Osteopathic care of pregnant women can help prepare for childbirth and manage various pregnancy-related issues.
To relieve the aches and pains of pregnancy
During pregnancy, the maternal body undergoes various structural changes to accommodate the growing fetus. These physiological modifications are both hormonal and mechanical. For example, the hormone “relaxin” that is secreted from the tenth week of pregnancy, contributes to increasing the flexibility of the ligaments, but particularly those of the pelvic area. This hormone facilitates the adaptation of the body during fetal growth and increases the mobility of the pelvis during birth.
Body posture changes as pregnancy progresses. This is caused in part by the greater ligament flexibility and also by the increasing size of the uterus. This body posture change is characterized by arching of the lower back, an anterior pelvic tilt, which strains the trunk and the sacroiliac joints. Ultimately, this can lead to low back and pelvic pain.
The digestive system is also under strain. Growth of the fetus changes organization of the abdomen and puts pressure on organs. The stomach is pushed upward, which can cause reflux or vomiting. The colon is pushed back, which can cause transit disorders, like constipation or bloating. The bladder is pushed downward, which can lead to incontinence or frequent urination. Also, the diaphragm, the main respiratory muscle, is compressed, which may cause difficulty breathing, especially when lying down. Visceral manipulation can decrease pressure and release restriction.
The major hemodynamic changes induced by pregnancy include an increase in blood volume (by 40-50%) and water retention. It is interesting to note that the uterus compresses the inferior vena cava and reduces the venous return, especially when lying down. The inferior vena cava is the largest vein of the body and directs blood towards the heart. Osteopathic treatment can help reduce problems related to venous congestion and act on the circulatory system: heavy, swollen and tired legs, hemorrhoids and varicose veins for example.
Preparations for Delivery
It’s also useful to consult an Osteopathic Manual Practitioner to prepare for childbirth. He or she may work on the pelvis to increase its mobility by ensuring adequate mobility of the spine and pelvic bone.
When should I see an Osteopathic Practitioner during my pregnancy?
In general, mothers-to-be start to see their Osteopathic Practitioner toward the fourth month, when the uterus increases in size. However, some women begin during the first month particularly when they experienced pain before pregnancy, such as low back pain or sciatica. In my opinion, every pregnant woman should see an Osteopathic Practitioner during the 2 last months of their pregnancy to prepare for childbirth.