Osteopathic Treatment during Pregnancy
During pregnancy the body undergoes an enormous amount of change over considerably short period of time. Despite this, the body adapts surprisingly well to these changes, however it is not uncommon to suffer certain pregnancy related pain syndromes at points throughout the process. Osteopathy can be very helpful in alleviating these symptoms and preparing expectant mothers for the birth.
As the uterus expands, this can cause aches and pains of the back, abdomen, groin area, and thighs. Many women also experience aching around the pelvis due the pressure of the baby’s head, increased weight, and loosening joints due to a hormone called relaxin which acts on ligaments. The term pelvic girdle pain (PGP) or symphasis pubis disorder (SPD) may sometimes be used to diagnose this. Some pregnant women complain of pain that runs from the lower back, down the back of one leg, to the knee or foot, otherwise known as ‘sciatica’. Although this can be caused by musculoskeletal problems such as a disc herniation for example, in pregnancy it is thought that it can also occur when the uterus or a muscle called the piriformis puts increased pressure on the sciatic nerve. An osteopath is trained to treat these pain syndromes using very gentle and safe techniques, which will be explained every step of the way throughout the appointment.
Hormones and the pressure of the growing uterus can cause indigestion and reflux. The hormones can relax the valve that separates the oesophagus from the stomach. This allows food and acids to come back up from the stomach to the oesophagus. As the baby grows, the uterus pushes on the stomach making reflux more common in later pregnancy. An osteopath will assess diaphragm (the sheath like muscle surrounding the oesophagus and separating the abdomen from the thorax). If it is tight, it can pull the oesophageal valve open and possibly worsen symptoms. The osteopath will use gentle techniques to release the diaphragm to take the strain off the valve, and if necessary, cranial techniques to help the nerves that supply the valve.
Many women develop mild swelling of the face, hands, or ankles at some point during pregnancy. As the due date approaches, swelling can often become more noticeable. After asking specific clinical questions to help differentiate this from more serious causes, gentle massage techniques, along with advice can help to decrease these symptoms.
Post-birth, osteopathy can help the body to return to ‘normal’ and address any musculoskeletal issues that may arise in caring for the new baby.