to weakened core and pelvic floor muscles, but targeted exercises in postpartum physical therapy help to rebuild this strength foundation. By focusing on core muscles—including the transverse abdominis and multifidus—as well as the pelvic floor, new mothers can work towards regaining stability and support, which is pivotal for lifting, pushing, and other aspects of caring for a newborn.

Better Posture

Carrying and nursing a newborn can strain the neck, shoulders, and back, often leading to poor posture. Physical therapists guide postpartum patients through exercises and provide education on body mechanics that can improve posture. As mothers gain greater postural awareness, the risk of musculoskeletal pain decreases, and the efficiency of their movements can improve.

Enhanced Pelvic Floor Function

Physical therapy also serves to reinforce the pelvic floor muscles, which are critical for bladder and bowel control, as well as sexual function. Specialized exercises, along with techniques such as biofeedback and electrical stimulation when appropriate, can heighten pelvic floor muscle performance. Improving these muscles can decrease symptoms of urinary incontinence, reduced sexual pain, and a greater sense of confidence in pelvic floor stability.

Reduced Risk of Health Complications

Timely postpartum physical therapy can reduce the risk of developing chronic conditions like prolapse, persistent diastasis recti, or chronic pelvic pain. By addressing issues early and establishing a foundation of strength and function, future health complications can be lessened or prevented entirely. This proactive approach not only elevates a new mother’s current quality of life but sets the stage for sustained health and physical activity down the road.

Postpartum Conditions Addressed by Physical Therapy

Physical therapy during the postpartum period is not only proactive but often necessary for addressing several conditions that may arise after childbirth. It is a cornerstone in the management and rehabilitation of various postpartum symptoms and complications. Here, we outline common conditions that physical therapy can help new mothers overcome, contributing to their postpartum recovery and quality of life.

Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence is a frequent issue for women after a vaginal delivery, characterized by the involuntary leakage of urine. This condition can be due to the strain on the pelvic floor muscles and nerves during pregnancy and childbirth. Postpartum physical therapy provides a structured approach to strengthening the pelvic floor muscles through exercises and techniques such as biofeedback and electrical stimulation. These treatment options can help improve muscle control and relieve the symptoms of incontinence, offering relief and increased confidence for postpartum patients.

Low Back Pain

Low back pain during pregnancy is another common postpartum complaint, affecting an estimated 50-80 percent of pregnant women, resulting from pregnancy-related postural changes, the strain of labor, or altered biomechanics from caring for a newborn. Physical therapists employ targeted exercises to fortify the core muscles, which support the lower back, and myofascial release to relieve tissue tension.

A treatment plan may also include education on proper body mechanics to prevent future strain. With these interventions, new mothers can find significant relief from back pain, enabling them to engage more comfortably in everyday activities and care for their babies.

Diastasis Recti

Diastasis recti refers to the separation of the abdominal muscles, specifically the rectus abdominis, that can occur during pregnancy as the abdominal wall stretches to accommodate a growing fetus. After childbirth, this condition can persist, leaving a gap that can lead to a bulging belly, core weakness, and possible back pain. 

From 2010 to 2021, evidence demonstrates that physical therapy is an effective, low-risk treatment for diastasis recti abdominis (DRA). Building on this, physical therapy plays an important role in repairing diastasis recti through targeted abdominal exercises aimed at closing the gap and restoring core strength and function. Additionally, a focus on pelvic health and the integration of pelvic floor rehabilitation can complement the treatment of diastasis recti, ensuring a comprehensive approach to postpartum recovery.

Common Postpartum Physical Therapy Exercises

Common Postpartum Physical Therapy Exercises

Physical therapy exercises are important for postpartum recovery, helping women improve pelvic floor strength, regain core stability, and prevent discomfort related to musculoskeletal changes from pregnancy and childbirth. These exercises typically aim at rebuilding the pelvic floor, enhancing core strength, relieving back strain, and improving overall functional fitness. It’s important to ensure that these exercises are performed with proper technique and under the guidance of a licensed physical therapist, particularly during the initial weeks postpartum when the body is still healing.

Pelvic Floor Exercises (Kegel Exercises)

Pelvic floor exercises, commonly called Kegel exercises, are foundational in postpartum physical therapy to address pelvic floor dysfunction. These exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which support the uterus, bladder, small intestine, and rectum. Kegels involve contracting and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles repetitively and can be done discreetly, almost anytime, anywhere.

For new mothers dealing with urinary incontinence or sexual pain from weakened pelvic floor muscles, Kegels can be exceptionally beneficial. A typical regimen might include squeezing the pelvic muscles for a few seconds and then relaxing for an equal amount of time, with multiple sets completed throughout the day.


Walking is an excellent low-impact cardiovascular exercise that can be easily incorporated into the postpartum recovery routine. It aids in enhancing circulation, reducing the risk of blood clots, and promoting mental well-being by providing an opportunity for fresh air and a change of scenery. Starting with short walks and gradually increasing the duration as tolerated is recommended, as well as taking care not to overexert during the initial weeks postpartum. Walking also gently activates the core and pelvic floor muscles, supporting recovery without overstressing the healing tissues.

Core Rehabilitation Exercises

After childbirth, particularly if a mother has experienced diastasis recti, core rehabilitation exercises are essential to regaining abdominal strength and integrity. These exercises focus on repairing and strengthening the rectus abdominis. They can include modified crunches, pelvic tilts, and other specialized movements that target the transverse abdominals. It is important to tailor the exercise program to the individual’s recovery stage and ensure correct form to prevent injury and maximize the effectiveness of the rehabilitation.

