FAQ: What Causes Pain and Incontinence During and After Pregnancy?

April 01, 2021

pregnant mom holds stomach

Pregnancy and postpartum are exciting, but also challenging times for expectant and new moms. It’s important to prioritize your needs and health, both for you and your baby. Remember: Pregnancy is a marathon and postpartum is forever.

Sarah Krotulski, PT, DPT, LAT, ATC, of Good Shepherd Physical Therapy – Souderton answers frequently asked questions about pain and incontinence — and women’s health overall — both during and after pregnancy.

Why does my lower back hurt during and/or after pregnancy?

About 50 percent of pregnant women experience low back and/or pelvic pain. Not only does low back pain tend to increase postpartum secondary to the physical demands of childcare, there is also a high correlation between low back pain and stress urinary incontinence.

However, you have options to reduce low back pain. Physical therapy can help moms prevent and/or minimize pain, improve function and prepare for childbirth. A specially trained physical therapist in women’s health can assist with childcare ergonomics to prevent pain from daily activities such as:

  • Breastfeeding
  • Lifting children
  • Moving children in and out of car seats

What is causing my incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is the involuntary loss of bladder control. While it is common to have urinary incontinence during pregnancy and postpartum, it is not normal to have urinary leakage with laughing, sneezing, jumping, or coughing.

Pelvic floor muscle training during pregnancy has been shown to reduce urinary incontinence during pregnancy as well as postpartum.  

This specialized training is also important for moms who have Cesarean deliveries since they can develop urinary incontinence during pregnancy and postpartum as well.

Can physical therapy improve abdominal muscle separation or “mommy pooch?”

About 30 percent of women experience diastasis recti at six months postpartum; it is a separation of abdominal muscles that can cause abdominal doming, where the belly sticks out (sometimes referred to as “mommy pooch”). Diastasis recti also can lessen core muscle function.

Physical therapy can improve abdominal wall separation and core muscle function, ultimately restoring function and decreasing pain. 

Is exercise safe during pregnancy and/or early postpartum?

Many moms are unsure what exercise is safe during pregnancy and early postpartum. However, both mom and baby can benefit from staying active both during pregnancy and after through the guidance of a physical therapist.  

In particular, physical therapists trained in obstetrics and pelvic floor therapy can help moms create custom exercise programs during pregnancy and postpartum to achieve goals.

Physical therapy can be done in-person or virtually through computer, smartphone or tablet. Telehealth physical therapy is convenient for moms, as it eliminates the need to pack up and travel with baby.

Learn more about Good Shepherd’s women’s health services, including pelvic floor therapy and physical therapy during pregnancy and postpartum. To schedule an in-person or telehealth appointment, call 1-888-44-REHAB or request an appointment online.