Osteopathy and Pregnancy

Originally posted 8/13/2008. Comments are copied through as well.

Osteopathy and Pregnancy

Inspired by a comment that came along yesterday, I thought I’d put together some thoughts on the osteopathic approach to pregnancy. I’ll write on labor and delivery later.


Osteopathy and Pregnancy

Pregnancy is an exciting time for expectant moms, and also a time of great change, both physically and emotionally. Osteopathic physicians (DOs) are uniquely qualified to intervene and assist in this wonderful time. In fact, a study in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association in 2003 showed that women who received Osteopathic care during their pregnancy had lower rates of cesarean section delivery, preterm delivery, umbilical cord prolapse, and meconium stained amniotic fluid compared with women who did not receive Osteopathic care.

As the baby grows, the uterus expands around it. This causes the center of gravity to shift, and the mother-to-be has to adjust her posture to accommodate. In an ideal situation the body would adapt to the changes it is subjected to, and the pregnancy would be uneventful. Unfortunately, most of us have pre-existing imbalances in the skeletal system, which Osteopaths call Somatic Dysfunction. These imbalances prevent the body from making the appropriate changes, and pain is the result. The job of the Osteopath is to find these Somatic Dysfunctions and, through a series of gentle techniques, remove them, thereby allowing the body to respond and change with the ever expanding uterus.

Unlike other practices, there are no pre-defined “techniques” or movements in Osteopathy. The Osteopath uses his or her hands to examine all parts of the musculoskeletal system looking for Somatic Dysfunction. Evidence of Somatic Dysfunction could be changes in the texture of the skin or underlying muscles, asymmetric positioning of the joints of the spine or appendages, restricted responses to active or passive motion testing, or tenderness in specific anatomical locations. Any one or all of these findings might be present, and their presence is an indication for Osteopathic treatment.

Other symptoms of pregnancy which are amenable to Osteopathic treatment include pelvic, back or neck pain; swelling of the extremities; varicosities (enlarged veins) in the legs or vulvar area; hemorrhoids; and mastitis or milk duct blockage. Often women will continue to have back pain long after their children are born. This is because the lax ligaments which allow the pelvis to expand and the baby to pass through can become strained if the joints are not positioned correctly before they tighten again. Osteopathic treatment post-partum, therefore, can help prevent chronic back pain after pregnancy. Women who have inductions of labor have a more forceful and often more difficult labor and may have more Somatic Dysfunction following birth. Women who have C-sections not only have to contend with the changes related to pregnancy and labor but also major surgery. There are many studies showing the benefits of Osteopathic manipulation following surgery to prevent respiratory infections, constipation, and reduce pain medicine use.

Osteopathic physicians are not only qualified to provide the appropriate manipulative treatment but are also fully licensed doctors, meaning that they can diagnose and treat many of the medical complications which can arise during pregnancy.

To find a DO in your area who practices Osteopathic manipulation, contact the American Academy of Osteopathy or the Cranial Academy.

August 13th, 2008 | Category: OsteopathySubscribe to commentsLeave a commentTrackback URL

4 Responses to “Osteopathy and Pregnancy”

  1. 1

    August 19th, 2008 at 10:17 pmSo many pregnant women I know see a chiropractor. I did myself during my first pregnancy when my baby was breech. What are the differences between how a chiropractor & DO approach and treat pregnant women?

  2. 2

    August 25th, 2008 at 6:44 pmHi Jen:

    I’m putting together a chart which will outline the main differences between a chiropractor and a DO. As far as approaches go, I would tend to say that the chiropractor would look more at the joints and alignment of the spine while the DO would pay more attention to the overall body structure, including the soft tissues, muscles, ligaments, tendons, etc. This means that the treatment from a DO is very different from a chiropractor. My patients who have received both treatments comment on the differences.

    The osteopathic philosophy says that we (meaning physicians) can not “correct” the body. All we can do is try to locate and remove blockages to health, and allow the body to make the changes. This means that although you came to the doctor for your headaches, the treatment may result in improvement of your low back pain first, then your menstrual cycle, and lastly your headaches. This is the body choosing how and when to make changes, and it is wiser than we give it credit for in the medical profession.

    Please check back and look at the pages for the chart outlining differences between various “bodywork” professions.

  3. 3

    The Stillpoint Osteopathy and Pregnancy | Joint Pain Relief:
    June 8th, 2009 at 11:35 am[…] The Stillpoint Osteopathy and Pregnancy Posted by root 21 minutes ago (http://lovelessdo.com) Inspired by a comment that came along yesterday i thought i 39 d put together this is because the lax ligaments which allow the pelvis to expand and the baby to pass through can become strained if the joints are not positioned correctly before they tighte Discuss  |  Bury |  News | The Stillpoint Osteopathy and Pregnancy […]

  4. 4

    Balham Osteopath:
    October 6th, 2009 at 2:24 pmI enjoyed reading your interpretation. A great “in your own words” definition of osteopathy, however you do not explain how treatment takes affect, and what effects you as an osteopath can have on the body. thanks
    Thanks for the input. I have found that it’s hard to explain what an osteopathic treatment is like because it varies so much from practitioner to practitioner. As far as how the treatment takes place, that is also hard to explain because there are so many levels to a treatment, from the direct musculoskeletal changes to the deeper fascial alterations which can affect fluid flow, whole-body tension, and mind-body connections. I really think that the best way to explain an osteopathic treatment is to experience one.


2 thoughts on “Osteopathy and Pregnancy

  1. I am in desperate need to find an osteopathic physician in my area (Acworth, Ga). I tried the link above to find one but it does not seem to work. Google searches do not have successful results. Where else can I search?

    • Hi Sonia: If you’re willing to drive about 30 miles to Suwanee, GA there is an osteopathic college which would be your best bet. Here’s the info:
      Georgia Campus – PCOM
      625 Old Peachtree Road NW
      Suwanee, GA 30024
      Best of luck to you in your search, please let me know if I can help further. BL

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