Pregnancy marks the start of an incredible journey for every woman. It also signals the impending arrival of an amazing metamorphosis of the female body. Some facets of this transformation might include nausea gravidarum (better known as morning sickness), weight gain and discomfort and aches in various parts of the body. A woman’s joints, especially, come under additional stress due to the extra weight that she bears.
How can a woman care for her joints better and cope with aches during her pregnancy? Dr. Calvin Sim, Principal Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist at Physio Connectionz Sports & Orthopaedic Rehabilitation Centre, imparts his expertise on the subject.
Causes of Aches & Joint Pains
Pregnant women are more susceptible to aches and joint pains because of the increased load on their joints due to the increasing weight of the growing foetus. They are also more vulnerable to such aches because of the relaxin hormone that is being released during the term of pregnancy to allow the foetus to grow. The most common areas of pain would be the lower back and the knees. Most pregnant women would experience some form of aches and pain during pregnancy, but depending on their level of fitness, the intensity and frequency of these aches can probably be managed.
Is Prevention Possible?
Prevention is possible by improving one’s baseline fitness and exercising frequently throughout the span of the pregnancy. Simple exercises like brisk walking and swimming during pregnancy would decrease the intensity and frequency of these aches and pain.
Due to the gradually increasing weight of the foetus and the release of the relaxin hormone, the strain on a pregnant woman’s joints is fairly similar to a strenuous workout. However, this also depends on the baseline level of fitness of the pregnant woman. The higher the baseline level of fitness, the lower the level of strain as her muscles would be able to endure the strain better.
Post-natal Changes in Joints
So what exactly is the effect on a woman’s joints after she has given birth? Following the delivery of the child, there might be a slight increase in the degeneration of the joints, depending on her muscle balance and strength prior to the pregnancy. Posture, prior, during and after pregnancy, also plays an important role in the extent of changes in the joints. The body may take up to one year to flush the relaxin hormone out of the body. Therefore, care must be taken for at least the first four months so as to not overstrain the ligaments, which may in turn injure the joints.
A new mother would be doing a lot of carrying, especially when breastfeeding her baby. What can be done to help the physical condition of her body? “They can ensure that they watch their posture while carrying their baby and also while breastfeeding. Swimming is also a good form of exercise to strengthen their muscles, as well as a form of relaxation for mothers postpartum,” says Dr. Sim.
Preventing Joint Problems
Mothers of toddlers engage in quite a fair bit of running, squatting and crawling. (after their kids in a play gym!) How can they prevent joint problems while simultaneously being involved in these activities on a regular basis? Strengthening their muscles, especially concentrating on their core muscles, would help to prevent joint problems while maintaining active lifestyles with their toddlers.
Correct stretching techniques would also aid in preventing injuries of over-use arising from tightness in the muscles. Making use of braces and supports may help to decrease pain for a short duration while participating in these physical activities, but if one should develop long term dependence on such aids, it would be better to have the problem examined closely and addressed by a medical professional in order to prevent further straining of the joints.
Are Joint Issues Here to Stay?
Generally, changes that occur in a woman’s joints during the period of pregnancy are not permanent. However, new mothers might find themselves complaining of prolonged aches and pains if these issues are a result of weakness in the muscles around the joints. Thus, the best way to fully recover from pregnancy related joint changes is to strengthen the muscles and obtain proper professional advice and supervision during the rehabilitation process.
In what other ways can new mothers help their bodies and live an ache-free life? Maintaining an active lifestyle prior to pregnancy and even during pregnancy is essential to help a woman live a pain-free life after pregnancy. Ensuring the constant maintenance of good posture and positive muscle balance is the ultimate key for everyone, more so for ladies planning to become mothers, to keep their joints healthy.