C-Sections: How Physical Therapy Can Help


There are a lot of practical issues to consider during your pregnancy, like names, choosing between cloth or disposable diapers, and most importantly, whether cesarean birth is right for you. It’s estimated that in the United States, one in three babies born is via C-section. This number has steadily increased by about 50% over the past decade.

However, the effects of having a cesarean are significant and need to be weighed carefully against natural birth. To ease the effects it has on a woman’s body, a physical therapist trained in surgery recovery is the quickest way to getting back on track.

The surgery itself lasts about 45 minutes, during which a small horizontal incision is made above the pubic bone. The doctor proceeds to cut through the skin, connective tissue, and muscles, to open up the uterus. The baby is pulled out through the surgically cut opening and the opening is then stitched back up and the woman is sent to recover.

This is an especially difficult time for your body, not only have your abdominal muscles been stretched out for the past nine months, but now they have to be retrained and strengthened after a major surgery. In post-operation there is a risk of your brain losing the connection between your abdominal muscles and pelvic floor.

When this happens you will be unable to control the deep abdominal/pelvic floor musculature, which assists with stabilizing the spine and pelvis. Post-surgery, these muscles often recover very slowly or, even once fully recovered, they can have difficulty working as efficiently as they did before. Without solid control of these muscle groups, controlling your pelvis can become difficult and painful during simple activities like walking. Additionally, bad habits can form leading to back, pelvic and abdominal pain, which will limit your return to normal daily activities.

How can physical therapy help? Physical therapists are professionals trained in surgery recovery who can assist patients with retraining muscles to work effectively. A physical therapist can assist by teaching cueing techniques and progressive strengthening exercises with activation of the deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles to improve overall stability.

It’s important to be careful when exercising postpartum as the disconnect between your brain and the stabilizing muscles can increase chance of injury. With the help of the physical therapist you can retrain the muscles in a safe environment under expert advice. Contact a physical therapist at any Foothills location to increase muscle strength, decrease pain, and improve function after having a baby.


Leah Harris

PT, MPT, ATC | Arrowhead Location