The six week period following the birth of your baby is known as the post-partum stage. Many changes happen to the mother during this period.
Changes during pregnancy
During pregnancy, your body undergoes tremendous change to accommodate the growing fetus. Apart from the obvious physical changes like expansion of the abdominal region, hormonal releases can affect the function of your body’s internal systems. As your pregnancy progresses, the extra weight creates a shift in your body’s centre of gravity. Your supporting ligaments also soften. These factors can add stress to your body, causing problems like back pain, sciatica, insomnia, shortness of breath, swelling, high blood pressure and fatigue. Your osteopath can offer advice about managing these symptoms and demonstrate self-help techniques which you and your partner can use.
Birthing and beyond
In birth, the descent of the baby through the pelvis is influenced by a range of factors. If the mother’s pelvis is twisted or stiff, it can interfere with the baby’s passage through the birth canal. Osteopathic care may restore and maintain normal pelvic alignment and mobility, helping to reduce musculoskeletal stresses during birth. After the birth, your osteopath may advise you to make return visits to prevent or manage problems like pelvic and low back strain, pelvic floor weakness, mastitis, incontinence, interrupted sleep and fatigue. An osteopath can make referrals to other health professionals if needed. This will help you meet your baby’s needs, whilst caring for your own.
The placenta, producing the high levels of hormones that circulate through your body during pregnancy, is expelled from your womb following birth. The sudden cessation of the hormonal surge is a powerful physiological experience and ‘baby blues’ may occur, usually experienced in the first week following birth. Accepting all the help that is offered can ease the strain, and try to make time for yourself as well as the baby.
Changes to your pelvis
The pelvis undergoes huge changes both during pregnancy and delivery. Usually your body corrects itself, but stretched abdominal muscles, a sore perineum, tears, the pressure on the pelvic floor from prolonged pushing and the changes to bladder and uterus in the weeks following birth can all hinder this process, leading to pain and a feeling of instability. Births by Caesarean Section, the use of ventouse or forceps, episiotomy and epidural or spinal block can all have an effect on the comfort of the mother. Gentle activity and the use of warmth and massage can help low back ache, but if you notice ongoing pain or aches into your back, hips, knees or feet or if you would like a check up then see your osteopath for assessment.
Breast-feeding is great for your baby and for you – the hormones released during breast feeding help your body to return to its pre-pregnancy state – but can be hard work. Poor positioning can lead to sore nipples and aching shoulders, neck or upper back. Sit in a supportive chair with your back resting on pillows if necessary and use pillows to support your baby. Sometimes feeding whilst lying down can be a comfortable option. Stretch after feeding, gently extending your arms, moving your neck and wriggling your upper back. If you are bottle feeding, try to swap hands for each feed. Changing positions can help relieve postural tension and prevent the build up of pain. Feeding with either hand alternately also helps to keep the baby’s neck fully mobile to each side.