In osteopathy, it is commonly said that birth is the first trauma in life. In regards to the physical and the psychological stress endured by the body throughout the birth process, one can appreciate the importance of osteopathic treatment for newborns. The osteopathic approach for treating babies and infants recognizes the exceptional strain imposed not only on the baby’s cranium but on the entire body during birth. The efficacy of cranial osteopathy for newborns and children has long been appreciated in the midwifery world and is now commonly encouraged by many midwifes

Osteopathy for babies and children

The human skull is made up 29 different bones which assemble via relatively mobile sutures to form the cranium, face and jaw. The full ossification of these bones happens progressively throughout the first decade of life. At birth all bones are still only composed of cartilaginous tissue with scattered ossification points. During the passage through the pelvic canal, the cranium undergoes tremendous compressive forces; which often results in compressed and restricted sutures between the cranial bones

In the first phase, the emphasis is to ensure good structural and visceral mobility of the lower abdomen and pelvic bowl to better allow the embryo to settle in the lining of the uterus and begin its development. Miscarriages are the body inability to keep and nurture the embryo, and are most common in the first trimester of pregnancy (generally 60%). They can occur from many causes, with generally half miscarriages being caused by chromosomal abnormality. Osteopathic treatment cannot prevent the event of genetic abnormality of the embryo; however adequate osteopathic treatment and preparation may improve and possibly fully restore the normal mobility and function of the reproductive system and the pelvic bowl if affected. It will ensure optimum blood flow and drainage to and from the area, and relieve the body from other chronic musculoskeletal and visceral patterns.

In the event of ventouse or forceps delivery; the cranium will suffer even greater trauma. With forceps delivery, the device will often compress, bruise and restrict the cranial and facial bones. Ventouse delivery on the other hand will not create any compression lesions as it is a suction device. In the majority of cases, it will result in swelling and bruising of the superficial cranial tissues. Although the swelling usually heals within a few days, the pulling forces generated by the ventouse will often cause tensions and restrictions in the fascia of the head and neck.

In the unfortunate event that natural delivery fails and foetal distress occurs, emergency caesarian delivery is necessary. Osteopathic treatment will then help to relieve the stress and shock locked in the newborns body. Similarly an elective caesarian delivery will tend to be very traumatic for the foetus; although cranial tensions resulting from pelvic delivery are avoided; the body still suffers immense shock resulting from the unawareness of the baby of the birthing process, this is often characterized by tensions around the diaphragm and solar plexus. With normal deliveries, when “ready” the foetus will engage in the pelvic, and throughout the delivery will have some awareness of the birth process. On the other hand, with elective c-sections, the foetus usually isn’t ready; without any warning, it is taken out of the mother’s protecting womb into the cold, having to breathe and feed on its own. The shock resulting from the sudden and unprepared change of environment will lock into the body tissues, around the diaphragm in particular. C-section babies will often be unsettled especially when lying on their back and present colic symptoms due to diaphragm tension.

During the first few weeks of life, the baby will settle in his/ her body and the body’s self-healing mechanisms will unwind the majority of the strains and restrictions endured by different tissues during the birth process. Most symptoms will start after that period and are the result of the body’s inability to release deeper restrictions. This period is the ideal time for osteopathic treatment, as it will complete and aid the self-healing forces at work and will release tensions before they reach any state of chronicity.

In the later stages of childhood, untreated cranial tensions can also affect the child’s wellbeing, such as which recurrent ear infection. Similarly a chronic dysfunction of the diaphragm may alter the body’s immune system as well as the local drainage of the lungs and thoracic cage, giving rise to recurring chest and respiratory tract infections.

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