By Philip Waldman D.O., FSCCO Registered Osteopath, Chelsea Natural Health Clinic, Fulham Rd, SW10
In the antenatal and post natal period an osteopath can be of much assistance. Pregnancy is a wonderful and wondrous thing but it can be a very demanding time for the family. In it’s most “basic form” antenatal osteopathy can help prepare the mother’s body for the pregnancy and labour. For instance, making sure that the spine and pelvis are working to the best of their ability is of utmost importance.
During labour the pelvis must be able to move and pivot on the hips freely to allow the baby to pass. As the baby passes through the upper pelvis the upper pelvis spreads and the lower pelvis narrows. As the baby passes past the hips and through into the lower pelvis and birth canal, the lower pelvis spreads and the upper pelvis narrows. This rocking motion is likened to a pair of scissors opening and closing. The diagram shows the pelvis from the front and shows the forces that act on the pelvis in the early stages of labour. These forces reverse in late labour. If the hips and / or pelvis are tight or twisted this motion will be blocked, which can have dramatic effects on labour and can be a factor in babies not engaging properly or getting stuck.
Having the spine functioning well is also important because the spine houses the nerves that control everything. If the nerves that run from the low back to the pelvis are compromised by physical tension, it may well interfere with the contractions of the uterus. If the blood flow to and from the uterus is restricted by physical tension that can have a similar effect. These restrictions are normally quite subtle and won’t necessarily register as symptoms that the mother would be aware of, but they will mean that the contractions won’t be as efficient and effective as they could be.
Osteopathy is an ideal way to deal with all these factors. Through a rounded approach that takes into account the physical factors as well as others such as the emotional, nutritional and postural I aim to help the mother prepare for pregnancy and labour.
Osteopathy is safe during any stage of pregnancy. Normally I like to see mothers about once a month throughout pregnancy. This seems to have brought great benefit to many mothers, with a lot of my patients reporting that they seem to have had better pregnancies than others, or compared to their previous pregnancies. This all bodes well for their un-born child because the less traumatic the labour the better it is for the baby. Regardless, I always advocate a postnatal Cranial Osteopathic check-up with me for the little ones as they have been through a lot. This is the case even if they have been delivered by c-section. Postnatal care for the mother is also very important. There are many things osteopathy can do to help the mother recover from the birth process and pregnancy. If you simply consider the dynamic role of the sacrum during the birth process and how is moved you can appreciate how important it is to have it re-seat itself properly. Cranial osteopathy is, in my opinion, uniquely placed to facilitate this process. I see a lot of mothers suffering from what I call “Mother’s Shoulder”, a painful muscle and joint condition brought about by the physicality of motherhood. For more information please see that article I have written in the post-natal sub-section of the pregnancy section of this site.
HOW OSTEOPATHY “WORKS”
Osteopaths believe that:-
The blood supply is the most important factor in health. Poor blood supply means tissue “dis-ease” and this can predispose to disease and hinder healing.
The shape of the bits of the body determine the way in which they work. For example, if you are pregnant and you lie on your back, your womb presses on the blood vessels that lie behind the womb. This will change the amount of blood that can pass through the vessels. If you relate this back to the rule of blood supply being the most important factor, you can see how this might mean that the uterus can’t contract as strongly during labour. The message here is, ideally, don’t lie on your back when pregnant, and especially when in labour.
Everything is interconnected. Your stress levels affect your muscles and the rest of your body. Your kidneys affect the rest of your body, and so on. If you have a problem in one area, the whole body will be affected. When I am treating I have to consider this. Also by treating one area of the person I can potentially affect all other parts. It might sound far-fetched, but I often treat people’s bowels / stomachs to help them with a low back problem. This opens up a myriad of therapeutic possibilities.
Given the chance the body will heal itself. Take the stressors away and this process will speed up. A mechanical example is if you have a sprained ankle, would you expect it to heal if you kept running on it. By working to improve the blood flow to and from an area I can speed up healing and promote health in that area (rule of the artery). But I don’t just work on that area, I work globally to try and restore the whole person to health and promote well-being and increased vitality (body is a unit). This belief is particularly important in post-natal recovery for mother and child.
From these examples I hope you can see that osteopathy has much to offer the pregnant mother and child. I aim to work to prevent issues arising, deal with potential problems before they become an issue. I use a variety of techniques such as Osteopathy and Cranial Osteopathy and I work alongside my wife who is a pregnancy yoga teacher to provide a flexible, rounded, sympathetic and all-encompassing approach.
Philip Waldman, director of Chelsea Natural Health, is a Registered Osteopath with over 18 years of experience in this area of healthcare and he believes passionately in the benefits of antenatal and post natal osteopathy. For more information please visit
or feel free to contact Philip directly using this form