By Courtney Gerring, Contributing Editor
Patricia Ladis is the New York City physical therapist to know. She specializes in holistic physical therapy and works with women who are trying to conceive, are pregnant, or postpartum. Patricia also shares more with us about the book that she wrote, The Wise Woman’s Guide to Your Healthiest Pregnancy and Birth. She wrote her book after years of working with women, and addressing many of the same issues she decided to create a resource that is a more holistic approach to the pregnancy journey. Find out more about Patricia, her practice, her book, and why she says exercise is so important.
Patricia, you sound like you are the lady to call when it comes to all things physical therapy, and in particular helping women build strength throughout their pregnancy. Can you tell us more about how you help women from preconception through pregnancy and to postpartum?
I have been practicing holistic, root cause, physical therapy for 22 years. Before that I was a professional dancer. I am also a Behavioral Breathing Analyst, helping people optimize their breathing to feel good and eliminate chronic pain. I have worked with professional dancers and athletes. I’ve been an onsite PT at Broadway shows, the Rockettes, The US Open (tennis), Wimbledon, and the Olympics. I also have a specialty in helping women before, during, and after pregnancy. Our bodies go through so much change, and we need to be prepared and strengthen the right muscles at the right time. Some women will come to me with a spine, pelvic, or hip injury wanting to get rid of pain and improve mobility and strength, so that they can feel good during pregnancy and be able to push the baby out. They also come postpartum, as all women have a breathing dysfunction and diastasis (stretching of the central seam of the abdominals) during pregnancy, and many need some help to get their breathing, pelvic floor, and core working right after pregnancy to feel good, prevent injury/pain, and flatten their tummy. Believe it or not, since there are so many hormone shifts and collagen changes, you have a great window of opportunity in the months after pregnancy to change your body to even better than before! I use real-time ultrasound, similar to the device for your baby sonograms, to image your abdominal muscles and get you using your core efficiently for optimal support and a flat tummy!
Please share with us more about how you became such an expert in pelvic floor care and helping women prepare their bodies for pregnancy.
When I began practicing Physical Therapy in 1999, women were just starting to return to their professional dance careers after pregnancy. Before that, you retired in order to start a family. All that changed. Women started getting back to professional sports, winning Olympic medals, and reaching major physical goals even after pregnancy! It was a wonderful time to be practicing physical therapy, and I immersed myself in coursework and conferences to be abreast of all the latest research and techniques that can help this population return to the sport or art form they love. Believe it or not, women today are still told not to exercise during and for months after pregnancy. There are no guidelines for pregnancy or postpartum for return to high level sport yet! I am working with the world-renowned MD/OBGYN, Professor, Researcher, Pregnancy expert, Dr. Sergio Pecorelli, to create these guidelines. I also chair the First 1000 Days Initiative for the Global Wellness Institute, trying to spread the world on how women and men can amplify their health before-during-after pregnancy, to have a healthier baby.
Not only are you a Physical Therapist but you are now a book author. Tell us more about the book and why you published it.
The Wise Woman’s Guide to Your Healthiest Pregnancy and Birth is literally a labor of love. My patients would constantly ask me tons of questions through the years. Their OBGYN’s either didn’t have the time or the lifestyle medicine knowledge to be able to answer. So I found myself going to even more courses, conferences, and getting to know functional medicine principles to be able to help my patients/clients with those burning questions. We know that the #1 thing that can help a woman have a healthier baby is to feel supported! Yes- it's all about support! SO of course, I just want to be able to support women along their journey during this wonderful time and do it in a way that brings them JOY, allows them to connect with the inner wisdom and to adjust their lifestyles to amplify their health/wellness. The reader is the WISE WOMAN, and as a wise woman she is doing her research, gathering up support, and then listens and sees what information resonates for her to utilize in a way that seems to fit. In each stage from preconception to postpartum, we have sections on Your Body (OBGYN, medical section), Nourishment (nutrition that is important for each stage and trimester), Movement (exercises with pictures and in-depth guidance), Breathing (how to breathe to reduce nausea, feel good and activate pelvic floor and core), and Wisdom (ancient wisdom from various cultures passed down from generation to generation that has been proven by the science of today). There is even a mini table of contents at the front of each chapter so women can skip over to get the information they need immediately.
Since I practice an approach where I aim to get to the ROOT CAUSE of someone’s pain, I have colleagues in the functional medicine community. Functional Medicine aims to get to the root cause of someone’s health symptoms. My colleague and OBGYN, Dr Anita Sadaty, was the perfect person to speak to the true OBGYN side of things in the book. Dr. Sadaty has been practicing for over 22 years, delivering 1000’s of babies per year in her practice, and has transitioned to a more functional medicine approach to fertility, pregnancy, and postpartum, to balance everything in the body for optimal health and wellness.
We noticed that you have a First 1000 Days Initiative. Please share more with us about why it’s called the first 1000 days.
The "First 1000 Days" typically refers to 270 days of pregnancy, plus the first two years of a child’s life (730 days) (= 1000 days). However, new research has been looking at the impact of the health and lifestyle of both the mother and the father during the six months (180 days) before a baby is conceived. These periods add up to 1,180 days—and is Dr. Pecorelli’s new approach to exploring the many factors that can determine a child’s future health. I chair the Perinatal Wellness Initiative for The Global Wellness Institute, called the First 1000 Days Initiative. My team of 10 experts in the field are voluntarily working together to amplify perinatal public health/wellness in the world. Our deliverable is a one-page flyer that has evidence-based, no cost, lifestyle practices that can help men and women navigate preconception, pregnancy, and the first two years postpartum/with baby, with ultimate success to amplify wellness in their offspring. The flyer is almost complete and will circulate soon in medical practices, communities, universities, and perinatal organizations!
Could you leave us with one of the most important tips for health and wellness during pregnancy and postpartum? I know it’s just one tip, but something that you really feel is important to leave as a takeaway for our readers.
Exercise so that you can reduce the inflammation in your body to put forth positive genes, good neurodevelopment, and prevent chronic disease in your baby. Yes, exercise can do all that! Exercise is the best way for a woman and man to reduce inflammation. It can also help you manage your stress which is also of great importance. But choose something you love . . . Studies show you will have more health benefits if you do something you love. The minimum is walking briskly for 30minutes per day. You can even turn on your favorite music and dance around your home for 30minutes or so per day. Whatever brings you joy, gets you to stop thinking of your to-do list, and gives you a “break” from the demands of the day. You can exercise before, during, and after pregnancy (after a period of time to recover), but stay away from extreme sports or heavy training since this can have an inflammatory effect instead. Consult with your physician, women’s health physical therapist, or perinatal expert for advice on what to do when for ultimate success.
And lastly, please leave us with your favorite Warrior Women motto.
I say this mantra in the book: You are safe, You are beautiful, You are WISE. And I truly mean it. If you believe this and own this, the sky's the limit on what you can do as a Warrior Woman today (and I come from a long line of Spartan Warrior Women . . . Pass it on!)!
(Just FYI- I am 100% Spartan. I am first generation Greek-American. Both my parents immigrated from Sparta, Greece, and much of the Ancient Greek/Spartan wisdom is mentioned in the book, since the science of today proves it to be true!)
Photography courtesy of Patricia Ladis