I’m pregnant and planning a natural birth. Can osteopathy help?
Osteopaths have been assisting women during pregnancy and birth since the beginning of the profession. The goals of osteopathic care are to improve function, decrease pain, optimize fetal position and reduce the need for interventions.
For my thesis, I conducted a small research study: The Effect of Osteopathic Treatment During Pregnancy on the Outcomes of Labour and Delivery. The results were very encouraging; the treated group had half as many interventions, on average, as the untreated group.
Osteopathic treatment can help create a better birth experience for you and your baby by:
- Aligning your pelvis, spine, and entire body to relieve pain and improve function.
- Mobilizing your pelvis and pelvic contents (uterus and other organs) to help open and create space.
- Optimizing your baby’s position in utero to initiate labour and ease passage through the birth canal.
- Enhancing your hormonal, neural, and vascular supply to help initiate and sustain rhythmic, coordinated, contractions.
- Balancing your autonomic nervous system to stimulate natural auto-regulation and optimize pain control mechanisms.
As an osteopath, I treat you as a whole person and always look to see what your unique needs are. However, experience has taught me that almost everyone’s psoas, diaphragm, pelvic floor and autonomic nervous systems can benefit from some attention.
An imbalance in the psoas muscles can cause misalignment and restricted mobility of the lumbar spine, pelvis and hip joints. Psoas tension can limit opening of the pelvis, alter blood flow to the uterus and impair hormonal and neural supply during labour and delivery. A tight psoas can even affect breathing!
Excessive tension in the psoas can also interfere with optimal fetal positioning. If a baby moves off to one side, faces forward instead of backward or assumes a breech position she will be less efficient in both initiating labour and navigating the birth canal.
Thoracic Diaphragm and Pelvic Floor
Ideally, the thoracic diaphragm and pelvic floor work together to regulate pressures within the abdomen and pelvis. A lack of harmony due to postural alignment and breathing dysfunction can alter the vascular and lymphatic flow.
Digestive disturbances (reflux, constipation), swelling in the legs, varicose veins or hemorrhoids indicate pressure problems. Treatment can improve breathing, digestion, and circulation to help with these concerns.
Releasing tension in the pelvic floor helps the fetus rotate and pass through the pelvic outlet with greater ease, reducing the risk of injury to the perineum.
Autonomic Nervous System
Osteopathic treatment can help balance the stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) with the relaxing hormones (oxytocin).
Imbalances and excessive tensions can inhibit labour and exacerbate pain, leading to an increased likelihood of interventions such as epidurals, hormonal augmentation (i.e. pitocin), assisted delivery (forceps, vacuum extraction) or C-section.
Osteopathy addresses your individual needs to ease pregnancy aches and pains, enhance your birth experience and promote postpartum recovery. The goal is to restore homeostasis, allowing nature to do the rest.