Childbirth is a natural process, challenging certainly, but essentially instinctive as both the baby's and mother's body are guided through many sequential changes and processes triggered mostly by hormones in their mutually interacting bodies. Anyone that has studied this process, and I'm sure many of you have, can only find the progression from conception through pregnancy and finally to childbirth amazing and awe-inspiring.
So why would anyone think that CranioSacral Therapy (CST) can add anything useful, or worthwhile to this well rehearsed, natural event?
First, let me briefly outline the basics of CST. CranioSacral Therapy treatments release restrictions in connective tissues, i.e. muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia, by the use of very gentle but thoughtful pressures. By thoughtful I mean in directions that are indicated by the "feel" of those tissues themselves – it is called palpation. Put another way, a CST treatment neutralises the intrinsic strains within stressed tissues so that the body is able to heal and recover itself more easily. By the way, fascia is a kind of elastic covering that surrounds all of our organs muscles and bones – in fact it covers each and every component of our body. Fascia comes in different "strengths" depending on its location; it is a very important constituent part of our body – it really does, literally, hold us together.
So, just for a moment, let's now think separately about the two stars of the show - mother and baby.
Mothers have to go through enormous body changes in order to accommodate an ever-growing passenger for the duration of the pregnancy. Substantial changes in weight distribution, perhaps aggravations of previous surgery or old injuries, can make this process uncomfortable as the connective tissues are pushed near their limits of flexibility and accommodation. CST treatments will alleviate these pressures both during pregnancy and after the birth. A treatment (or two) before the birth will help the birth itself to be more comfortable by relaxing the mother's connective tissues. A treatment (again, or two) for the mother some time after the birth will ease the aches in the back, hips and sacroiliacs (the joints between the hips and lower back) as well as easing any discomfort in the abdomen as organs and muscles recover their tone and elasticity.
The Baby has a transformation and a tough journey to go through. Foetal reflexes need to be replaced by baby reflexes and it would seem that variations from the ideal, self propelled, birth may inhibit these reflex transformations. And as for the journey itself, well, baby must squeeze and turn as it passes out of the womb through the dilated cervix and then squeeze and turn some more as it travels down the birth canal and finally out into the harsh cold, brightly lit world.
During this journey the baby receives a really thorough massage; all the muscles get a meticulous workout, all the joints are articulated or exercised and the cranium, or brain box, gets squeezed and shaped. During this cranial squeezing and shaping, the partly formed bony plates of the baby's cranium are necessarily overlapped in order to make the head narrower. This is the nature of a natural birth.
Things are not always ideal. Sometimes it is necessary to give the natural process a helping hand. It is fashionable to be disparaging about the use of forceps and the ventouse, but in some circumstances their use may be an absolute necessity. The pressure these delivery aids can sometimes impose on the soft boned infant head however, is not ideal. Slight distortions of the head can result and strains may be imposed on the neck and shoulders as the baby is birthed.
Caesarean births are physically rougher procedures than a lot of people imagine. It is also a very sudden birth for the baby which must be quite shocking and of course if a normal delivery had been previously attempted, but not successful, then both mother and baby will already be quite tired.
So we could look upon the birth canal journey as the final, exciting, trial for the baby as it pushes itself into the world; it's cranium is moulded, primitive reflexes are transformed into more sophisticated reflexes needed for early life and it's muscles and joints are energised and exercised.
If the circumstances surrounding the birth have not turned out to be ideal, then strains may have been introduced. Temporal bones (around and behind the ears), the top of the head, the base of the skull, the top of the neck, the hip joints, the spine, the chest and tummy may have been challenged and left holding stresses and strains. These stresses can have unexpected consequences, for instance, a stress held around the base of the head can induce colic by inhibiting some of the functions of the vagus nerve which, in it's turn, affects the digestive processes.
You probably won't be surprised to hear me suggest that CranioSacral Therapy can be helpful in quickly dissipating stresses and strains that may have been imposed during the baby's birth. Usually just one or two treatments will be enough to clear them. The treatment is very gentle and composes of very light, warm pressures that softly tease out any stresses and strains. The baby can be treated on a couch or whilst being held in mother's arms – whatever works out best on the day.
I would be the first to admit, that in all probability, nature would eventually take care of most of these restrictions without any intervention from a CranioSacral Therapist. However, a CranioSacral therapy treatment will very quickly result in a much more comfortable baby which seems to me to be a very nice objective.
This has been quite a brief article, but if you are interested in further information on CranioSacral Therapy and how it can help such things as baby colic, sleeplessness, glue ear and many other conditions, try an Internet search on "craniosacral+babies".
By Eric Demmon
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Biography: Eric is a certificated Upledger CranioSacral Therapist and practices CranioSacral Therapy in the East Anglia area. Treatments are available in Norwich, Mulbarton and Swaffham.
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