New Moms Need Physical Therapy
Pregnancy and childbirth exact an enormous toll on a woman’s body. It is transforming and beautiful, but when a mother does not get the physical and emotional support she needs, the effects can be devastating.
I am a new mother, three times over. After each birth, I benefited enormously from physical therapy. I could not stand strong, fit, and wholly healed without it.
I am also a physical therapist, myself, and feel that every woman should know her rights to receive physical therapy as a new mother. One of the many fields of specialization in physical therapy is women’s health. I bet you didn’t know that. That’s okay. Most doctors don’t either.
A physical therapist (PT) in women’s health is dedicated to helping women get their bodies back after birth. They can treat a myriad of issues, including pelvic and back pain, incontinence, and other ailments. The American Physical Therapy Association’s 2010-11 report titled Today’s Physical Therapist: A Comprehensive Review of a 21st-Century Health Care Profession, states “physical therapists are committed to facilitating each individual’s achievement of goals for function, health, and wellness.” The core values of a physical therapist are “altruism, accountability, integrity, clinical excellence, social responsibility, and compassion.” The sad fact, though, is that most new mothers will never get the therapy they desperately need after giving birth.
But I am passionate about turning the tide. All too often, women in general, not just new mothers, do not receive the health care they need. Read my articlewhich reviews the shocking statistics about the crisis in women’s health care today in the US.
A Prime Example of Falling Through the (Medical) Cracks
I have had patients and friends who have suffered from pelvic pain, sexual dysfunction, painful scarring, chronic incontinence, and lower back pain for so long that it has severely altered their quality and enjoyment of life.
A friend recently came to me asking for advice for another girlfriend. Let’s say her name is Teresa. Teresa had just undergone major abdominal surgery (think C-section) and was having awful abdominal pains and even headaches.
Knowing that the two are related, based on her surgery type and plan of care, I immediately asked if the surgeon had referred her to physical therapy. Of course the answer was no. Her plan of care did not include any post-operative physical therapy. In fact, when I asked Teresa directly, she said her doctor (a woman, mind you) had never even mentioned needing physical therapy.
I was upset by what I felt was an oversight by the physician to refer Teresa to therapy, but mostly I felt a surge of urgency to help her. This woman needed therapy immediately, yesterday, even. She was floundering, depressed, in pain, and alone at home six weeks after major surgery on her reproductive organs due to a cancer scare. She had no idea how to get better (she had been a marathoner) now that she had this huge scar (larger than that of a C-section) across her abdomen. Even coughing caused pain, and the related headaches and back pain were terrifying.
But, it was not the doctor’s fault. Not really.
Doctors are educated very little, if at all, about PT services in medical school. A good friend with an MD sister said this when asked if she had learned about PT in medical school: “sure, we had education about what PT’s do in medical school. It was a single lecture, on one day, it was optional, and it covered all allied health care services.”
Physical therapists spend a similar amount of time in earning their degree in physical therapy (7-8 years) as doctors do in medical training. There really is no way a single optional lecture in medical school can prepare physicians to know what PT’s do and how to refer for physical therapy.
Removing policy barriers that prevent you from accessing physical therapy is very important. Action to make PT available in all 50 states without a doctor’s referral is underway. Action is also underway to prevent doctors from profiting personally from referring a patient to PT. Learn more here.
READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE… four reasons why every new mother needs physical therapy.
Read the full post here.