Osteopathy and Pregnancy

We often see women who are trying to get pregnant. Using gentle techniques, we look at the structure and function of the spine and pelvis, the position and function of the reproductive viscera and hope to enhance blood supply and drainage as well as looking at the immune and hormonal balance in the body.

Osteopathy During Pregnancy

Osteopathic treatment can be beneficial in easing some of the physical discomforts of pregnancy:

  • Nausea and Vomiting – Osteopathy can help by releasing debilitating physical strains caused by vomiting and by releasing irritation in the stomach and liver which could possibly help with nausea.
  • Heartburn – As the uterus expands it can distort the diaphragm and cause reflux and heartburn. Treatment can reduce tension and relieve this.
  • Breathing Difficulties – Postural changes in pregnancy can put strain on the diaphragm and ribs and can make breathing difficult.treatment can improve function in the whole rib cage and help breathing.
  • Varicose Veins and Haemorrhoids – Tension build-up in the pelvis or diaphragm area can increase resistance to the flow of venous blood from the lower half of the body and aggravate varicose veins and haemorrhoids. Releasing tension in these areas can help in the prevention and treatment of these conditions.
  • Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD) – An increasingly common complaint of pregnancy. The symphysis pubis is a cartilaginous joint between the two pubic bones which is put under increasing strain as the pelvis tries to expand and accommodate the growth of the fetus in the uterus. Movement and walking can become very painful and sometimes impossible. This is sometimes caused by the low-lying baby position and often a weakness in another part of the pelvis which acts as a bowl: problems with the sacroiliac joints can lead to weakness of the symphsis. The Osteopath will look at the function of the whole pelvis with the fetal position to see if better function and position is available, with the hope to take the strain off the weak symphsis.
  • Self-Help measures for SPD:
    • Sometimes a sacroiliac belt can help – ask your midwife or Osteopath
    • When standing from sitting or getting out of the car keep knees together, avoid lifting and pushing
    • Take regular rests
    • Sitting can be helpful, but use a hard upright chair not a sofa
    • In bed, sleep on your side with a rolled towel between your knees
    • Being in water can help, but breaststroke can aggravate
    • Take care with exercise and especially yoga
  • Other Aches and Pains
  • The spine undergoes huge change in pregnancy- it is well equipped to do so producing hormones like relaxin to help relax ligaments.
    If there is an underlying spine problem it can be put under more strain. But pregnancy is a real opportunity to release difficult spinal problems because the body is finely tuned in pregnancy, and is wonderfully responsive to very gentle aligning treatment.

  • Preparation for Labour – Optimal Fetal Positioning
  • Women have been giving birth since the beginning of time but increasingly women are needing help with delivery from instruments and caesarian sections. There are a variety of causes of this, from fear of litigation to use of local anaesthesia so that the mother is out of contact with the delivery process. Also we tend to be sedentary nowadays and our back and pelvis are often not as strong as in previous generations and we are tending to have babies at older ages. But you can do a lot for yourself to help achieve a normal delivery.

    The baby tends to lie facing the placenta, which is normally on the back wall of the womb, which will place the baby facing towards your spine hopefully head down. You can encourage this position by lying on your left side in the later stages of pregnancy – you can put a thin pillow under your tummy to help support this.

    If your baby is not in the best position – either face forwards or transverse or breech – there can be a variety of causes. Perhaps the womb itself is an unusual shape or twisted or flopped over, your pelvis could be an unusual shape or out of alignment. The Osteopath can check the pelvis function for you. Maybe the cord is too short not allowing movement or too long and wrapped around the head, neck or body of the foetus, or the placenta could be attached differently. If there are twins they will use the space as best they can.

    You can do the following to try to help the baby find a better position:

    •  Get down on all fours and relax your tummy and experiment with crawling and rocking and try placing one knee on a cushion. Doing this for a few minutes a day in the latter stages can encourage the foetus to move into the correct position.
    • Stand with feet apart leaning a little forward. Let your tummy really flop into relaxation and hold onto the banister or sink and gently rock to and fro. This can help.
    • During the day avoid sitting with knees higher than hips.
    • Go for a swim.
    • Take rests and ideally give up work about 6 weeks before delivery to allow your body to rest and build up strength for the delivery.
    • Once in labour try to keep active and on your feet and kness, leaning forwards with support from a chair or partner so that gravity can help the baby descend, or try on all fours for a time.
    • Try to have the epidural only when needed – you will be able to control the birth process more easily. If you have the epidural try to lie on your side to deliver – it helps to keep the sacrum free to move.
  • Osteopathy and Birth Preparation
  • Consultation with your Osteopath if all is well at about 34 weeks is ideal. In the birth process we use the saco-illiac joints like at no other time. When the baby decends into the pelvic brim the sacrum nods backwards at the top to open up the space. As the baby descends deep through the pelvis, the sacrum moves in the opposite direction to open up the pelvic outlet and move the coccyx backwards to provide space for final delivery.

    For these actions it is important that both sacro-illiac joints have free and full function. A visit to the Osteopath can ensure this and help with optimal fetal position.

  • Treatment after Birth
  • The birth process can be traumatic to both baby and mother. Osteopathy can be helpful for both to recover. The mother’s pelvis is vulnerable to lasting strains from the forces involved in delivery. Some of these strains and shock can affect the nervous and hormonal systems and contribute to post-natal depression.

    Unresolved strains can also lead to pelvic and back problems, stress incontinence, libido difficulties, period problems, headaches, constipation and more. Osteopaths are well-trained to help release some of these strains.

    Epidurals and spinal blocks are administered via a needle through spinal ligaments. On occasion, this can scar the area and cause weakness also.

  • Is Osteopathy Safe in Pregnancy?
  • Osteopaths have extensive training and can use very gentle techniques which are perfectly safe at all stages of pregnancy.

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