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Common Postpartum Conditions

Here at Whole Body Health & Wellness, we know the challenges of being a new mum are hard enough without having to worry about any aches or pains. During pregnancy, your body goes through massive changes and new routines daily routine changes, as an increase in lifting, feeding and carrying is essential. This can cause new aches and pains that might not have been there before pregnancy. This is why we have put together a list of common complaints we get regarding pregnancy so you know what to look out for. If you have any symptoms listed below or are concerned about other symptoms not mentioned in this factsheet we recommend contacting your osteopath or other health professionals to obtain a diagnosis of your condition. Physical therapies such as Osteopathy, Physiotherapy and Massage Therapy can help with many different musculoskeletal related conditions and injuries.


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpel Tunnel occurs when you get pins and needles in your hands and fingers. It can start during pregnancy or after. This happens because the nerve that supplies your hand gets squished in your wrist. Research is inconclusive as to why this condition is so common in pregnancy but there are theories being investigated in regard to hormone-related swelling.

What are the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel?

  • Numbness and tingling in fingers, wrists and hands
  • Swollen fingers
  • Throbbing of the hands, wrist and fingers
  • Trouble gripping and doing fine movements such as unbuttoning a shirt


How can I help with my Carpel Tunnel Symptoms?

  • With the aid of a splint. You can use a splint to keep it in a neutral position to avoid compression through the nerve. This can be done during the night while sleeping for convenience.
  • Avoidance of activities that aggravate the symptoms (lifting heavy objects, gripping actions)  and taking frequent breaks and resting your hand when you can.
  • Applying ice when your hand becomes red and swollen to help relieve throbbing pain.
  • Alternative therapies:  Yoga has been shown to reduce pain and increase grip strength.
  • If conservative management is unsuccessful then your health care provider may recommend seeking a surgical opinion



Neck pain

Neck pain is one of the most common post-partum complaints we see as osteopaths! Often neck and shoulder pain can be due to postural imbalances as a result of repetitive movements such as feeding position and looking down at your baby, carrying your baby on the same side or placing them over the same shoulder. This causes restrictions, muscle tension and postural imbalances.

What are the symptoms of neck pain?

  • Tension or tightness in your shoulder or neck
  • Headaches or migraines (cervicogenic headaches are headaches that are caused by pain or restriction in the neck)
  • Pain and or discomfort on one or both sides of your neck
  • Pain that moved from the neck into the shoulder, arm or hands


What can I do to help with my neck pain?

  • Trying to modify you’re positioning during feeding to reduce putting strain through your neck
  • Regular stretching through your neck and shoulders.
  • Applying a heat pack to your neck or shoulders can help relieve muscle tension
  • Strengthening exercises to help with overall posture



Upper and middle back pain

Upper or middle back pain can occur after birth resulting from changes in your posture due to feeding, lifting and carrying. This can cause muscles and joint to be under or overused causing tight muscles and restrictions in your back.


What are the symptoms of upper and middle back pain?

  • Pain or tension in upper back or shoulders
  • Pain with lifting, feeding or carrying your baby
  • Change in posture leading to rounding of the shoulder and upper back


What can I do to help my upper back pain?

  • Mobility exercise such as cat/camel, threading the needle or a roll-up or down.  These exercises will help maintain movement through your spine and get your body moving!
  • Stretching chest opening stretches like our favourite towel stretch or yoga-based stretches like child’s pose to help lengthen and stretch out those tight muscles that might be causing you grief
  • Keep active. Taking the pram out and going for a light short walk when you’re ready for it to help keep that back moving



Pelvic girdle pain

Pelvic pain can include any pain in your groin, hips, pubic bone, tail bone or lower back.  It is really common in pregnancy and will often carry over into post-pregnancy as well. It is suspected that pelvic girdle pain is partially related to the increase in hormones during pregnancy leading to increased instability in the pelvis accompanied by increased weight from your growing baby.


What are the symptoms of pelvic girdle pain?

  • Pain or discomfort in lower back and or pubic bone
  • Radiating pain into upper thigh and perineum
  • Clicking, grinding or popping in the pelvic area
  • Pain with walking, going upstairs, standing on one leg and turning over in bed


What can I do to help ease my pelvic girdle pain?

  • Seeking advice from a health professional on specific strengthening exercises to help stabilize your pelvis is really important with any pelvic related pain
  • Applying heat or ice to painful areas to help reduce pain and muscle tension
  • Avoid opening your knee with activities eg. Try keeping your knees together when getting in and out of the car
  • Wear flat supportive shoes



Sciatic pain

Sciatic is usually described as shooting pain that can begin in your lower back or upper buttocks and run down the back of your leg. It can begin in pregnancy or after. It can be caused by a grumpy nerve in your lower back, boney changes in your spine or a tight muscle in your buttocks that compresses the nerve. This commonly comes on during pregnancy due to increase in loading in your lower back and tight muscles through your buttocks. After pregnancy, it can hang around for a while due to the increased lifting and carrying that comes with a newborn.


