Osteopathic Advice For Pregnancy & New Mums
(Cover photo courtesy of Thomas van Ardenne)
As an Osteopath, I’m always asked if I can give any general advice so I thought I’d write a couple of posts that hopefully someone might find useful!
This one is specifically ‘Osteopathic Advice For Pregnancy & New Mums’
Aches & pains can be a very normal part of pregnancy and being a new mum. Your body goes through huge physical, chemical and emotional changes in a relatively short period of time. According to Babycentre’s Medical Advisory Board, you put on around (7.3kg / 3.3lb) for the baby, the waters (0.7kg / 1.5lbs) and the placenta (0.8kg / 1.8lbs) on top PLUS your uterus develops an extra 0.9kg (2lb) in muscle, your blood volume increases and weighs an extra 1.2kg (2.6lb), your breasts an extra 0.4kg (0.9lbs) and some stored fat (about 4kg / 8.8lbs) to give you energy for breastfeeding. I think that’s quite a bit don’t you?? To adapt to these changes your body has to find new ways to walk, sit and sleep…
During pregnancy, your body releases a hormone called ‘relaxin’, which is there to relax the ligaments in your pelvis and soften and widen your cervix in readiness for childbirth. The down side of this, is your pelvis and hips can then become a little on the ‘looser’ side, which can lead to muscle and joint strain while everything works harder to compensate.
On top of that as your belly grows, your centre of gravity shifts, putting extra strain on your muscles and joints as you have to stand and move differently to compensate. Then as the pregnancy reaches the end, the babies (generally) lie head down with their body curved up around more one side of the bump than the other. This puts an uneven strain on all your major muscles and this too can cause things to go a little out of kilter.
Things you can do:
- Sleep with a pillow between your knees and ideally ‘hug’ a second pillow. Or use one of those long maternity ones (I still do and our kids are 8,6 and 4!). This will take the pressure off the ligaments of your sacro-iliac joints (in your pelvis) and help to keep your spine in neutral while you sleep.
- Don’t carry heavy bags on one shoulder – find a bag that you genuinely feel is really easy to carry. This may be a backpack or a broad strapped ‘across the shoulder’ bag. It definitely won’t be a normal over one shoulder bag…..and carry as little in it as possible!
- Be as symmetrical as possible. If you’re carrying shopping, then split the shopping up and carry a bag in each hand. If you have a very small child that needs to be carried, then alternate which side you carry them on. Do try to carry them as little as possible – if you can, stop and either squat down or sit in a chair for a lovely cuddle rather than pick them up and carry them around.
- If you need to bend down to pick something up, then squat down and then put equal pressure through both of your legs as you get up to standing. If you can’t do that, then crawl over to a chair / the sofa / your long suffering partner and push down on them with your arms to help you get up. Putting too much force through one leg in mid to late pregnancy can cause the bones in your pelvis to shift just enough to cause quite a lot of pain, including that well known ‘SPD’ (Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction) (pain at the front of your pelvis around the pubic area and / or groin).
- Don’t sit with your legs crossed.
- Do get in an out of a car keeping your legs together.
- Avoid deep soft sofas.
- No heels!
- Get your spine moving! It will be spending more and more time bracing just to keep you upright, so:
- Get down on to all fours (which will help to take the weight off you back too) and curve your back up and down – it’s called the ‘cat stretch’ in yoga…this will help to get the middle of your spine relaxed and moving.
- Sit down (to keep your pelvis still and supported) and slowly twist your upper body round as far as you can to the left and to the right (gently!). This part of your spine is designed to rotate and it will really appreciate the workout.
- Sit on a gym ball and slowly move your hips from side to side – this will get lots of lovely sideways movements through the whole of your spine.
- Fold your arms on top of a gym ball, kneeling up against it with wide knees and just relax – this will help to stretch out your back and give it a break from keeping you upright.
- Keep moving and keep your gluts strong (buttock muscles) by walking, doing stairs (equal pressure through both legs, consciously tensing your gluts as you do) and mini squats (just dip low enough to be able to come up again easily using both buttocks equally. Your gluts are your anti-gravity muscles and they’ll become more and more important as time goes on!
- If you’re uncomfortable go and see an osteopath!
The post birth period is really hard on the body – all the feeding (either bottle or breast), cuddling, comforting, picking up, nappy changes – there’s a lot of hunching over, pushing buggies and holding going on. Your body is still full of relaxin, your pelvis and hips are still under it’s effects and the lack of sleep doesn’t help either!
I would still completely recommend following all the advice I’ve given above, plus a couple of extras…
- Get yourself supported properly for feeding your baby and support your baby using a cushion so you don’t have to support their weight with your arms at all.
- Get up out of bed to lift your baby up to feed them rather than trying to manoeuvre them while you’re still lying down.
Continue to use gym ball post delivery (great for normalising curves and pelvic floor muscles), especially good for when winding the baby, they will be familiar with the momentum of the gentle bounce on the ball from the pregnancy.
- Lots of skin to skin with your baby – not enough people do this apparently and they gain so much from it. Strip off and get snuggling.
As soon as you’ve stopped bleeding / been given the go-ahead post c-section, get exercising properly again. You’ve already spend weeks / months not operating at your usual olympic level and the longer you leave it, the looser your skeleton will get (unused muscles get weaker), the more discomfort and pain you can end up in and the longer it will take to get yourself back again!
- If you’re taking buggies on and off buses or trains, go in forwards and out backwards.
- With stairs, go up them backwards, pulling the buggy up and go down forwards, bumping the buggy down. The number of people I see carry the the entire buggy plus baby ensemble up and down stairs is incredible. I’m always on red alert with a stretcher for the pair of them!
- Lastly, eat properly, drink lots of water and take ‘me’ breaks 🙂
Photograph ©2011 Thomas van Ardenne
I hope you’ve found this post on osteopathic advice for pregnancy & new mums useful, please do share it with anyone that’s either pregnant or is a new mum!
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