How osteopathy treats issues during pregnancy and prepares you for a healthy birth

A healthy pregnancy lays the foundation for a healthy birth and a healthy baby. In the second of an ongoing 10-part series, we explore how osteopathy treatments take a holistic approach and delivery therapies that relieve common issues.

Anouk Sanchez works with a patient. Photo: Agathe Bernard

This article is presented by William Jarrige and Anouk Sanchez, manual practitioners and thesis candidates for the osteopathy practitioner program at the Canadian School of Osteopathy—Manual Practice—Vancouver.

Through a 10-part series, we will talk about some of the applications of osteopathy. And we’ll tell you right away, it’s very broad. Osteopathy has applications for all kinds of people, from pregnant women, professional athletes, babies, to the elderly. The osteopath practitioner takes care of the whole family.

But let’s start from the beginning of the life cycle. Today we’ll explain why osteopathy is so popular with pregnant women in Europe and Eastern Canada. Remember above all that it is essential to engage with a midwife or doctor, because a successful pregnancy often means an easier delivery for the mother, and also for the baby.

Hands on at the Revelstoke Osteopathy Clinic. Photo: Agathe Bernard
Hands on at the Revelstoke Osteopathy Clinic. Photo: Agathe Bernard

Pregnancy is a time of many changes for the mother, as you know. Physiologically, osteopathy during pregnancy is best explained using the concept of cavities. This is not unique to osteopathy, but cavities can explain many functionality problems which pregnant women can suffer during pregnancy. These problems include migraine headaches, urinary incontinence, and pain in the coccyx, lower back, and hips.

This diagram explores the concept of cavities.
This diagram explores the concept of cavities.

Osteopathy divides the trunk into five cavities defined by anatomical elements (see diagram). The practitioner depends on the myofascial system and fluid from the body. If there is a tension in the diaphragm, the pressure on the cavities connected with the diaphragm will increase. Other areas will have to adapt to this change in pressure by increasing their pressure as well.

The pregnant woman is particularly sensitive to these pressure changes as her pelvic cavity is challenged by the fetus. Thus, a pre-existing ‘hiatus’ hernia that has left scar tissue at the entrance of the stomach can become problematic. In effect, this restriction at the entrance of the stomach will create a tension at the diaphragm.

The pressure in the thoracic and visceral spheres become more important even before pregnancy. They will be less able to adapt to changes in pressure in the pelvic cavity.

During pregnancy, a series of issues can arise. Gastric reflux may occur due to the pressure on the stomach in the visceral cavity. Urinary leakage is caused by pressure on the bladder. Headaches arise from pressure in the cranial cavity. Some experience heavy legs due to compressed blood vessels in the pelvic cavity.

Anouk Sanchez of the Revelstoke Osteopathy Clinic treats a patient. Photo: Agathe Bernard
Anouk Sanchez of the Revelstoke Osteopathy Clinic treats a patient. Photo: Agathe Bernard

So, we understand why sciatica is not just caused by tension in the back but can be caused by congestion of fluid in the pelvic cavity. The osteopath practitioner will therefore work to regulate the pressure between the different cavities, finding which restriction most limits the body during pregnancy. We’ll then work to adapt to the change.

We call these techniques “soft” methods. Myo-fascial techniques will enable us to act on organs, scarring and even the fetus if it is not in a good position. Muscle energy techniques will enable us to act on the vertebrae and joints.

Ideally, it is best to consult an osteopath practitioner before conception, with a follow up made at ​​the third month to help with hormonal changes, at the sixth one for biomechanical problems due to weight gain and again in the ninth month. This latter treatment just before delivery can sometimes be very useful.

During childbirth, the mother’s body is placed under strain, so it’s better to ensure that all the structures involved work in harmony.

In the next article, we will explain how the osteopathy can help a young mother and her baby.

For more information, please feel free to email us at The last article in the series will be devoted to your questions!