BEAT THE STRAIN

Pregnancy and birth are a time when a woman’s body undergoes the most change. Rapid weight gain, physical and hormonal changes, stretching ligaments and skin and all the added strains of looking after a newborn mean mom needs specific help to recuperate while she’s spending all her time on the new addition to the family.

By Dr Guy Ashburner OSTEOPATH on behalf of the osteopathic profession.

Pregnancy – Pregnancy Effects – Beat the Strain

Many women find it hard to make the time to look after themselves once they have a young child, but it is so important for a mother to take good care of her health so that she can meet the unrelenting demands of her young child.

In pregnancy, and with natural birth, her body will experience great strain on the  pelvis, as ligaments are stretched, muscles may be strained or torn, the pubic symphysis, sacroiliac and lumbar spine joints can become strained and the nervous system exhausted.

And with a Caesarean section, the body will take long to heal from the surgery.  Added to the strain from pregnancy and birth, there is a new stress placed on the body as caring for your new baby creates muscular tension.

With the loss of good abdominal tone to support the spine, long periods of time spent sitting feeding a baby, repetitively picking a baby up, and putting him or her down in a cot, bathing baby, often while fatigued means post natal women are more susceptible to suffering muscle strains, aching backs and other physical stresses.

As your child grows, unresolved stresses and strains can become chronic and lead to further complications including back and neck pain, shoulder pain, upper back pain, pelvic girdle pain, pain down the leg (sciatica), constipation, headaches, period problems, increased stress and difficulty conceiving another child if the body is out of balance. Some of these strains can have a profound effect on the nervous system, and contribute to postnatal depression.

Osteopaths can help to re-establish normal structural alignment, which promotes faster recovery, and release tensions and strains and help support the body to return to its pre-pregnancy state. so that she is more able to relax and enjoy her new baby.

The optimum time to come for treatment is within 6 weeks after delivery, because as time progresses the pelvic ligaments gradually lose their flexibility and re-establish their stability. However, it is never too late to resolve post-natal issues, even years later.

SIMPLE TIPS TO STAY STRONG

In your own time

To promote swifter post natal recovery, stay in bed for the first week after giving birth. In the second week try and stay in the living room. This will reduce the feeling of being under pressure to get ‘back to normal’.

Get caught napping

Fatigue is a big issue – it has a massive impact on our state of mind, happiness and our coping strategies. When fatigued, there is an increased vulnerability to injury, and strain and demand the nervous system. With a young baby, it can be very easy to seize the time when they are asleep to catch up on everything. But be aware of how fatigued you are. Take the chance to sleep – a power nap is extremely effective, even if it’s just for 15 minutes. Remember too that if your baby is not sleeping as it should, it may because of the effects of birth traumas. Your osteopath can help relieve any birth strain which can relax baby and improve sleep patterns.

Food for thought

Choose a chair which allows space for your bottom to move right back. This should enable sufficient support your lower back. Avoid sitting with your legs crossed, as this twists your lower back, and puts strain through your pelvic joints. Keep both feet on the ground as this helps maintain good posture in your lumbar spine. Holding baby for long periods whilst feeding can put strain on your arms, neck and shoulders. Put one or two cushions or pillows under your baby to take some of the weight off your arms and shoulders.

Pick up the basics

Don’t bend from the waist when you lift your little one because it puts your lower back under mechanical strain. The best way to lift baby is to maintain a concave curve in your lumbar spine, and squat with your back straight, keep your baby close to you, and use your leg muscles to rise. This way your strong buttock and hip muscles will take most of the load and you are less likely to strain your lower back. When your baby is crying, it is only natural to want to pick them up and comfort them immediately, but it only takes a split second to remember to adopt this helpful lifting technique. Don’t try to hold the baby and wrestle the side of a cot down at the same time. Instead, drop the cot side before you pick up your child. Don’t bend over into the car when putting your child in the car seat. Rather sit sideways on the seat with your child on your lap, then rotate to face the front and put him/her in the seat.

Bathtime basics

Bathing baby in a bath always puts a strain on the lower and mid-back. Maintain the curve in your lumbar spine, but also try placing a large, firm cushion on the edge of the bath and resting your weight below your ribs to offer you support whilst you kneel down to bath baby.

Carrying Baby

Carrying babies around for extended periods of time can place strain on your back . Trying to alternate which arm you carry your baby in is helpful, as this helps reduce fatigue and strain of your back.
Keeping fit

Ideally, being fit and strong before your baby is born is the best way to prepare for the physical demands of caring for a young baby. But once that baby has arrived, finding ways to maintain fitness and flexibility become increasingly important as your baby steadily becomes bigger and heavier.
Developing a daily habit of doing a little exercise is a must if you want to feel good and maintain good mobility in your body. Regular brisk walks are great exercise, but be careful to ease back into an exercise routine to avoid injury.

Practice posture

Be aware of your posture when you take your baby for a walk in the pram. When the handlebars of your pram are correctly adjusted, you will naturally walk more upright

Keep work surfaces at a comfortable height. Put something under the legs of the changing table, for instance, to raise it if you’re tall. Put one foot on a box or low shelf when you stand and change nappies. This causes your pelvis to tilt in a way that decreases pelvic fatigue.

When loading a pram or groceries in the car boot, rest one foot on the bumper and keep the load close to your body.

Source: The Baby Club