Road to recovery: Physical therapy services benefit women after C-section


For women who have had a cesarean delivery, or C-section, the road to recovery can be challenging. While C-sections can be lifesaving for both the mother and baby, it can take several weeks to fully heal. As a women’s health clinical specialist at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women®, I’ve seen patients struggle with the physical discomfort following a C-section. Whether it’s difficulty walking, sitting up or getting into and out of bed, our inpatient postpartum physical therapy team is there to support new moms along the way.

As the premier destination for women’s health, the Pavilion for Women is among the few Level IV maternal care facilities in the country to provide preventative post-cesarean physical therapy services prior to hospital discharge. This support is exceptionally groundbreaking. Our team of board-certified physical therapists help our patients heal in a number of ways. We teach them techniques on proper wound care management and how to reduce post-surgical abdominal and lower body swelling. We guide them on how to carefully move and change positions to minimize pain associated with their C-section incision. Additionally, we teach our patients various exercises that are safe to perform after C-section to improve the healing process so they can care for themselves and their baby when they return home.

When I first met my patient, Karla Rosa, she was recovering following her C-section. Since this was her first surgery, she told me she was nervous that her incision might open if she moved even the slightest part of her body, but I reassured her everything would be just fine. During our physical therapy session in her room at the Pavilion for Women, I showed Karla how to safely get into and out of bed without bed rail support, I showed her how to lower her body to retrieve objects off the floor, and how to maintain proper posture and body mechanics when walking, lifting and holding her newborn baby. During her stay, Karla also learned the appropriate techniques to reduce the risk of adherent scar tissue formation and wound separation.

“After my C-section, my body went through a lot of trauma,” Karla said. “I had a hard time doing simple things like getting out of bed, dressing myself, going to the bathroom and walking. When I participated in the physical therapy program offered at the hospital as part of my standard postpartum care, it was life changing for me. I felt more confident in my ability to take care of my baby while my husband was at work, and the information packet they gave me prior to my discharge was helpful in my recovery. I practiced all of the techniques and exercises they taught me, and I was able to gradually get back on my feet.”

Since March 2019, the Pavilion for Women has offered physical therapy services for patients recovering from abdominal surgery like C-sections and hysterectomies. Syreena Jackson was our first dedicated physical therapist to provide services to this patient population when the program began. Bringing this program to fruition at the Pavilion for Women was the culmination of immense work, dedication and collaboration from my colleagues, Sarah Ammons, speciality therapy coordinator for Women’s Health, and Rachel Jackson, assistant director of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Sarah and Rachel worked tirelessly to gather support from Pavilion for Women leadership and many other team players to establish and implement our inpatient women’s health therapy program to ensure we meet women’s individual health care needs.

In addition to our C-section patients, our team has worked extensively with moms spanning a wide range of diagnoses. We provide pulmonary physical therapy to women with COVID-related pneumonia after mechanical ventilation extubation. We also provide physical therapy to patients with abdominal and/or pelvic pain, and other gynecological issues in order for them to return home safely and care for their newborns with less dysfunction. Our team supports all patient units at the Pavilion for Women, including our high-risk pregnancy and gynecology surgery unit, Mother-Baby Unit, and our OB/GYN intensive care unit, one of the nation’s few maternal ICU’s dedicated to obstetric critical care for pregnant and postpartum mothers.

I am honored to be part of our inpatient physical therapy team and so proud of what we have accomplished together since I joined the team in January 2020. Women want to care for themselves and their babies with less pain, with improved function, and stronger abdominal and respiratory support systems in this day and age, especially during a global pandemic. My hope is that more hospitals will follow our lead and implement similar programs as part of their standard postpartum care for women.

Click here to learn more about the physical therapy services offered at the Pavilion for Women.