Pregnancy is a unique and powerful experience. Enormous physical, hormonal and emotional changes take place over a relatively short period of time. The body has to adapt to carrying up to 20lb of baby, waters and placenta, which can impose physical strain on all the organs and tissues.
Osteopathic treatment during and after pregnancy can be beneficial in a number of ways:
- Easing some of the physical discomforts of pregnancy.
- Preparing for the demands of labour.
- Helping the mother to recover after birth.
Discomforts of pregnancy
Aches and Pains Considerable postural changes are necessary to accommodate the increasing size and weight of the uterus. At the same time, hormonal changes cause ligaments all over the body to soften and stretch in preparation for labour. Any pre-existing back problems may make it more difficult for the body to adapt, and may result in aches and pains in any area of the body.
Symphysis Pubic Dysfunction (SPD) The two pubic bones meet at the front of the pelvis at the
pubic symphysis. This joint is held together by ligaments. In pregnancy all ligaments soften and this can lead to a painful stretching or separation of the pubic symphysis. This causes pain at the front of the pelvis, worse on exercise and towards the end of the day.
Osteopathic treatment aims to balance and release any restrictions in the lower spine and sacrum that disturb normal pelvic mechanics, and to reduce strain on the pubic area.
Other discomforts of pregnancy Osteopaths believe that some other discomforts of pregnancy, such as nausea and heartburn, may be related to the increasing size of the uterus crowding the internal organs.As the baby gradually fills the abdomen the intestines are pushed upwards, and the lower ribs flare outwards to create more space. This changes the tension and balance in the muscle of the diaphragm, and requires adjustment to the physical position of related organs such as the stomach, liver and lungs.
A basic osteopathic principle is that structure and function are interrelated, and osteopaths believe that altered structural relationships may affect the function of some of these organs. For example. shortness of breath and increased vulnerability to chest infections may be related to reduction of lung volume due to the enlarged uterus restricting breathing movements.
Stress in pregnancy Research has shown that babies whose mothers suffer from stress in pregnancy are more likely to suffer from infantile colic. Osteopathy is very helpful in releasing the physical effects of stress and tension in the body.
Osteopathic treatment to release tension and help the body to make the necessary postural changes more easily often makes the pregnancy much more comfortable. Gentle osteopathic techniques are very beneficial and perfectly safe at all stages of pregnancy.
Preparation for labour
Osteopaths check the mother’s pelvis to ensure it is balanced and ready to allow the passage of the baby.
Treatment after Birth
Birth can be traumatic for both mother and baby, and osteopathy is effective at helping both to recover.
Mother After giving birth, the body has to recover from both the changes it made during pregnancy and from the effects of delivery. New mothers may suffer from aches and pains, and sometimes feel quite traumatised by the labour experience, or ‘out of sorts’. The mother’s pelvis is often pulled out of balance by the passage of the baby, particularly after a difficult delivery.
If the mother’s feet are in stirrups for delivery or stitching after birth, the weight of the legs puts huge leverage through the pelvis at a time when the pelvic ligaments have been stretched to their limit and are unstable. This is one of the most common causes of back problems after childbirth. Unresolved childbirth stresses in the mother’s pelvis can contribute to ongoing back problems, neck pain, general fatigue, or headaches arising from the neck.
Baby The baby can suffer long-lasting effects from the moulding process during birth, and an osteopathic check up is recommended. See our page on osteopathy for babies and children.
Is Osteopathy safe during Pregnancy?
Osteopaths are highly skilled and undergo a minimum of 4 years training. Gentle osteopathic techniques are perfectly safe at all stages of pregnancy. Osteopaths work with the body’s own natural healing mechanism to release and re-balance tensions, without force.