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Supporting Your Pregnant Employees Before Their Maternity Leave

Pregnancy is a very exciting and happy time – and a busy one too, filled with many appointments and scans (on the outside), as well as concerns, anxieties, fears and considerations on the inside. Work is also a big consideration – employees want to keep performing their tasks at the same level, meeting their targets and progressing in their careers, but unfortunately, many will be held back by a range of pains and discomforts. Aside from the high prevalence of back pain during pregnancy, one-third of expecting mothers will also encounter a very painful and limiting condition called symphysis pubis dysfunction. 

 

Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction: The Basics

Symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) describes the pain at a joint called the symphysis pubis, right in the middle of the left and right pubic bones. Normally, this joint is absolutely painless in both men and women, given that it allows very little movement in everyday life. In pregnancy, however, things change significantly. Pregnancy stimulates a hormone called relaxin to pump through the body and ‘relax’ the ligaments and tissues in preparation for childbirth, particularly at the pelvis. As a result, this normally healthy and functional joint that you won’t have thought twice about can become extremely painful and uncomfortable – and this can happen as early as the first trimester. 

For your employees, this leads to shooting pains in the area that can radiate to the lower abdomen, back, groin, perineum, thigh, or leg, pain when walking, pain when standing up from a desk or going up and down the stairs, pain when getting out of the car – and we’ve only described the symptoms they’ll experience at work. At home, simple tasks like getting out of bed (or even shifting in bed) and getting dressed can also be very painful and uncomfortable, disrupting their sleep, moods and daily life.

 

So What Can Be Done For Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction?

Aside from taking pain-killers to manage the pain, one of the keys to managing SPD is by regularly seeing a physiotherapist, and potentially pairing this with osteopathy care too, given that the pain caused by SPD typically produces movement changes whose effects travel up the back and body, shifting things out of alignment.

 

Physiotherapists offer a wide range of solutions for SPD pain, from teaching movement adjustments to ease the pressure on the pubic symphysis joint in everyday life, to prescribing a series of targeted exercises to help with the pain and strengthen the pelvic floor. Specifically, a physiotherapist will offer:

  • Education and advice: one of the first things a physiotherapist will do is educate the patient about SPD and provide advice on how to manage the condition. This can include advice on posture, sleeping positions, and techniques for getting in and out of bed, chairs, and cars. They can also advise on exercise modifications and how to avoid activities that exacerbate symptoms.
  • Manual therapy: manual therapy involves hands-on techniques to mobilise and manipulate the joints and soft tissues in the pelvic region. This can help to reduce pain and improve mobility in the pelvic joints.
  • Pelvic floor exercises: the pelvic floor muscles support the pelvic organs and help to maintain bladder and bowel control. Physiotherapists can teach patients exercises to strengthen these muscles, which can help to reduce pain and improve function.
  • Stabilisation exercises: stabilisation exercises involve strengthening the muscles around the pelvic girdle, including the glutes and hip muscles. This can help to improve stability and reduce pain in the pelvic region.
  • Taping: physiotherapists can use taping techniques to support the pelvic girdle and reduce pain. This can involve using kinesiology tape to support the abdominal and pelvic muscles or using rigid tape to support the pelvic girdle.
  • Equipment like maternity support belts: physiotherapists can recommend equipment to help manage SPD, such as a pelvic support belt or cushion to sit on.

 

Accessing Physiotherapy: The Cost Barrier

Unfortunately, with the rising cost of living and a lot of baby and nursery-related expenses for a pregnant couple, accessing regular physiotherapy throughout pregnancy is much more easily said than done, especially when SPD is viewed as a ‘temporary’ condition that should resolve after childbirth, despite the high levels of pain it can cause in the interim.

This presents a unique but powerful opportunity for employers, who have a chance to separate themselves and their values by not only just focusing on the postpartum period in terms of maternity leave allowances and maintaining job openings for employees to return, but also help support them throughout their pregnancy to take care of themselves and their bodies. The easiest way that employers are making this impact is by offering employer aid payments paid into an employee’s digital health wallet.

Employer aid is available through the free and secure HealthNow platform, where these payments to your employee’s health wallets can be automatically made monthly or at a frequency and dollar value that you choose. Many businesses are choosing to opt for employer aid instead of private health insurance payments, which often come with strict criteria, exclusions (which almost always include pregnancy), pre-existing condition limitations, and that rolls over and is ‘lost’ if it’s not used within a calendar year.

With HealthNow’s employer aid payments, the funds you contribute can only be spent on health and medical services and products registered with the HealthNow platform, allowing your team to access the care they need, when they need it – and before ongoing pain or problems impact their work performance. 

HealthNow provides updates on your impact to help you measure the value of employer aid within your company. Your contributions are not subject to the Fringe Benefits Tax, are free for your employees to use (they even get a free $10 credit with their free sign-up), and HealthNow has an ever-growing trusted network of medical providers to keep your staff healthy and happy.

 

To get started, register your company’s interest via this contact form and a HealthNow team member will get back to you promptly.

 

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