Pregnancy can be a happy time for an expecting mother, however some women may suffer illness, pain and discomfort. During pregnancy a woman’s body may experience both hormonal changes (promoting the softening of muscles and ligaments) and weight gains (shifting the body’s centre of gravity). These vast changes in the body may lead to problems such as back pain, sciatica, pubic symphysis discomfort, joint pain from instability and accentuation of the normal back curves.
Osteopathic treatment aims to support the natural process of pregnancy and birth – guiding the body’s own natural ability to compensate and adjust to these changes as efficiently as possible (with minimal pain or discomfort). Using manual techniques our osteopaths may assist with improving pelvic movement and stability. Treatment techniques used by our osteopaths are tailored to each pregnancy and are comfortable for both the mother and her growing baby. Techniques are carefully selected, minimizing any associated risk for the mother and her unborn child, although like with all forms of health care, some patients may experience adverse reactions or outcomes.
Our osteopaths complete a thorough case history for all patients to determine any underlying conditions and any risk factors that may be involved. They not only work in connection with the patient’s pre-natal team (obstetrician or midwife) to provide the utmost care, but also work in connection with other local allied health practitioners and services, such as pre-natal yoga and calm birthing classes.
Some common musculoskeletal pregnancy-related complaints that our osteopaths may assist with are:
- Lower back pain (105, 108, 109, 110)
- Sciatica (leg pain) (105, 108, 109, 110, 112, 123)
- Neck, shoulder or middle back pain (109)
- Pelvic instability (108, 109, 110)
- Groin or sacroiliac joint pain (108, 109, 110)
- Pubic symphysis pain (108, 109, 110)
We encourage all our pregnant patients to return for a post-partum check-up, as both the pregnancy and the birthing process may be stressful on the mother’s body – particularly the pelvic girdle.
Even after birth, weakened ligaments and reduced muscle strength can leave some women with constant back pain and other musculoskeletal dysfunction. It is also common for new mothers to experience postural strain through the neck, shoulders and middle back from compromised postures involved with both holding and caring for their new baby and breast-feeding. Treatment may help to ease this pain, aid the recovery of the back and the pelvis and promote improved blood flow (153). It may also help to prevent ongoing musculoskeletal issues associated with pregnancy once the hormonal influence on the musculoskeletal system ceases (in particular the ligaments) (105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 112). Our osteopaths will also give instruction on posture, breast-feeding position (66), nutrition and exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles.
And our osteopaths will also work in connection with local practitioners for specific post-partum issues such as abdominal separation and incontinence (154, 155) and will refer on when necessary.
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106. Smallwood C.R., Borgerding C.J., Cox M.S.and Berkowitz M.R. (2013). “Osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) during labor facilitates a natural, drug-free childbirth for a primigravida patient: A case report.” International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine, Vol 16(3), 170-177. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1746068912001010
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108. Pennick V & Liddle S.D. (2015). “Interventions for preventing and treating low-back and pelvic pain during pregnancy.” Cochrane Database Syst Rev, Sept 30(9). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26422811
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