Pregnancy is an incredible period of time in the life of a woman and her unborn child. During this time, she is very sensitive to environmental influences. She will notice the changes in her body, her perception is heightened, and she will notice her experiences more intensely.
Supporting the mother through her pregnancy can help to ensure a relaxed, worry free, and positive experience, reducing the risk of premature birth and complication in labor.
Many books and sources of information will tell you that pain during pregnancy is normal; many moms-to-be will differ upon the use of the term “normal.” Antenatal care with regards to preparation of the mother’s rapidly changing musculoskeletal system is highly effective in improving the mother’s experience of pregnancy and delivery.
Maritime Osteopathy is highly engaged and enjoys being part of the support network for moms and moms-to-be. We greatly value our established relationship with the Bridgewater Obstertrics Unit and Luneneburg County Midwives, as it serves and supports the mothers’ needs completely. We participate in Public Health educational courses like “Making A Difference in Breastfeeding” as part of our professional development. It is wonderful to be part of an incredible community providing such high quality care to mothers and infants.
Our pregnant moms are regularly referred to us by the Obstetrics Department and local Midwives. Any mom-to-be calling our clinic for osteopathic consultation and treatment is given priority. We know that the sooner we are able to assess and treat you the sooner you will be happy and enjoying your pregnancy again.
Treatment is always gentle and treatment plans, aims, and objectives will always be discussed with you so that you feel comfortable with the treatment you receive and assured that it will address the outcomes you seek.
It is a great idea, if at all possible, to treat a woman before pregnancy begins. This means that her body is prepared from a biomechanical perspective, and the pregnancy will be as unproblematic as possible. With review of the principals of osteopathy, the osteopath will ensure that the mom-to-be has optimum energy available for the pregnancy and a balanced nervous system.
Treatment of biomechanical tensions and strains at this point, including treatment of the pelvis, will enable her to adapt better to the changes in her weight and posture during her pregnancy. At this point your osteopath will examine to see whether restrictions to the lower rib cage and diaphragm may later potentially cause digestive symptoms like reflux and heart burn. Good blood flow is also essential and is a main requirement for the healthy development of the child. It is therefore essential that the lower thoracic spinal cord segments are functioning optimally, as they control arterial and neurological supply to the uterus.
Any scarring from previous surgeries or infections should also be treated to avoid growth restrictions during pregnancy.
This is a wonderful opportunity for us to assess your posture, and identify areas of weakness and tension that may predispose you to problems associated with pregnancy: back pain, sciatica, heartburn, Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction, and carpel tunnel syndrome are really the result of pre-existing problems exaggerated by the biomechanical changes of pregnancy. If we are able to treat you before or early on in the pregnancy then the opportunity for these issues to develop further is limited.
During pregnancy the body has to adapt to significant changes in a short period of time. The adaptations are supported by hormones that are produced in increasing quantities, which result in increased sensitivity to external influences. When treating a mother-to-be, we must consider this. As your baby develops you will respond to these hormonal changes with the desire to take care of yourself. Your natural response will help with your body’s ability to adapt to the postural, hormonal, and emotional demands and these will in turn assist in your child’s development.
Pregnancy is a state of health.
We are often told by our moms-to-be that friends and family tell them that their pain is “normal” and must be expected and accepted.
Although in texts, journals and most educational reading material on pregnancy, you will read that “pain is a normal symptom,” we would strongly suggest that most, if not all, pregnant women would strongly disagree- that there is nothing normal about it.
As osteopaths at Maritime Osteopathy, we have specific specialist training pre- and post- graduate to assist with the aches and pains caused by the postural and weight-bearing changes during pregnancy. No pain should be considered “normal”. Each osteopath’s objective is to make pregnancy and childbirth easier and to create the best environment for the development of your unborn child.
We often see moms who have experienced difficulty in pervious pregnancies and are worried about dealing with the same problem in their current pregnancy. Each pregnancy is as individual as the child produced by it – we will ensure with our expertise that your pregnancy is a positive experience.
During this period, your body is adjusting to many different hormonal changes and your embryo is developing rapidly. This is a wonderful time, during which your body adapts to looking after two people.
If you have not yet had postural imbalances corrected, it is now that we will help you address them.
We are also able to support you at this point with:
- Addressing pelvic restrictions:
- Pelvic Floor
During this time physical changes are becoming more evident. The most significant area of weight gain will be around your abdomen due to the growth of your baby, uterus, and placenta. This causes structural changes to the spine, thoracic cage, and pelvis, as well as the position of many of the internal organs. Your center of gravity changes as your body compensates for the weight change. However, for this to occur successfully so that you can continue to be mobile and pain free, your body must have mobility through these areas of the spine. This change in center of gravity also affects the action and strains placed on your diaphragm, therefore affecting the quality of your breathing mechanics as well as the pressures and strains placed upon your gastro-intestinal system.
Because of the structural changes above, we are able to assess and treat:
- Lower and upper back pain
- Rib pain
- Digestive problems e.g. – Reflux
There is a dramatic growth in the size of your body during this period. We will continue to work during this time if your body needs it. If we begin to treat you during this period of time then we will take into consideration the biomechanical changes your body adapted to in the 1st and 2nd trimesters so that we may initiate the best possible treatment plan for you now.
We will be helping you prepare for your delivery and due date. As part of your pregnancy team, we believe strongly in your body’s physical ability for birth. However, sometimes the body needs some assistance in preparation for birth. We will aim to achieve balanced mobility of the pelvis, lumbar spine, thoracic spine and cage, and pelvic floor.
