Orthopedic Health and Pregnancy: What Expecting Mothers Should Know

Orthopedic Health and Pregnancy: What Expecting Mothers Should Know

While pregnancy does bring about orthopaedic challenges, with the right guidance and care, expecting mothers can navigate this phase with relative ease.

FPJ News ServiceUpdated: Sunday, November 26, 2023, 11:40 AM IST
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Orthopedic Health and Pregnancy: What Expecting Mothers Should Know | Representative Image

How to maintained joint health, back pain, and preparing for childbirth. 

Orthopedic Changes During Pregnancy

1. Relaxin Hormonal Changes: One of the first things I point out is the role of the hormone relaxin. It's released during pregnancy to prepare the pelvis for childbirth. While beneficial, it also increases the elasticity of ligaments, potentially leading to joint instability. This can manifest as pelvic pain or a feeling of 'looseness' in the joints.

2. Spinal Curvature and Postural Changes: As the fetus grows, there's a forward shift in a woman's center of gravity. This often results in increased lumbar curvature. Many of my patients have come to me reporting lower back pain due to these postural changes.

3. Weight Gain: The added weight from the fetus, placenta, and amniotic fluid can strain the musculoskeletal system, particularly the spine and pelvic floor. This not only adds pressure to the joints but can also exacerbate issues like flat feet.

4. Calcium Metabolism: A fascinating aspect I often talk about is how during pregnancy, intestinal calcium absorption doubles. This might lead to a transient decrease in bone mineral density, especially when the fetal skeleton is rapidly mineralizing.

5. Foot Changes: Many expecting mothers experience alterations in foot size and shape, often due to the release of relaxin and the added weight. This can lead to an increase in foot width, length, or both. Arch height can also decrease, potentially leading to foot pain or over-pronation.

Guidance on Maintaining Joint Health and Managing Back Pain

1. Exercise: I always stress the importance of prenatal exercises. These can significantly strengthen muscles, and I often recommend activities like swimming, walking, and prenatal yoga. However, it's crucial to consult with a physician before starting any regimen.

2. Proper Footwear: I advise my patients to wear shoes with adequate arch support. This simple change can greatly help in reducing foot pain and joint strain.

3. Posture: Good posture can't be emphasized enough, especially during pregnancy. I often recommend pregnancy pillows and support belts to help maintain posture and alleviate discomfort.

4. Physical Therapy: Over the years, I've collaborated with physical therapists who specialize in prenatal care. They've been instrumental in guiding my patients with specific exercises and stretches.

5. Diet and Supplements: I frequently advise a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D. I emphasize that vitamin D is crucial for calcium absorption and fetal bone development.

6. Warm and Cold Compresses: Depending on the nature and location of the pain, alternating warm and cold compresses can provide relief from muscle and joint discomfort. Warmth helps to relax tense muscles, while cold can reduce inflammation.

7. Limit Prolonged Standing: If a mother's job or daily routine requires prolonged standing, I recommend taking regular breaks. Changing positions and elevating the feet when possible can reduce the strain on the back and legs.

8. Weight Management: While weight gain is expected during pregnancy, maintaining it within the recommended range can alleviate undue stress on joints and the spine.

9. Supportive Seating: Using chairs with good lumbar support or adding cushions can prevent back pain, especially if one's routine involves prolonged sitting.

10. Avoid High Heels: While this ties into footwear, it's worth noting separately. High heels can exacerbate back pain and increase the risk of trips and falls. Flat shoes or those with a slight heel are more advisable.

Preparing for Childbirth

Here’s how I generally guide my patients to prep themselves for childbirth:

1. Pelvic Floor Exercises: Through my years of practice, I've consistently observed the positive impact of pelvic floor exercises. These exercises strengthen the muscles in the pelvic region, helping not just during the delivery process but also in postpartum recovery. A strong pelvic floor can reduce the risk of complications and assist in faster healing after childbirth.

2. Breathing Techniques: Breathing practices have long been recommended for labor, with methods like Lamaze standing out for their effectiveness. These techniques are not just about pain management; they also help mothers stay calm and focused during labor, facilitating a smoother delivery process. Proper breathing can make contractions more bearable and provide a rhythm to the birthing process.

3. Knowledge: One of the most empowering tools for expecting mothers is knowledge. I always stress the importance of being well-informed about what to expect during labor and delivery. Familiarizing oneself with the stages of labor, potential interventions, and post-delivery care can significantly reduce anxiety. When mothers know what's coming, they can make informed decisions, advocate for their needs, and mentally prepare for the journey ahead, leading to a more confident and positive birthing experience.

In my experience, while pregnancy does bring about orthopaedic challenges, with the right guidance and care, expecting mothers can navigate this phase with relative ease. It's always my goal to ensure the best outcomes for both the mother and the baby!

The Author of the article is- Dr Syed Imran

MBBS, D ortho, DNB orthopedic surgery, Fellowship in Joint Replacement, Fellowship in Revision Joint Replacement (Germany )

Consultant Orthopaedic, Arthroscopy and Joint Replacement Surgeon

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