It's no secret to family, friends and my existing clients that I had a baby boy back in July 2015. My last blog post was OVER a YEAR ago!
Whew, parenting is exhaustive work! I will say that I had a pretty easy pregnancy, very little nasuea, no back pain or weird food cravings. I had him naturally and he's a healthy baby, so we're very lucky people. The only problem we had was my insomnia during the pregnancy and his lust for life that now doesn't allow him to settle down very easily. When we took a lactation class through the birth center, the nurse told us that the baby's sleep and wake patterns and activity level in the womb typically carry on into their first months. My husband and I looked at each other and said "Oh no!" (As I am typing this, he woke up after only a 15 minute nap so it's, no wonder I get very little done these days.) We might submit him for a metabolic study to see if he's able to convert milk to jet fuel in his digestive tract.
Learning about pregnancy and the changes it makes to a woman's body and experiencing it first hand are two totally different processes. I am grateful that I am a Certified Rolfer surrounded by a community of well educated healers so that I could take care of myself and that they were there to back me up in my pregnancy.
Every week in my practice, I see women's bodies who have changed from carrying, birthing and nursing their children. These morphological changes to her structure can persist for DECADES after her last child has grown up. What am I talking about?
Maladaptations of her pelvis and rib cage based on where the baby formed in her body.
If a baby is carried high or a woman has a short torso, it can cause her ribs to flare out like a bell, which stresses her respiratory diaphragm and the fluid dynamics of her abdominal cavity. If the baby primarily resides in one side of her pelvis, she can experience issues with sciatica, leg weakness, fluid retention and ligament laxity in her pubic symphysis and sacroiliac joint (SI). The additional weight of carrying the baby causes her center of gravity to shift forward, which in most women causes her lumbar curve to exaggerate and her pelvis to go into anterior tilt meaning that the front of it dips like tipping a bowl. This can tax the musculature in her legs and back because of the lengthening and shortening that has to take place in a short amount of time.
As the baby gets bigger, it causes out-flare of the top of the pelvic bones, which causes the sit bones to narrow in at the base of the pelvis. This can potentially cause her to have a longer labor, or have difficulty pushing the baby through the birth canal, or have greater tearing because the tissue of the pelvic floor narrows and loses elasticity. I'm always telling my pregnant clients to look into something called a Squatty Potty and take a variety of suitable prenatal yoga and Barre classes to keep their lower body musculature supple.
Ah, and let's not forget our friend, our hormones! Relaxin causes all sorts of havoc in the body, lax ligaments in the hips, knees and feet. This is why pregnant women are cautioned about over-exercising. Hips bigger after pregnancy? Relaxin and outflare! Feet bigger after pregnancy? Relaxin and the rapid weight shift!
We've all seen those pretty necklaces showing a mother embracing her baby? Well, nursing and holding a baby in your arms while you look down at him or her adoringly can begin to increase the curve in your sternum, upper back and neck similar to how we're (literally) bent out of shape over the new phenomenon text-neck. ...Grandma's hunchback? Yep ladies, we're all headed down that road ourselves if we allow the muscular and skeletal imbalance to go unchecked.
Pelvic imbalances laterally and joint pain
How many women do you see carrying a toddler balanced on one hip? That can create all sorts of tissue shortening and tightening in one leg and can increase the pressure in the joints of the knee, hip, ankle and vertebrae.
This is one I can't speak to personally having experienced, but I've worked with women who have scar tissue from surgical gynecological procedures such as cesarean and tubal ligation. They might have persistent constipation or just a feeling of tightness and immobility in their lower belly.
What can Rolfing do?
I can help to balance the flared out ribs and pelvic bones during the last few months of pregnancy and anytime after your doctor gives you clean bill of health at your postpartum checkup. We can address your pelvic floor, back and leg muscles (because they're all connected!) When women have diastasis recti (a vertical split in the midline abdominal muscles) or urinary incontinence issues postpartum, we can make sure that you don't have too much or too little tone in any of the related structures. Simply tightening your core or doing Kegels won't help the issue in most cases. If anything, it can make those problems worse.
About 2 weeks before your due date, we can do a delivery prep session where we help to open up the hips and align the sit bones so that they can adapt and flex as the baby moves down the birth canal. This appointment can make a world of difference for some women! Many say they feel lighter in their bodies and they can move around much better in their last weeks of pregnancy. Nobody wants to be that sterotypical pregnant woman who can't get up off the couch in her last few days of pregnancy. It's so empowering to be able to go for a walk and have people tell you that you look great for being so pregnant!
If you have any questions about pregnancy or postpartum issues, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or just straight make an appointment. As I always tell people, it can be wise to consult your doctor as well, but know that they might not be well versed in structural integration or functional anatomy.