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After delivering my 1st son via a long induced labor (which I heavily regret), followed by an emergency c-section, I had an unexpected recovery challenges. As I stood in the bathroom for my first shower, unable to lift my leg high enough to get my pants on of off, I wondered why an Occupational Therapist wasn’t recommended for postpartum care. I had to wander out into the hospital hall, pants-less, to find someone to help me get dressed! Why aren’t OT’s standard for post partum care? Since then, I have thought long about adaptive equipment and it’s use during pregnancy and in postpartum recovery. Expecting my 4th baby, I have identified 3 items I believe every Pregnant and Postpartum Mama could benefit from…that have certainly helped me!!
Occupational Therapy helps individuals return to daily activities and improve their independence through adaptation and intervention. Bathing and dressing are two common areas of self care that OTs address and are areas impacted by pregnancy and childbirth. As I stood in my hospital bathroom, expected to take my first shower after surgery alone…I looked at the hard wooden fold-down bench in the shower stall and knew I wouldn’t be able to sit on it. I wondered why they hadn’t asked an OT for recommendations before installing these? What woman who just pushed out (or tried to push out in my case) a baby could sit on this?! Ouch!!
Pregnancy and postpartum recovery changed the way I participate in daily activities including everything from bathing, to caring for my children. As an Occupational Therapist, I knew there were tools available that could help me. Towards the end of my pregnancies, activities such as washing my feet and bending over to pick up toys off of the floor became taxing and difficult. Luckily, as an OT I had some adaptive equipment at home!!
My top 3 items may already be items you have in your home. They are often recommended for persons recovering from orthopedic surgery, stroke, heart attack and many other common medical conditions. In fact, these items may be right around the corner at a , you just have to ask! They may even be in Grandma’s closet, available from a friend with a knee replacement and can certainly be found on Amazon (one of my favorite places to shop via keyboard!).
My top 3 Adaptive Equipment picks for pregnancy and postpartum include:
1. Long-handled reacher
2. Tub chair
3. Compression Socks
A long-handled reacher is an amazing tool. As my belly grew with each of my pregnancies, simple tasks like picking up toys from the floor became difficult, and I dreaded them. After experiencing a c-section I could barely reach my knees! One day I dropped a sock between our washer and dryer and couldn’t get it out. If I actually got down on the floor I could get stuck! I remembered having a reacher in my closet and have found more and more uses for it. I use it to clean up my kids toys, pick up fallen items from the floor, pull my shoes into position when I’m sitting, thread pants over my feet when necessary and the list goes on and on! They come in various styles, but all serve one purpose; Helping you get items easier while reducing risk of injury or fall.
2. Bathing with a pregnant belly can be taxing. I was at my OB’s office and mentioned to my physician that I was having back pain. She suggested taking a warm bath to ease my symptoms. I’ve experienced laying down on my back pregnant, and let’s just say I didn’t want to end up needing to call for assistance prying me out of the tub. Picture a turtle on it’s back…yes…pregnancy. I set out to find a tub seat! Why my OB didn’t recommend one further reinforces my belief that OT needs to be in Pregnancy and Post Partum Care. Instead of climbing into a bath full of water, I sat on my shower bench and let the warm water hit my back.
My tub seat has been wonderful for pregnancy and post-partum bathing. Through each of my 4 pregnancies, I have enjoyed long hot showers comfortably sitting on my tub seat. I can easily wash my feet while sitting by crossing one leg over, wash my hair and don’t spend all of my energy on bathing. The fatigue, shortness of breath and risk for falling in the shower are no longer a worry of mine when I’m seated.
There are many seats available. Some seats extend out of the tub and you can sit down and slide over, eliminating the need to step over the tub. Some have back support, some have a front/back and others work in both directions. I prefer one that works in both directions so I can sit and let the water hit my back and then turn around and wash my face. I also use it to sit while giving my other children a bath and folding laundry.Consulting an OT familiar with these products will help you choose the right one for you.
3. I was getting ready to leave the house with my family and realized that many of my shoes didn’t fit. Although I maintain healthy pregnancies, eat well (excluding jars of olives and Moe’s burritos) and have good blood pressure during the last few months my feet and legs swell. My Mom, a long time brilliant nurse asked why I wasn’t wearing compression stockings. I set out to find a pair and have enjoyed the benefits with all of my pregnancies! Now, you may be thinking of the white stockings used in recover after heart surgery…but there are many options out there! I found black and nude colors at Walmart, with a soft toe and heel. They’re easy to get on, and keep my lower legs and feet close to pre-pregnancy size as I get ready to welcome another family member into our lives. My OB felt my ankles and said “Many ladies I see would be jealous of these skinny ankles” I showed off my compression socks. While I sometimes need hubby to help get these off, I usually sit down, cross my leg over my knee and can peel them off after a long day. They help get my shoes on, reduce leg fatigue and swelling and overall help me complete my daily tasks.
While this article is in no way meant to give medical advice, diagnose or treat any condition…it’ is food for thought. Why isn’t Occupational Therapy a staple in Pregnancy and Post Patrum Care? As an OT it’s easy for me to see the adaptive equipment that makes recover and pregnancy easier and safer for me, but what about every other expectant Mom out there? My dream. One day an OT will be on hand as a standard referral for OB practices, recommended in hospitals and ready to help Moms with every day tasks like bathing, dressing and carrying an infant (through baby carrier recommendations and knowledge about babywearing), for breastfeeding consultation and support and to help make pregnancy, labor and delivery more Holistic and Mom friendly.