Throughout pregnancy, a woman’s body undergoes a remarkable amount of change – both hormonally and physically. Most women are well informed about hormonal changes and are excited to see their baby bump develop. However, many mums don’t realise that the whole musculoskeletal system gets involved in order to allow expansion and growth for the new baby. With this incredible amount of adaptation often comes some new aches and pains (which, btw, we are excellent at treating!).
Problems commonly experienced by expectant mothers are heartburn, gastrointestinal complaints, carpal tunnel syndrome, mid back pain, pubic symphysis dysfunction, pelvic girdle pain and low back pain1. Low back pain is the most common of these, and is estimated to affect between 50 and 82% of pregnant women2,3. All of these problems can be really uncomfortable – and that’s where we come in!
So what actually happens during pregancy?
Initially, throughout the course of the first trimester, the pelvis tips backwards to allow the uterus to begin expanding, but by the time you reach the second trimester, it starts tipping forwards. Each time the pelvis changes position, the rest of the body has to adapt – this can be seen through changes of the spinal curvature and other joints in the body.
At the same time, various hormones are having their own effect on the quality of the tissues themselves. For example, relaxin (released around week 10-12 and throughout) allows ligaments to soften, which means that the pelvis can widen in preparation for birth. But relaxin doesn’t only affect the pelvis; it affects all of the ligaments throughout your body, and this can lead to other issues- amongst other things, you are more likely to sprain your ankle or develop flat feet.
Additionally, your core muscles are being continuously stretched, whilst simultaneously being asked to effectively support you in standing up, despite the fact that they’re under constant tension! Then, you need to use them intensely to actually help push a living human outside of you…Then, suddenly it’s 3am and you’re throwing more shapes than Michael Jackson with spiders in his pants to help your baby off to sleep. And once your baby is asleep, you’re required to tense everything as you lower them very (VERY) slowly back down so as not to re-unleash the kraken. I mean, wake your precious angel.
So, at a time when you could really do with some extra core muscle strength, you won’t have as much as you used to. It’s the price we pay for miracle-ing a human into existence. For some helpful info on maintaining core and general body strength, and avoiding diastasis recti, click here to read another of our blogs about exercise during pregnancy.
The expansion of the womb itself means that other organs have to move out of the way, which brings about a further reshuffling of the body. All this can be hard to visualise, so I’ve included a diagram below demonstrates some of the adaptations that are likely to take place by the time a woman reaches the third trimester:
How can Osteopathy help?
Osteopathy certainly has a helpful role to play throughout pregnancy. One study shows that sessions with an osteopath can result in an easier labour and delivery, and another demonstrated that osteopathy helps maintain good low back function throughout pregnancy.
As an osteopath, I often see expectant mothers and assess their postural and other physical changes that they experience from week to week. These changes affect different women in different ways, and can result in too much movement in some joints, not enough in others and the overuse of some muscles. Osteopathy can be used to relieve many of these problems, and may even have a positive effect on reflux and gastrointestinal symptoms.
I absolutely LOVE treating pregnant women -these are often my favourite kinds of treatments to carry out, as there is so much going on. It’s really interesting and, well, nice actually to be able to help someone who had to “creep around like a crab” as one of my patients put it, able to walk and move comfortably again.
We see a lot of symphysis pubis dysfunction, pelvic girdle pain and lower back pain from our pregnant visitors to the clinic, but headaches are also another common complaint, as changes to the spinal curvatures lead to changes to the angle of your neck, and more pressure on the muscles. We’ve also helped women with carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches, swollen ankles and much more.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with any uncomfortable symptoms like the ones we’ve mentioned, please do give us a call on 01792 448841 / 07540453280 or visit the website to book directly at www.swanseabodykinetics.co.uk
- National Council for Osteopathic Research Osteopathic management of patients during pregnancy- a snapshot summary report [November 2012]
- Mantle MJ, Greenwood RM, Currey HCF. Backache in pregnancy. Rheumatology and Rehabilitation. 1977;16:95–‐101
- Moore K, Dumas GA, Reid JG. Postural changes associated with pregnancy and their relationship to low back pain. Journal of Clinical Biomechanics. 1990;5:169–‐174