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:
Aches and pains are common during pregnancy, as the body changes shape to accommodate the increasing size and weight of the uterus. This involves considerable changes to posture. If the mother has existing back problems, or strains in her body from past accidents or trauma, it may be more difficult for her to accommodate these changes, and she may suffer more discomfort as a result.
The ligaments of the whole body soften during pregnancy due to the action of hormones. This allows the bones of the pelvis to separate slightly during the delivery to facilitate the passage of the baby’s head through the pelvis. Unfortunately this softening affects the whole body and makes it more vulnerable to strain during the pregnancy. Postural changes may cause backache, neck-ache, headaches, aching legs and undue fatigue. Osteopathic treatment can help the body adapt, and make the pregnancy much more comfortable.
As the baby grows and takes up more space within the abdomen there is less space for them to move about, and they will find their own preferred position. The mother’s posture has to adapt to accommodate the position of the baby, and if this conflicts with her own postural needs it may cause undue aches and pains. This is the reason that one pregnancy may be much more uncomfortable to carry than another.
Osteopathy helps relieve the symptoms of symphysis pubis dysfunction by gently improving the mechanics of the lower back and pelvis. This helps women achieve a normal, active delivery, unhindered by the pain that this condition can cause.
The most common reason for women to seek treatment with an osteopath. Not only does this cause a difficult, uncomfortable pregnancy but again, treatment of the mechanical strains that pregnancy causes on the body can aid in an active delivery.
Osteopathy can help by releasing debilitating physical strains caused by vomiting, and restoring ease and balance in the body’s soft tissues. Treatment to improve the circulation to and from the liver can help reduce nausea.
As the uterus expands, it can stretch and squash the diaphragm contributing to heartburn. Osteopathic treatment can often reduce tension and relieve heartburn.
Postural changes through the lower ribs and spine can impede the action of the diaphragm and make breathing difficult. Osteopathic treatment to improve function of the whole rib cage allows full use of available lung capacity.
Tension within the pelvis or diaphragm area can increase resistance to the return of venous blood to the heart from the lower half of the body. This can cause or aggravate varicose veins in the legs, and haemorrhoids. Osteopathic treatment to release tension in the pelvis and diaphragm regions is helpful in the prevention and treatment of these conditions.
As labour is likely to be more difficult if the baby is not lying correctly, it is worth trying to help them to move into a better position. The baby generally settles in a head downward position and facing backward with his spine curled in the same direction as his mother’s spine. This puts the baby in the most advantageous position for passing through the birth canal during labour.
An important part of preparation for childbirth is to ensure that the mother’s pelvis and spine are structurally balanced and able to allow the passage of the baby down the birth canal. Trauma to the pelvic bones, coccyx, lumbar or sacrum at any time in a mother’s life can leave increased tension in muscles and strain within the ligaments and bones of the pelvis. This can limit the ability of these bones to separate and move out of the way during labour, and thus limit the size of the pelvic outlet.
Osteopathic treatment is extremely effective at releasing old strains within the pelvis, thus giving the best chance of an easy and uncomplicated labour. In most cases osteopathic treatment to ensure that the pelvis and uterus are correctly balanced and aligned can help with discomforts caused by the baby’s position, and can often help the baby turn into a better position.
Dystocia is defined as difficult labour and is something that every woman wants to avoid! In addition to the pain and exhaustion caused by long, difficult labours, dystocia leads to multiple medical interventions which can be physically and emotionally traumatic to mother and baby. Studies show a reduction in labour times and less intervention in women who have had osteopathic care during their pregnancy.
Birth can be traumatic for both mother and baby, and osteopathy is effective at helping both to recover.
The mother’s pelvis is vulnerable to lasting strains from the forces involved, particularly after a difficult delivery. Some of these strains can have a profound effect on the nervous system, and contribute to postnatal depression.
After giving birth, the body not only has to recover from the changes it made during pregnancy but also from the effects of delivery. All this whilst doing the very physically and mentally demanding job of caring for the new baby. Caring for a baby can place enormous strain on the back, during such activities as nursing in poor positions, lifting car seats especially in and out of the car, reaching over the cot, or carrying a child on one hip. Unresolved childbirth stresses in the mother can contribute to ongoing back problems, period problems, stress incontinence, constipation, headaches and more.
Osteopathic treatment can help the mother to return to normal, physically and emotionally, after birth by releasing strains from both pregnancy and labour. This allows her to relax and enjoy her new baby. The baby can suffer long-lasting effects from the moulding process during birth, and an osteopathic check up is recommended. See the leaflet on osteopathy for babies
Osteopaths are highly skilled and undergo a minimum of 4 years training. Gentle osteopathic techniques are perfectly safe at all stages of pregnancy. The cranial osteopathic approach is a particularly gentle way of working with the body’s own natural mechanism for releasing and re-balancing tensions, without force.
The most obvious benefit of osteopathy is the ability of osteopaths to treat pain that you experience in a way that considers you as a person and your body as a whole.
Osteopathic treatment can be used to effectively reduce and cure pain that you experience in a number of different areas of your body.