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12th June 2012

Pregnancy places numerous stresses and strains on the body. Osteopathic treatment is an extremely safe, gentle and effective method of helping the body to adjust to these changes.

An Osteopath’s initial concern is for the safety of the mother and child. After a thorough case history and assessment, the Osteopath may be able to help alleviate the aches and pains that are caused by the growth of the baby and the changes occurring in the mother.

How does being pregnant affect a woman’s body?

During pregnancy, the body must adapt to carrying approximately 10-12 kilograms in weight of a baby, placenta and waters, as well as adapting to hormonal, chemical and emotional changes. Hormonal changes are responsible for softening of ligaments, allowing the pelvis to accommodate the baby’s head during birth. But, all the body’s ligaments are affected, making every joint more susceptible to strain. Furthermore, the curves of the spine change and posture is altered due to hormonal and physical changes. The weight of the baby pushes the mother’s centre of gravity forward, creating a compensatory arch in the lower back and increasing the mechanical stress on the body.

Why do pregnant women visit an Osteopath?

The most common reason pregnant women choose to visit an Osteopath is for back and neck pain as a result of physical strains placed on these regions.

Other problems that an Osteopath can assist with include:

  • Sciatica (leg pain) from nerve pressure
  • Headaches
  • Pelvic girdle instability
  • Sacro-iliac Joint pain
  • Pubic symphysis pain
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Pelvic floor weakness and incontinence
  • Poor abdominal tone
  • Circulatory problems, such as swelling of the legs
  • Back problems from pre-pregnancy that could affect pregnancy or delivery

How can osteopathic treatment help a pregnant woman?

By visiting an Osteopath during pregnancy, the body can be helped to adjust to the changes occurring. An Osteopath’s focus on the musculoskeletal system combined with the circulatory, nervous and lymphatic systems make it a safe and gentle option to help balance the body.

Osteopathic techniques include:

  • Soft tissue techniques: to release tightness in muscles
  • Stretching: to increase the flexibility of joints and muscles and improve blood flow
  • Articulation techniques: joints are mobilised by gently being taken through their range of motion

Useful Tips for Pregnancy

  • Look after your back when pregnant – take care when lifting and carrying, especially other children and avoid carrying a child on one hip for a prolonged period.
  • When sitting – use a cushion for support and avoid crossing your legs to help prevent varicose veins
  • When standing for any length of time – “tuck in” your buttocks to reduce the strain on your lower back
  • When lying on your side – put a pillow under the “bump” and another between your knees to give you support and help prevent back strain
  • Ask your Osteopath for exercises that will help to reduce the stress of the later stages of pregnancy on your body
  • Visit your Osteopath for a tune and balance of the body early in the pregnancy to help avoid complications later in pregnancy
  • Maintain a nutritious diet
  • Wear flat shoes – stay away from high heels!
  • Make sure you have a comfortable and supportive mattress and pillow
  • Maintain aerobic exercise to keep strong and healthy, but within appropriate limits

Should I have an osteopathic treatment following the birth of my newborn?

Many new mothers receive osteopathic treatment following the birth of their newborn in order to correct the body imbalances that may be present, particularly to the pelvis, lower back and middle back region. After all, carrying a baby for 9 months is hard work on you and your body!

The Osteopath will advise on stretches to help the body adjust to new activities associated with caring for a baby as well as prescribe exercises that assist in improving the strength and control of the abdominal muscles and pelvic floor.

Please ask your Osteopath when it would be appropriate to commence your osteopathic treatment following the delivery of your newborn.