We are able to release tensions and restrictions in your lumbar spine (lower back) so that during labor, the physical demands your body needs to adapt to are possible. You will need to change into different positions and a mobile spine will assist this process. The low back mobility is essential due to its proximity to the pelvic outlet, pelvic floor, and uterus. Overall mobility of the whole spine is also important.
Pelvic floor tensions and restrictions can be released with treatment so that this area can function effectively, enabling free stretch to reduce the possibility of tearing and assist with delivery.
Free, balanced, equal movement of the sacrum and coccyx in the pelvis allow for ease of movement of your baby through the birth canal.
To encourage baby’s passage through the birth canal, the best position for the baby is head down, facing backwards, and with their spine curving in the same direction as the mother’s. Positions different from this can cause prolonged traumatic labor. Osteopathic treatment to balance mobility at the pelvis may help the baby to lie in an improved position.
Treatment of Mom and Baby after Labor
It is a good idea for baby to be assessed after birth, once you have returned home. We are able to help with the strains from birth and enable and enhance the function and ability of their digestive and respiratory systems in their new, out of the uterine environment.
But moms must not forget about themselves! We will aid and assist you in the settling and healing of your body following labor. This process of treatment and consultation helps a mother to be well-balanced and happy, enabling you to cope with the challenges of a new life with a new baby!
After birth your body is recovering from the stresses, strains, and effects of the pregnancy as well as the birth. The mother’s pelvis is often strained by the physical process – pulled out of balance by the passage of the baby through the birth canal. If mother’s feet are in stirrups during delivery or if there is stitching following birth, the weight of the legs on the pelvis with the associated pregnancy hormones creating ligamentous laxity causes increased strain upon an already exhausted pelvis.
Caesarian births must also be considered as significant surgical intervention. Osteopathic treatment can assist in settling the musculoskeletal strains caused by scarring and the biomechanical compensations the mother has to make following surgery.
Unresolved stresses and strains from the birth can cause, facilitate, and exaggerate existing back problems, stress incontinence, constipation, and period problems.
Caring For Your New Baby
Feeding in ergonomically poor positions, lifting of baby and baby care equipment (car seat, etc.), reaching in and out of the crib and developing holding postures (carrying baby on your hip) can all lead to biomechanical problems.
When you consider the birth from the baby’s perspective, every birth process is individual and unique. It may have been long and slow in progressing, rapid and intense, or it may have been a caesarian birth. In each delivery, the baby may have been pushed, pulled, twisted, or squashed with different forces depending on interventions taken – this may lead to long lasting effects on the baby.
The most common difficulties in the first days and months of life are with feeding, sleeping, and crying. A baby displaying behaviors such as being unsettled and struggling to feed may be in pain or discomfort from the effects of birth. Osteopathy may be able to assist to relieve this.
If these stresses from birth remain unresolved they may contribute to many other problems as your child grows, including sleep and behavior issues, vulnerability to repeated infections (chest, ear and sinus), and potentially backache or headaches.
The treatment of children and babies is extremely gentle and effective. Treatment involves creating a relaxed environment around your child that may involve playing games, singing, etc. during which your osteopath, trained specifically in the treatment of infants and children, will examine and treat.
Osteopathic treatment can be beneficial in;
- Easing some of the discomforts of pregnancy
- Preparing for labor
- Helping mom and baby recover after birth
Specific Areas of Interest:
SPD (Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction)
The joint where the two pubic bones meet at the front of the pelvis is called the pubic symphysis. The integrity of this joint relies on ligaments. During pregnancy all ligaments soften and this can lead to the pain associated with stretching and separation of the pubic symphysis. The mother will experience significant pain at the front of her pelvis that will be aggravated by movement and exercise and become worse at the end of the day. SPD can be caused and worsened by biomechanical restrictions in the lower spine and sacrum.
As your baby grows and fills into the abdominal space, the internal organs must adapt and move. The intestines are pushed upwards and, in the requirement for more space, the lower ribs force outwards. In association to this there are changes to the tensions in the diaphragm.
Changes in the tensions and distortions to the sphincter muscles that control the entrance to the stomach may cause heartburn. Increased abdominal pressure may lead to congestion around the liver that may increase the size of the liver, causing symptoms of nausea and vomiting.
Due to restriction in the diaphragm caused by the increased abdominal pressure, there is a restriction to venous blood flow as it passes through the diaphragm, returning to the heart. This can contribute to varicose veins and hemorrhoids. Due to the increased tension held in the diaphragm, the lung volume is also reduced and may contribute to increased vulnerability to chest infections and shortness of breath.
Research has shown that the developing baby can be affected by stress. The adrenaline levels in the mother will increase with stress and these are experienced by the baby, who is therefore more likely to be unsettled and irritable after birth and suffer with symptoms of colic.
Whilst we are aware that some of your stresses are unavoidable, mothers should try as much as possible to spend time controlling their stress level by trying to remain relaxed and calm. Osteopathy is an excellent aid tool to help mothers release the effects of stress.
Try to control your tummy. Avoiding the urge to allow it to collapse your spine forward. This will reduce exaggerated hollowing of your back.
Keep as active and mobile as possible. There is strong research to prove that an active mom is less likely to have a breach presentation baby.
Consider your posture – walk and sit tall.
Avoid slouching. This encourages the baby into the back-to-back position. Be conscious of placing your bottom well to the back of a chair seat so that you are sitting upright with your back supported.