Physical Therapy: The Key to what is missing in US Postpartum Care

How do I repair my body after childbirth and pregnancy, or after a break from consistent exercise? That's a super common question I got as a midwife in practice. 

When I learned the importance of how to approach healing the muscles and tissues of the body, after having children, I was blown away by the intricate steps it takes to get to your new normal. But more so, the lack of education around the process.

What's missing from the US maternity and women's health system on the whole is basic education for women on retraining important muscles that are part of your abdomen, like your diaphragm.

Even if you're years postpartum, the simple exercises below are really important for women of all ages. There's a three step process to restoring your breath, but we're beginning with the first step to begin your healing:

Restore Breathing to Your Diaphragm

The diaphragm is a muscle. During pregnancy your diaphragm gets compressed. After pregnancy or after a long break from a consistent exercise routine the diaphragm needs to be retrained.

To retrain your diaphragm, first:
   Imagine you are wearing a pair of high-waisted pants. 
   Place your hands between your breasts and your waistline. Inhale, expanding your belly against light pressure of your hands.
   Exhale, releasing the diaphragm. The diaphragm will naturally sink into your hands.

Second, do this exercise to restore breathing to your diaphragm:
•  Stand up straight, with feet at hips’ width.
•  Take a scarf or an exercise band and wrap it from behind your body and criss-cross it in front, about 3 inches above the belly button.
•  Pull the opposite ends so that the scarf is snug around your middle and inhale, expanding your diaphragm so it makes the scarf tighten.
•  Exhale, imagining that your diaphragm is deflating back up into your rib cage.
   Repeat this sequence for one minute.

Finally, KNOW where you are breathing from:
This a really important breathing tip. Breathing from the upper part of the lungs instead of from the (lower) diaphragm can make you feel anxious. 

Learning about lungs and the relationship to anxiety was not new to me, as my dad while dying, had a lot of fear and anxiety and a major reason is because his lungs were hit hard from the cancer. 

As a practitioner, I can see women holding their breath and stress in their lungs, while exhibiting signs of anxiety when they talk to me. Teaching women to breath into and from their diaphram is one I teach often, because it's simple, powerful and grounding.

Now, question of the week: Are you aware of your breath and where it comes from? 

Have a fantastic week! Tell me how the exercises treat you.