Symptoms of sciatic pain

  • Deep, dull, shoot pain in your leg, lower back and buttocks
  • Some people may experience pins and needles or numbness down there leg
  • Weakness in your leg
  • Difficulty walking, standing or sitting for prolonged periods of time


What can I do to help ease my sciatic pain?

  • Stretching through your buttocks can help relieve pressure on your sciatic nerve.
  • Releasing tight muscles in your buttocks with a foam roller or massage ball can help decrease muscle tension in your buttocks and relief pain
  • Seek professional help if your pain worsens or does not subside



Mother’s Thumb (De Quervain’s tenosynovitis)

This occurs when the tendons in your thumb become irritated and inflamed from overuse. This is commonly associated with new mothers, as lifting your baby involves using your thumbs as leverage. This places stress on the thumbs leading to pain and discomfort. This condition may also start during pregnancy due to hormonal changes. If this condition becomes untreated it can progress into your forearm and intensify in pain.


What are the symptoms of Mother’s Thumb?

  • Pain at the base of your thumb
  • Swelling at base of your thumb
  • Difficulty moving your thumb and wrist
  • Catching or snapping of your thumb


How can I help with Mother’s Thumb?

  • Modify how you lift your baby. Try lifting your baby up by scooping under their bottom to avoid picking your baby up from under their arms
  • Try changing your feeding position. Some positions many aggravate your wrist. Try using a pillow to help support you and take the pressure off your wrist
  • Splinting your wrist to immobilize your thumb to help rest it and reduce pain and swelling.



Incontinence is caused by a weak pelvic floor and is very common towards the end of pregnancy or post-partum. This is because our pelvic floor is like a sling that supports our uterus, bladder and bowel. If there is a lot of pressure on our pelvic floor, like through labour, it can cause the pelvic floor to weaken and result in incontinence.

Although incontinence is very common in post-pregnancy, it is important to address it straight away. If you are experiencing any form of incontinence it is important to talk to your health professional or GP so that they are aware of the issue and can offer advice and guidance to help with your condition.


What are the symptoms of incontinence?

  • Urine leakage with coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising or lifting something heavy
  • Sudden urgency to go to the bathroom


Is there any other general advice to help with incontinence?

  • Pelvic floor exercises can help strengthen your pelvic floor and support your bladder will reduce and prevent incontinence
  • Avoid drinks and food that may irritate your bladder, such as caffeine, alcohol and acidic foods
  • Eat more fibre to help reduce the risk of constipation and strain on the pelvic floor



A prolapse occurs when muscles and ligaments that support the pelvic organs begin to weaken causing your organs to dropdown. There are different types of prolapses and you can have more than one at a time and include your uterus, bladder and bowel. A prolapse is diagnosed by your GP, a gynecologist or a specialist pelvic health physiotherapist.


What are the symptoms of prolapse?

  • Bladder or bowel incontinence or urgency
  • Bulging or swelling felt in the vagina
  • A sensation of heaviness, dragging or pressure inside the vagina
  • Slow flow of urine that stops and starts
  • Unable to empty bladder or bowel when going to bathroom

What should I be doing if I have a prolapse?

  • Ensure you obtain a proper diagnosis from a qualified health professional
  • Pelvic floor exercise will help strengthen the muscles that lift these organs up and can help regress grades if done correctly with a health care professional
  • Avoid heavy lifting
  • Keep a healthy weight range and including the recommended fibre and fluids to prevent constipation and strain on your pelvic floor




Mastitis occurs when your milk duct gets blocked causing inflammation in the breast tissue due to banked up milk. Infection may or may not be present.

What are the symptoms of Mastitis?

  • A red, sore, area on the breast
  • Flu- like symptoms

How can I help with mastitis at home?

  • Use a heat pack before feeding or expressing to help with milk flow
  • Gently massage any breast lumps towards the nipple when feeding or expressing milk
  • Use a cool pack after feeding or expressing for a few minutes to reduce discomfort
  • There is some evidence indicating that probiotics may help relieve mastitis
  • Antibiotics may be required if there is evidence of an infection



Diastasis Recti

Diastasis recti is the partial or complete separation of the muscles that meet at the midline of your stomach. It is a common condition both during and after pregnancy. This is because the muscles in the abdomen were stretched to accommodate the growing baby

What are the symptoms of Diastasis Recti?

  • a bulge in your stomach, especially when contracting your abdominal muscles.
  • Your healthcare practitioner may assess this in your post-birth appointment, but you can see more on how to self-check HERE

How can I treat Diastasis Recti?


Final thoughts

If you have any questions or concerns on any of these conditions be sure to speak to your healthcare provider. They will be able to provide an accurate diagnosis and steps on how to improve your symptoms.