Pregnancy is a special time in a women’s life that often brings unwanted aches and pains. Osteopaths often see pregnant women suffering from back pain, reflux, headaches, pelvic pain, difficulties sleeping, hip pain, leg cramps, carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica and abdominal pain. These are all very common and normal. The aches and pains during pregnancy often occur due to the added weight of the growing foetus, the change in your centre of gravity, 40% increase in blood volume and hormonal changes. Relaxin is a hormone with increased production during pregnancy that relaxes your muscles and ligaments. This allows for the expansion of the pelvis, which aids in the delivery process. Unfortunately the relaxation of muscles and ligaments creates unstable or loose joints, which makes them more prone to injury and strains.


Here are some simple ways you can manage your aches and pains.



Light exercise during pregnancy can help create muscle tone needed for strength during delivery and also increase’s circulation around the body. It elevates your mood and energises you. A simple walk is all that is needed. It does not need to be long or strenuous to achieve the desired result. Swimming can also be an effective form of exercise. Floating in a pool can take the strain off the lower back and provide relief. Before doing strenuous exercise, consult a professional for guidance.

A warm bath

A nice way to relax and relieve pain is a bath. Just ensure the bath is not too hot.



These are best guided by your health professional. An osteopath can prescribe specific stretches to target areas of pain brought on by pregnancy to alleviate pain and aid in your wellbeing. I advise my pregnant mothers on the most suitable stretches tailored for their needs. Note: stretches should always feel like a gentle pull compared to pain.


So important but is often last on our to-do list, especially if it's the birth of your second child. An active toddler running around makes it challenging to take breaks and rest. I often tell my clients to take breaks, this might be when their first child is doing activities on their own; reading, puzzles, at the playground. Not often an easy task but instead of doing the dishes or cleaning the house, take 10 minutes out of the day for yourself. Rest is so important and allows you to recover. During pregnancy you might often get told ‘sleep when the baby is sleeping’, as annoying as that saying may become, it is true. Mothers often put everyone else first.


Sleep is also very important for rest and recovery. This includes having a calming night routine, avoiding stimulants such as caffeine, not using back-lit devices before bed, avoiding day naps, exercise, not eating a large meal before bed and identifying your tired signs. A simple tip I give my pregnant clients is to use a pillow or rolled up towel between their knees. This helps take the pressure off the pelvis and lower back.


Eat well

Your body needs fuel for not only yourself but the growing baby inside of you. Having adequate nutrition helps with your energy levels and to support growing a healthy baby. Reflux during pregnancy is a common complaint to Osteopaths. Tips for reflux include sleeping with your head and chest elevated to minimise the amount of stomach acid in the throat causing the reflux. Certain foods can aggravate reflux and should be avoided. These include chocolate, spicy food, tomatoes, coffee and carbonated drinks. Speak to your midwife or health professional if you are suffering from reflux.


Good posture and footwear

During the course of pregnancy, with an expanding belly, your centre of gravity shifts forwards. To avoid straining your back muscles and to relieve back pain, maintain a good posture. An osteopath can advise you on ways to improve your posture by keeping your shoulders relaxed, standing up tall, having a slight bend in your knees and engaging your abdominal muscles. Also wearing supportive footwear, you can help relieve pregnancy aches and pains. High heels and casual shoes can have minimal arch support which has a knock on effect, placing strain on the knees, hips, back, all the way up to your neck. Footwear is of particular importance if your day is mostly spent on your feet.


Osteopathic treatment

Osteopathy is a hands-on, natural form of pain relief, using gentle techniques including soft tissue massage, joint mobilisation and tailored advice to the client. Osteopathic treatment can help pregnant mothers through the aches and pains that come with pregnancy. Treatment is aimed at increasing flexibility, reducing muscle strains, improving range of motion, circulation and lymphatic drainage. Relieving all the tight muscles and increasing the mobility of the joints can be of significant benefit both to the baby and mum. Having optimal function of the pelvis helps the expansion of the pelvis during labour and delivery.


Each consultation is holistic, and tailored to the client’s individual needs. Osteopathic treatment can begin at any stage of pregnancy and can be used as a form of preventative care, to aid the body through pregnancy rather than only seeking treatment when pain begins. Osteopaths also closely work in with midwives, ensuring the best possible care for mums and their babies.


Sarah Boughtwood is an osteopath in Milford, Auckland.