Strength Training

Strength training after childbirth can help postpartum patients regain muscle tone and strength lost during pregnancy. Incorporating exercises such as squats, modified push-ups, and light weightlifting can help to build up the strength in the core muscles, lower limbs, and upper body, which are essential for performing everyday activities and caring for a newborn. It is advisable to begin with low resistance and high repetitions to ensure safety and gradually increase the intensity as muscle strength and recovery progress.

Postural Strengthening

Postural strengthening exercises are crucial in addressing the postural changes that often occur during pregnancy and after delivery. Focusing on exercises that fortify the muscles of the back, shoulders, and chest can aid in correcting postural imbalances. Activities such as shoulder blade squeezes, chest stretches, and upper back strength training can help realign the spine, reduce the strain on the back, and relieve postpartum back and pelvic pain.

These postpartum physical therapy exercises form the bedrock of a holistic recovery plan, fostering the return to pre-pregnancy fitness levels and contributing to the overall health of postpartum patients. It’s important to note that postpartum women should first consult with their healthcare provider before commencing any physical activity or exercise program.

When to Seek a Physical Therapist

The postpartum period, following the birth of a child, is a time when many new mothers experience various physical challenges and changes. It is important for postpartum patients to understand when to seek the assistance of a physical therapist. Common indicators for seeking therapy include pelvic pain, hip pain, urinary incontinence, and difficulties with sexual function.

Physical therapy may be particularly beneficial if you notice any of the following:

  • Persistent pain in the pelvic floor, hips, or back
  • Difficulty performing everyday activities due to physical discomfort
  • Signs of pelvic floor dysfunction, such as urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse
  • Pelvic floor issues interfering with physical activity or quality of life
  • Postpartum symptoms that don’t improve with time, especially past six weeks postpartum

For many women, these problems may arise after vaginal delivery, especially if there are complications such as perineal tears. Treatment options can range from targeted exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor and core muscles to specialized techniques like electrical stimulation or myofascial release. Engaging with pelvic health physical therapy can lead to improved recovery and wellness. Remember, seeking out a customized treatment plan with a qualified therapist can greatly enhance your postpartum recovery journey.


In conclusion, postpartum physical therapy plays a crucial role in helping mothers recover from childbirth and address various issues that may arise during the postpartum period. By focusing on strengthening pelvic floor muscles and abdominal muscles and addressing pelvic floor dysfunction, women can relieve symptoms such as pelvic pain, hip pain, and urinary incontinence. Implementing a treatment plan that may consist of exercise, electrical stimulation, and myofascial release, women can see improvements in their physical activity, sexual health, and ability to perform everyday activities.

Physical therapists specializing in pelvic health can guide postpartum patients through pelvic floor rehabilitation and help with conditions such as pelvic floor disorders, perineal tears, and other postpartum symptoms. Whether the birth was a vaginal delivery or a cesarean section, a tailored treatment plan is beneficial. Postpartum physical therapy is a valuable resource for enhancing postnatal recovery and overall pelvic health.

To keep your postpartum recovery on track, consider reaching out to Be Ready Performance Therapy. We specialize in pelvic floor therapy for pregnancy, addressing issues like diastasis recti and pelvic floor dysfunction. Our skilled therapists provide expert care tailored to your body’s needs, ensuring a personalized recovery plan.


When should I start physical therapy after giving birth?

The timing for starting postpartum pelvic floor physical therapy can vary depending on individual health and the specifics of your delivery. Generally, it’s safe to begin pelvic floor exercises a few days after delivery, provided there are no major complications and your healthcare provider agrees. For more structured physical therapy, especially after a cesarean section or significant perineal tears, it’s customary to wait until your six-week postpartum check-up before commencing intensive exercises. This wait ensures that your body has had time to initiate the natural healing process. Before starting any physical therapy regimen, always get the green light from your healthcare provider.

What is the goal of postpartum physical therapy?

The primary goal of postpartum physical therapy is to help the body recover from the stresses of pregnancy and childbirth. It targets the restoration of pelvic floor muscles, improvement of core strength, and relief from pain in areas affected by the strain of birth. The therapy focuses on teaching new mothers how to effectively rehab their bodies, maintain pelvic floor health, and increase their overall physical well-being so that they can return to pre-pregnancy function and comfortably perform everyday activities.

What are the benefits of postpartum physical therapy?

The benefits of postpartum physical therapy encompass a wide range of physical and emotional aspects, including:

  • Strengthening and stabilizing core muscles, which can lead to a faster recovery.
  • Relieving common postpartum symptoms such as pelvic floor dysfunction, urinary incontinence, hip pain, and pelvic pain.
  • Reducing sexual pain and improving intimacy.
  • Educating about pelvic health which can prevent long-term issues like pelvic organ prolapse.
  • Providing personalized care that addresses your specific needs, helping you return to physical activity safely.
  • Assisting with emotional well-being by improving body confidence and reducing stress associated with postpartum physical issues.

It’s important to understand that each mother’s recovery timeline is unique, and a specialized physical therapist can tailor a treatment plan to your body’s specific postpartum needs.

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Dr. Ross Gentry


"This is Physical Therapy for Athletes. We relieve pain and ensure you're ready to do what you love"

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