Pregnancy & Post-Partum in Cancer Rehab: How to START Treating These Patients

Many of your patients are mothers, some even new mothers.  So how does that affect your plan of care?  

Turns out, A LOT.  Pregnant & postpartum patients experience tremendous change to their bodies, movement, & function.  

Today we’re tackling the collision of pregnancy, postpartum, & oncology head-on with Dr. Rebeca Segraves.

In today’s power-packed episode, we cover:

  • How pregnancy, delivery, & postpartum affects your patient
  • Leveraging the team approach to support the ENTIRE patient
  • Safely treating the pregnant & postpartum patient
  • How to START treating your pregnant & postpartum patient with cancer

Unsure about treating your pregnant &/or postpartum patients in oncology?  START HERE.  

And hit play now.

Pelvic health issues are ONLY ONE PART

Most PTs are very familiar with the downstream impairments related to pregnancy & postpartum, aka pelvic dysfunction.

But pelvic health issues are only one facet.  In fact, we should be more immediately concerned with the upstream factors, such as cardiac health.  

Dr. Segraves points out that standard practice in hospitals often involves assessing postpartum individuals’ vital signs only when they are at rest. This oversight can have significant consequences, especially considering the physical toll of childbirth and the potential complications that can arise.

Consider also cardiac health in the first six weeks postpartum. It’s a common misconception that this period is purely for rest and recovery, but in reality, mothers often find themselves engaging in activities that put a significant demand on their hearts. This period becomes even more critical when a cancer diagnosis is thrown into the mix.

Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy can become necessary within weeks of giving birth, adding another layer of complexity to the situation. Dr. Segraves stresses the need for comprehensive care that addresses whole body health to ensure the well-being of these patients.

Safely treating these patients requires a whole-body perspective

When working with oncology patients who are pregnant or postpartum, you should consider the patient’s overall health status, cancer treatment plan, and potential risks. 

To address these challenges effectively, Dr. Segraves emphasizes the importance of training acute care therapists to assess vital signs in postpartum individuals. This training becomes especially crucial for mothers who may not have adequate support at home, those with multiple children to care for, or those who need to navigate demanding daily activities.

Dr. Segraves highlights the critical need for a holistic and proactive approach to healthcare that considers not only the immediate postpartum period but also the long-term well-being of individuals at the intersection of pregnancy, postpartum, and cancer.

These patients require a true team for maximum benefit

Especially right now in health care, we focus so intently on one area that we forget the broader health context of our patients. 

Specialization should enhance expertise, not narrow the view of what a patient needs. As physical therapists delve into the intricacies of a particular patient population, they should continually apply their generalist knowledge to provide comprehensive care.

Even within the realm of orthopedics, patients can have cardiopulmonary issues, cancer-related complications, reduced range of motion post-mastectomy, or difficulties with daily activities due to recent surgeries like C-sections.

So in order to meet the multi-layered needs of pregnant & postpartum oncology patients, it’s critical for the entire health care team to be allied & aligned for this patient.

Just as oncology patients consult various specialists, oncology physical therapists should also work collaboratively with colleagues from different disciplines, including orthopedic, cardiopulmonary, and pediatric therapists, as well as occupational therapists.

Look at this way:

Your patient has a heart, a brain, a digestive system, a respiratory system.  All of which impact their movement & their human experience, their function. 

The core message here is that as specialists, physical therapists should never forget their generalist knowledge. The human body is a complex system where various aspects of health are interconnected. Patients, regardless of their specific condition, have not just orthopedic issues but also hearts, brains, digestive systems, and respiratory systems, all of which influence their movement and overall well-being.

Key Tips for Your Next Pregnant or Postpartum Oncology Patient

  • Establish clear communication with the patient’s oncology care team to coordinate care effectively.
  • Tailor treatment plans to the patient’s unique needs and cancer treatment timeline.
  • Educate patients about self-care strategies, including pelvic floor exercises and lifestyle modifications.
  • Continuously update knowledge through ongoing education and networking with peers in the field.
  • Provide emotional support and foster a safe, non-judgmental environment for patients navigating the challenges of pregnancy, post-partum, and cancer.

About Dr. Rebeca Segraves:

After undergoing several major surgeries that have affected my function over the years, I have a deep appreciation for the mental, physical, and financial impact that’s associated with major life events such as surgery, birth, illness, or caring for a loved one. I recognize that our current medical, educational, and business models simply do not include the time and resources needed to maximize success for the unique experiences that women encounter. I am dedicated to enhancing women’s health and financial education throughout the lifetime and enabling those I teach to pay it forward. We deserve to perform at our best. Our activity, mentally and physically, is a priority.

Learn more from Dr. Rebeca Segraves:

Pelvic Health Network

Enhanced Recovery and Wellness

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