Supporting Optimal Health with Osteopathy: In Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond
Physical changes in pregnancy
During pregnancy a woman’s body undergoes some dramatic physical changes to accommodate a developing foetus. However, these natural physical changes in pregnancy are not always comfortable. The growing belly and additional weight that pregnancy brings shifts your centre of gravity and causes the spinal curves to change, which may cause some of the discomfort.
Additionally, hormonal changes cause ligament and joint laxity which may cause strain to muscles, joints, the spine and the pelvis. Some of the common discomforts that may be experienced during pregnancy include:
Low back pain and sciatica
Upper back pain
High blood pressure
Shortness of breath
Physical changes post-natally
After birthing, a mother’s body which has just been through a major change (nine months of pregnancy and then birth), is required to adjust to a whole new life and new activities. A number of demands are placed on the mother’s body:
Firstly there is the need for the body to heal from the birth. Whether it was a natural birth or an atypical birth with medical interventions such as ventouse/vacuum, forceps, episiotomy, or a caesarean section, a great amount of healing is required.
Breast feeding itself can be quite demanding on the mother’s body. Often the shoulders are forward causing tight muscles and a rounding upper back which may cause pain and discomfort.
There is also the need for carrying and holding a growing baby, which can put more strain on the shoulders, arms and wrists.
Sometimes a mother can maintain their pregnancy posture long after the birth and this can cause significant back problems especially as their baby grows bigger and heavier. Some of the common discomforts that mothers can experience post-natally include:
Low back pain/ache
Tendonitis (commonly in the wrist and shoulder)
Pre-natally – How can Osteopathy help?
Osteopathic treatment can use gentle techniques which may help alleviate pregnancy related complaints (listed above) and consequently this may help improve a woman’s overall health and wellbeing. Additionally, treatment, balancing and restoration of optimal function can help prepare a mother for her birth and also may help improve birth outcomes, including the duration of the labour and avoidance of some complications of labour.
Post-natally- How can Osteopathy help?
After the birth the mother’s body is healing and still coping with major physical changes. Due to these changes, strains in the body can occur easily from the new daily activities such as; breast feeding, pushing a pram and lifting/carrying baby. Osteopathic treatment postnatally may help recovery and reduce the risk of any lasting problems. Often women find that if they don’t resolve any physical problems between births, their symptoms may be exacerbated with subsequent pregnancies.
Along with hands on treatment, osteopaths can provide you with a personalised exercise programme, based around pelvic floor strengthening and correcting any muscular imbalances that maybe present.
Osteopathy for babies
Osteopathy can be of benefit in treating babies. The types of conditions in a baby that may benefit from osteopathic treatment include:
Neck issues that cause them to prefer one side,
Flat spots on their skull/plagiocephaly
Stuffiness/blocked or runny nose
Births that may increase the risk of problems for mother and baby include:
a long or very short labour
an atypical delivery that might involve the use of forceps or ventouse / vacuum
a Caesarean birth
or a multiple pregnancy
It is important for pregnant mothers to establish a support team around them. Although the partner of the expectant mother may be her primary support, no one person can give you all you need, hence the need for support team. Support teams are unique to each individual but they generally come in two types – healthcare support teams and personal support teams. The members of these teams should be people you trust. In addition to your doctor or midwife, your healthcare support team could include an osteopath to help support you in optimal health through pregnancy, birth and beyond.
By Dr. Samantha Lo Giudice (registered Osteopath)