Osteopathy during Pregnancy
Aches & 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.
Postural difficulties generally increase from about 20 weeks as the uterus becomes heavier and starts to take up more space in the abdomen. This may cause neck or back aching or pain, tension headaches, general aching and undue fatigue.
The uterus can be visualised as a bag, like a hot air balloon, that is tethered low down into the pelvis by ligaments. Movements such as bending down to pick something up can strain these uterine ligaments causing abdominal discomfort, groin pain, or backache.
Symphysis Pubis 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 put more strain on the pubic area.Some other discomforts of pregnancy, such as nausea and heartburn, are related to the increasing size of the uterus crowding the internal organs.
Changes around the Diaphragm
As the baby gradually fills the abdomen the intestines are being pushed upwards, and the lower ribs flare outwards to create more space. This changes the tension and balance in the muscle of the diaphragm. It also 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, so it follows that changed structural relationships can alter function 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.
Research has shown that anxiety or stress in pregnancy may affect the developing baby. High adrenaline levels in the mother are mirrored by the baby, who is more likely to be unsettled after birth and suffer from infantile colic. Whilst there are some stresses that are unavoidable, mothers should try to remain relaxed and calm as much as possible. Osteopathy is very helpful in releasing the effects of stress and tension in the body, and helping mothers to relax and enjoy the pregnancy.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.
To facilitate the passage through the birth canal the best position for the baby is head downward and facing backward with her spine curled in the same direction as her mother’s spine. Other positions may prolong labour and make it more difficult for both mother and baby.
After your baby is born
After giving birth, the body has to recover from both the changes is made during pregnancy and from the effects of delivery. New mothers may suffer from aches and pains, and sometimes feels quite traumatized by the labour experience.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. Caring for a rapidly growing baby can be physically demanding, especially at a time when the mother’s body is still recovering from the hormonal and postural changes of pregnancy. Often the mother is so concerned about attending to the needs of the baby that she forgets to take good care of herself.Activities such as feeding in poor positions, lifting car seats in and of the car, reaching over the cot, or carrying a child on one hip can all place enormous strain on the back. Caring for a baby is a 24-hour-a-day job and mothers need to look after their own health so they can cope with this demand.Manual osteopathy can help the mother return to normal, physically and emotionally, after giving birth by releasing strains in the back and pelvis from both pregnancy and labour. This allows her to relax and enjoy her new baby.