Osteopathy and Pregnancy

Pregnancy can be remembered as a joyful and exciting time, but for some women, pain, discomfort or illness can darken this picture. Osteopaths can assess and treat many of these complaints which are associated with pregnancy.

What are the most common complaints associated with pregnancy?

  • Lower back pain
  • Sciatica (leg pain)
  • Neck, shoulder, middle back pain
  • Discomfort around the thorax and indigestion
  • Wrist pain
  • Post natal problems of the pelvis

Early stages of pregnancy are often associated with symptoms such as nausea, morning sickness, headache, fatigue and dizziness. As the pregnancy progresses, the extra weight creates a shift in the body centre of gravity, combined with softening of muscles and supporting ligaments. This added mechanical stress can cause symptoms such as generalised back pain, sciatica from nerve pressure, pubic symphysis or sacro-iliac joint pain from instability, scoliosis and accentuation of the normal back curves.

Where does Osteopathy fit in the picture?

The philosophy of Osteopathy teaches that the body structure and its function are closely related and interdependent. This distinctive way of thinking applies to treatment of almost any injury, condition or change in state of health. Pregnancy is no exception. To accommodate for the growing foetus, the body undergoes tremendous changes. Some are visually obvious; others are subtler as hormonal releases affect the anatomy, physiology and biology of most systems.

The goal of osteopathic treatment is to assist this natural process, maximising the body’s ability to adjust and to compensate for the changes as efficiently as possible in support of mother and baby with a minimum of pain and discomfort.

Osteopathic treatment through pregnancy is a wonderfully gentle way of helping the body adapt to the changes which are taking place.

The safety of mother and baby is the osteopath’s first concern. After a thorough assessment, osteopathic treatment may help to relieve the aches and pains caused by growth in size of the baby and the accommodation of the mother to this.

Advice from your osteopath can help you to change your posture and learn to use your body correctly through pregnancy. Osteopaths can also help to ease other side effects of pregnancy such as heartburn, indigestion, constipation and pain in the buttock, groin or leg (commonly called sciatica). Some patients, too, report reduced morning sickness after osteopathic treatment.

Is it safe to have Osteopathic treatment during pregnancy?

Osteopathy has one of the best safety records of any medically related profession. The techniques used during pregnancy are carefully selected in order to minimise the risk. These techniques are gentle and the comfort of the mother is always assured.

Can Osteopathy influence the birth of my baby?

The descent of the baby through the pelvis is determined by factors such as ligament laxity, hormonal control, uterine contraction, gravity and position of the baby. If the mother’s pelvis is mechanically unstable or lacking mobility, it may interfere with the baby’s passage through the birth canal. Osteopathic treatment helps to restore balance and improve quality of movements of the whole pelvic girdle, promoting hormonal and neurological feedback, which in turn allows stimulation of the uterine contraction.

Should I still see an Osteopath after the birth of my baby?

Yes, for a whole range of reasons. Some women start to experience constant back problems or period pain only after the birth. This can be caused by weakened ligaments and lack of muscle strength, thereby weakening the whole structure.

Whilst mothers are breast-feeding, it can be common for them to experience postural strain and pain in the mid to upper spine, Osteopathic treatment to this region can help ease this discomfort as well as promote better blood flow and lymphatic drainage to the breast area.

Your Osteopath can also provide you with advice on posture for breast feeding position, sleep and daily activities, and also exercises to strengthen abdominal muscles and the pelvic floor.

Osteopathic treatment after delivery provides restoration of the normal mechanics of the back and pelvis optimising the body for an active life.

Remember –

  • Osteopaths are skilled practitioners
  • Osteopaths deal with pain every day
  • Osteopaths can advise on good posture
  • Osteopaths may help relieve back and leg pain in pregnancy
  • Osteopaths can advise on pain relief during labour
  • Return for advice and a check-up after delivery

Useful tips –

  • Look after your back during pregnancy. Take particular care when lifting and carrying – especially lifting or carrying other children. Do not carry a small child on one hip for any length of time. Ask your osteopath for appropriate exercises
  • If you stand for any length of time, keep your bottom ‘tucked in’ to reduce strain on the lower part of your spine
  • When sitting, use a cushion for support and don’t sit with your legs crossed. Avoid twisting movements. These may cause torsional strain within the pelvis
  • Lying on your side in bed, place a pillow under ‘the bump’ to provide support and also put a pillow between your knees to prevent back strain
  • If you prefer to lie on your back, place pillows beneath your knees to keep them bent
  • Make sure all equipment (changing table, pushchair, pram etc.) is at a comfortable height for you

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