Pregnancy and Birth
Pregnancy is a unique and powerful experience. Enormous physical, hormonal and emotional changes take place over a relatively short period of time. The body has to adapt to carrying up to 20lb of baby, waters and placenta, which can impose physical strain on all the organs and tissues.
Information about Pregnancy
Aches and pains are common during pregnancy, as the body changes shape to accommodate the increasing size and weight of the uterus. This involves considerable changes to posture. If the mother has existing back problems, or strains in her body from past accidents or trauma, it may be more difficult for her to accommodate these changes, and she may suffer more discomfort as a result.
The ligaments of the whole body soften during pregnancy due to the action of hormones. This allows the bones of the pelvis to separate slightly during the delivery to facilitate the passage of the baby’s head through the pelvis. Unfortunately this softening affects the whole body and makes it more vulnerable to strain during the pregnancy.
Postural changes may cause backache, neckache, headaches, aching legs and undue fatigue. Osteopathic techniques may help the body adapt, and make the pregnancy much more comfortable.
Nausea and Vomiting
By releasing debilitating physical strains caused by vomiting, and restoring ease and balance in the body’s soft tissues. Techniques to improve the circulation to and from the liver can help reduce nausea.
As the uterus expands, it can stretch and squash the diaphragm contributing to heartburn.
Postural changes through the lower ribs and spine can impede the action of the diaphragm and make breathing difficult. Osteopathic techniques to improve function of the whole rib cage allows full use of available lung capacity.
Varicose Veins and Haemorrhoids
Tension within the pelvis or diaphragm area can increase resistance to the return of venous blood to the heart from the lower half of the body. This can cause or aggravate varicose veins in the legs, and haemorrhoids.
Labour and Position of the Baby
As labour is likely to be more difficult if the baby is not lying correctly, it is worth trying to help them to move into a better position. The baby generally settles in a head downward position and facing backward with their spine curled in the same direction as the mother’s spine. This puts the baby in the most advantageous position for passing through the birth canal during labour. As babies grow and take up more space within the abdomen there is less space for them to move about and they will find their own preferred position. The mother’s posture has to adapt to accommodate the position of the baby, and if this conflicts with her own postural needs it may cause undue aches and pains. This is the reason that one pregnancy may be much more uncomfortable to carry than another. An important part of preparation for childbirth is to ensure that the mother’s pelvis is structurally balanced and able to allow the passage of the baby down the birth canal.
Trauma to the pelvic bones, coccyx or sacrum at any time in a mother’s life can leave increased tension in muscles and strain within the ligaments and bones of the pelvis. This can limit the ability of these bones to separate and move out of the way during labour, and thus limit the size of the pelvic outlet.
Self-help Tips to Encourage the Baby to Lie Correctly
- Try to keep as active as possible throughout the pregnancy.
- ‘Walk tall’, pushing your head upwards as if suspended by a string. Do not allow your lower back to slump into a very hollow position.
- Sitting slouched in soft chairs encourages the baby to turn into the back to back position. Where possible, sit with your bottom well back in the chair and the lower back supported. Better still, sitting on a foam wedge, or on a chair that has a seat that tilts forward, actively encourages the baby to lie correctly.
- If your baby is lying in either a breech or back to back position, then spending some time each day in an ‘all
- fours’ position can help it to turn.
Birth can be traumatic for both mother and baby.
For the mother. The mother’s pelvis is vulnerable to lasting strains from the forces involved, particularly after a difficult delivery. Some of these strains can have a profound effect on the nervous system, and contribute to postnatal depression.
After giving birth, the body not only has to recover from the changes it made during pregnancy but also from the effects of delivery. All this whilst doing the very physically and mentally demanding job of caring for the new baby. Caring for a baby can place enormous strain on the back, during such activities as nursing in poor positions, lifting car seats especially in and out of the car, reaching over the cot, or carrying a child on one hip.
Unresolved childbirth stresses in the mother can contribute to ongoing back problems, stress incontinence, constipation, headache and more.
Babies and Children
Covers the following types of problems:
A Crying Baby can mean many things:
Osteopathic techniques that utilise the cranial approach are very gentle and safe for babies and children. In an ideal world Cranial Osteopaths would like to see all children during the post natal period. Our approach helps to reduce some of the structural stresses and or strains retained in individual tissues following the birth process.
