Osteopathy during pregnancy

What is Osteopathy?
Osteopathy is concerned with restoring and maintaining balance in the neural, muscular and skeletal systems of the body. An American doctor called Andrew Taylor Still, who became disenchanted with contemporary medical and surgical knowledge and practice, first conceived it in the 19th century. After many years experimenting, he developed a new theory of drugless medicine, based on the unity and proper alignment of the body. He envisaged osteopathy as a complete system of medicine, using only manipulative and adjustive techniques to restore the self-healing power of the body.

How does it work?
Misuse or trauma can upset the fine balance between the body’s different systems – muscles, joints, ligaments and nerves. Everyday life presents ‘normal’ risks – of injury, overuse and physical or mental stress. In pregnancy the balance is also threatened by alterations in weight and weight bearing, hormonal changes and fluctuations in fluid balance. At no other time in a woman’s life does her body go through so many changes at such a fast rate. The osteopath’s aim is to restore and preserve the balance.

There is no shortcut to osteopathic diagnosis and treatment – training is a 4-year full-time course. But many pregnant women could benefit from referral, not just for specific symptoms but as part of a ‘well woman’ approach. Thousands of will testify to having obtained lasting relief from the unnecessary aches and discomforts of pregnancy following osteopathic treatment.

Osteopaths treat the whole person, not conditions or symptoms. At a first appointment the osteopath will take a full case history, including obstetric details. The patient will be asked to undress to her underwear, and the osteopath makes a full and detailed observation of posture, weight distribution, mobility etc. In this way a diagnosis and treatment plan can be established. It is important that the patient is happy with what the practitioner is doing, and why. If at all worried, ask!

Treatment is usually weekly or twice weekly until symptoms improve, then every two weeks until delivery. A final appointment six weeks after delivery is also advised. Most treatment is given with the woman lying on her side, her abdomen supported by a small cushion. Her comfort is of paramount importance.

1st trimester:

  • Muscle shortening and fatigue (due to increase in breast size)
  • Nausea
  • Low backache – pains in the lumbar spine, coccyx, pelvis (symphysis pubis and the sacroiliac joints)

2nd trimester:

  • ‘Pregnant posture’
  • Referred hip or groin pain

3rd trimester:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Problems with swallowing and reflux
  • Restricted mobility
  • Sciatica
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Neuralgia parasthetica
  • Symphys pubis pain
  • Coccydynia
  • Oedematous ankles
  • Indigestion and heartburn
  • Round ligament pain


  • Pain relief
  • Prevention of low backache due to poor delivery position


  • Problems with the coccyx and pelvis due to
  • The trauma of delivery
  • Back problems due to poor feeding position

There are few side effects other than maybe feeling tired after treatment and a possible increase in symptoms for 24 hours. Contra-indications would include any history of or threatened miscarriage, active pathology, inflammatory conditions or joint immobility. Osteopathy is a safe method of treatment at all stages of pregnancy. There are no recorded or anecdotal cases of miscarriage brought on by osteopathic treatment.

Cranial Osteopathy
Cranial Osteopathy was developed at the beginning of the century by William Sutherland, an American osteopath, who discovered that there are small rhythmical, involuntary movements within the cranium and spine which can be felt through the bones of the skull (many regard it as the fundamental movement of life). This approach to diagnosis and treatment has evolved into cranio-sacral therapy. A trained practitioner recognises the ‘normal’ rhythm and gently alters that of a patient towards that normal. The gentle nature of this treatment makes it particularly effective for babies and children. It can be used to reduce distress and trauma in babies delivered by forceps or after a protracted and difficult delivery (whose prolonged crying may be misdiagnosed as colic), and can be used to treat infants who have become hyperactive.

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