A baby’s skull is designed to allow descent though the birth canal. The cranial bones have the ability to overlap and bend somewhat to accommodate the birth. This process is called moulding. Immediately after birth a baby’s head can be very pointed or look squashed. Usually over the 24 hours post birth the head will decompress and resume a more normal shape.
However in many cases this doesn’t happen and the baby’s head retains some of the compressive forces of the birth; particularly when ventouse or forceps are used or, when the delivery has been either long or very short. In the latter case the head doesn’t have time to accommodate and can become very compressed. And although it can look normal it may feel very tight to palpation examination by an osteopath.
Some moulding or patterning of the baby’s head can also happen in the mother’s uterus - if the baby’s head was in an awkward position or if the amniotic fluid level was low then these will also act on the baby’s structure.
Caesarean babies can have their own problems too. In many situations a C-section is performed because the baby is in difficulty and has experienced distress even before the C-section is performed. Others will have a planned C-section and in this case the protective hormones released during a normal vaginal birth are not released. The baby may be jumpy and distressed.
Osteopaths believe that these areas of compression or tension i.e. structural dysfunction cause physiological dysfunction. In very young babies this may manifest as symptoms such as colic or sleep difficulties, or early developmental problems such as lack of head control.
In some more severe cases birth trauma may contribute to conditions such as autism or cerebral palsy where there has been damage to the brain itself.
These birth patterns can continue throughout life and if not dealt with, lead to major stressors on the body.
Osteopathy can help to alleviate some of these issues.