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Motherhood: the health challenges every women will face (and what can be done about them!)

The beauty and challenge in treating women is that we are constantly in flux. From the significant changes we experience during puberty to the miraculous transformations of pregnancy and then on to the challenges of the perimenopause after which we are ready for some respite and peace from all the to-ing and fro-ing of the tidal years before.

On average a women will experience about 450 cycles in her lifetime. And twice during each cycle, once in the middle and then again around her period her immune response is lowered, her ligaments become laxer and her risk of infection and injury is therefore increased.

Add that on top of busy lives, putting others’ needs before yours and not getting the rest and attention you should give yourself it is not surprising that by age 38 a lot of women are starting to struggle with their health.

But let’s focus on the positives! We are also incredibly resilient and resourceful and luckily we are better than men at seeking out help for what ails us, which ultimately results in us out-living them.

Pregnancy – a very special time indeed

Becoming pregnant, being it, recovering from it – it can be such a journey. Whatever your own experience of it was, I am sure it was one: intense.

That is why I believe every woman should be followed and supported during this time by a qualified practitioner who can relieve some of that ‘tension’.

We gain on average between 12-15kg during pregnancy, our spinal curves change, our hips and ribcage widen, our poor feet become flatter, our breasts and abdomen inflate and all of this happens over a very short period of time.

Especially pre-existing niggling issues, like back and neck pain can become exacerbated at this time.

It is advisable to avoid taking pharmaceuticals during pregnancy.

Seeking osteopathic treatment is great option as not only the pain is treated naturally, but your osteopath can also assess for physical issues that could lie ahead of you as progress through pregnancy to giving birth.

I have seen enormous benefits during all stages of this process. If you are planning to get pregnant do get a check-up. Often we don’t know that our pelvis and hips are misaligned and even though we don’t have significant menstrual issues the shape of the container (the pelvis) affects the shape and therefore the function of the content (the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries..) I am convinced that conception is easier when the pelvis is in better alignment.

Once you are settled in your pregnancy, the common problems are pain in the back, the pelvis, including the part where it joins in the front: the pubic symphysis, the ribs, shortness of breath as well as pain and tingling in the hands from water retention. All of these respond very well to osteopathic treatment.

What happens after giving birth?

Depending on if you had a natural delivery or a caesarean section you may have different problems. There are many possible issues that can present themselves after birth, so I will just give a couple of examples.

I recently visited a good friend of mine in Germany. After the birth (natural) of her second daughter she could hardly walk for a month, she had significant pain in her pelvis and low back. In the end her orthopaedic surgeon did a couple of manipulations and she started to feel better. She never went to be reassessed though.

Fast forward 2 fairly stressful years and she develops shooting pains into her arms. She can’t even lift them anymore. The MRI shows she has a prolapsed disc in her lower neck. She receives now treatment but it focuses on the neck only.

One year on from then her arm pain has subsided, but she still suffers from neck pain that needs regular management.

Apart from the tension over her shoulders I found that her pelvis was completely twisted and her low back still blocked. Her neck being somewhat hypermobile got overworked and the disc problem developed as a result of the poor function of the low back and pelvis. If she had received more appropriate treatment earlier, her neck would most likely have been fine.

A patient presented to me with pain over her caesarean scar that was brought on by doing exercise. This was easily relieved by some manipulation of the scar tissue. Tensions on caesarean scars can have an effect on the surrounding tissues and organs. If yours had any healing issues or significant hardness, or nodules get it looked at and avoid future problems from it.

Another patient who had come in for another problem had resolved herself to the fact that after she gave birth her left hip had lost some its range of movement.

It is common for women to experience such issues when they give birth naturally and luckily it is normally straightforward to fix this again.

Even if you had an uncomplicated pregnancy, labour and birth it is well worth coming for treatment in the months following birth. Once the perineum is healed there are wonderful techniques that we can use to help all the strained and weighed down tissues to help them up into a more lifted position again.

Taking care of babies

Who thought that the weight of a tiny baby can inflame your wrist and looking down at their gorgeous little faces when you feed them will give you neck and shoulder spasms? Not to mention the cribs that you have to lean into to lift them in and out. The ‘fun’ with those beds really starts when baby is old enough to pull himself up and you have to move the mattress to lower level. That can become really challenging for the low back!

Some handy tips here are to keep your wrist in its natural alignment when you hold and carry them, don’t veer off to the left or right. Resist the temptation of looking down for the full feed and vary with feeding lying down. Bend from your hips, not your back when you put baby to sleep and of course come and get some help if all fails.

Ps: I also treat unsettled babies, which is also a great tension reliever for mums!

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