It is a common belief that babies and children should have no structural stresses or strains in their bodies, because they are ‘so young’. The reality is very different. Birth is one of the most stressful events of our lives. The baby is subjected to enormous forces, as the uterus pushes to expel the baby against the natural resistance of the birth canal. The baby has to turn and twist as it squeezes through the bony pelvis, on its short but highly stimulating and potentially stressful journey. The baby’s head has the remarkable ability to absorb these stresses in a normal delivery. In order to reduce the size of the head, the soft bones overlap, bend and warp as the baby descends. The baby’s chin is normally well tucked down towards its chest to reduce the presenting diameter of the head. Many babies are born with odd shaped heads as a result. In the first few days, the head can usually be seen to gradually lose the extreme moulded shape, as the baby suckles, cries and yawns. However, this unmoulding process is often incomplete, especially if the birth has been difficult. As a result, the baby may have to live with some very uncomfortable stresses within its head and body.
What problems may occur in Babies
Some babies cope extremely well with even quite severe retained moulding and compression, and are contented and happy. For others it is a different story, and they can display a variety of problems:
- Crying, screaming, irritability. The baby may be uncomfortable, with a constant feeling of pressure in the head. This may be made worse by the extra pressure on the head when lying down.
- Feeding difficulties. The baby takes a long time to feed and one feed merges into the next. They may be a ‘windy’ feeder. Feeding is difficult and tiring due to mechanical stresses through the head, face and throat. The nerves to the tongue may be irritated as they exit from the skull, which makes sucking difficult.
- Sickness and wind. Regurgitation of milk between feeds, bouts of prolonged crying due to pain and wind. Often worse in the evening. The nerve to the stomach may be irritated as it exits from the base of the skull, which can impair digestion. The diaphragm between the chest and the abdomen may be stressed or distorted, which further compromises both digestion and the ability of the stomach to retain its contents. Stress from a difficult or fast birth can leave the digestive system in tension trapping wind. Any strain through the umbilical cord, for instance if it was around the baby’s neck, can add to strains in the abdomen.
- Sleep disturbances. The baby sleeps for only short periods, and may sleep little during the day (or night!). They wake to the slightest noise and are- “jumpy”. The tension on the bony and membranous casing of the skull keeps the baby’s nervous system in a persistently alert state.
What problems may occur in Older Children
As the child grows, the effects of retained moulding could lead to other problems. The following are the most common, but it is by no means an exhaustive list.
- Infections. Retained moulding and birth stresses take their toll on the body’s reserves, and also deplete the immune system. This leaves children more vulnerable to all types of infection.
- Ear infection. Recurrent ear infections, gradually becoming more frequent. May lead to ‘glue ear’ and some temporary loss of hearing.
- Retained birth compression within and around the bones of the ear impedes fluid drainage from the ear with partial or complete blocking of the Eustachian tube. Infections may never fully clear, leaving a vulnerability to the next infection and a depleted immune system.
- Sinus and dental problems. Persistent mouth breathers. Constantly blocked or runny nose. Impaired growth and drainage of the sinuses and bones of the face due to retained moulding compression. Later, this increases the chance of dental overcrowding.
- Poor concentration, constant fidgeting, difficulty sitting still, hyperactivity. Continuation of the restlessness as a young baby. Retained moulding compression makes them uncomfortable in one position for too long which becomes habit forming.
- Headache, aches and pains (headaches begin from age 7-8). Growing pains. Vulnerability to sprains, or other aches and pains. Retained moulding may focus areas of pressure in the skull, as the bony joints of the skull fully form at around the age of 7-8 years. Patterns of tension retained in other areas make the body more vulnerable to strain and fatigue.
- Breathing problems. Vulnerability to chest infections. Aggravation of all degrees of asthma from mild to severe. Retained moulding compression can aggravate a tendency to asthma. General lowered immunity leads to more chest infections. After infections, the chest remains tense and the ribs do not return to full function, aggravating an asthmatic tendency. Osteopathic techniques to release birth stresses and help to improve chest function are often beneficial in reducing the breathing problems.
Cranial Osteopathy and possible adverse reactions
Osteopathic technique using the cranial approach is gentle, safe for babies and children. Very specific, skilled, light pressure is applied where necessary to assist the natural ability of the body to release stresses and tensions.
Reactions to the use of these techniques are variable. Often the baby or child is very relaxed afterwards and sleeps well. Others may experience a burst of energy, usually followed by a good nights sleep. Occasionally, children may be unsettled but this is a temporary situation, and usually clears within 24-48 hours.