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Craniosacral Therapy For Mother and Baby after Birth

by Jonathan Lawrence(more info)

listed in craniosacral therapy, originally published in issue 179 - February 2011

Birth is the greatest experience in anyone's life. It is a natural process that ideally progresses well and sets up the baby for a long and healthy life with the crucial bonding with the mother aiding all other relationships in life.

In the modern world having a baby is as safe as it ever has been. Mother and baby survival is now an expectation rather than a hope. However modern interventions may make the process of giving birth less than ideal impacting on this very important time.

baby having treatment

Craniosacral therapy (CST) can help both mother and baby by releasing tensions and compressions in the system resulting from abnormal and prolonged stresses; for example forceps and ventouse aided deliveries, thus helping mother and baby rehabilitate physically and emotionally after the birth.

CST is based on the work of the Osteopath WG Sutherland who made the observation the bones of the skull have a small amount of motion and that this motion is necessary for the optimal expression of function in the body. He referred to this movement as being the primary respiratory system, and postulated that this was due to the flux of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).

Palpation of the bones and other structures can reveal restriction in expression of this motion; this can be correlated with loss of function in the body. For example, dysfunction in the temporal bones of the skull can have an influence on glue-ear and jaw and teeth problems.

An ideal birth consists of mother going into labour at full term, the baby passing through the pelvic inlet with the head facing the right side of the mother's pelvis. This allows the widest part of the baby's head to be in line with the widest part of the mother's pelvis. The head then has to turn by 90 degrees to line up with the widest part of the pelvic outlet between the sacrum and the pubic bone. The baby's head is now facing the sacrum.  The head is then born and the shoulders and the rest of the body follows.

The baby has been subject to longitudinal and horizontal compressive forces as well as the characteristic pointed head known as moulding. This moulding under normal circumstances resolves as the baby unfolds from the foetal posture to the baby posture.

Although this appears violent and traumatic, nature has designed the mechanical and physiological process to help the baby adapt from the foetal environment to the external environment. High levels of hormones such as adrenalin and oxytocin facilitate this process by helping the baby withstand the stress and to help with bonding.

Allowing the third stage of labour, the birth of the placenta to proceed normally before the cord is cut, and to put the baby to the breast immediately where he can ingest some highest quality milk is good physically and psychologically for both parties.

There are so many factors that determine the ease of birth, from the mother's own state of health to the health of the foetus, the emotional health of the mother including the quality of present and past relationships. The age of the mother is important; many women choose to have babies at a later age than the optimum, 26 years and older are classified as 'old mothers'. Her physiology, which is influenced by genetic and environmental factors including medications and chemicals that can affect her hormones is also important.

The craniosacral practitioner can asses the baby and mother's structure through palpation of the cranial rhythmic impulse (CRI). The rate, amplitude and quality of the CRI can be assessed as well as which structure

Mrs J, a 30 year old first time mother consulted me following the birth of her daughter Julie. Mrs J, despite being a very fit, athletic young woman had been a difficult birth herself, suffering badly with colic. In the early teen years she had teeth removed and braces due to overcrowding. Her passion was horse riding since her teens; she had a number of falls and injuries including concussion, culminating in a fall onto the base of her spine fracturing 3 vertebrae in her lower thoracic spine.

Her baby was 3 weeks old at the time of the first consultation and had developed colic. She had a gurgling stomach and appeared to be in pain shortly after commencing breast feeing. She woke every hour or so at night screaming with her legs raised.

She was one week overdue and mother went into labour with the baby having descended into the pelvis. Contractions were weak and intermittent, finally stopping. Mother was the put on an oxytocin drip to stimulate labour. The baby showed signs of distress and a decision was made to perform a caesarean section. This involved removing the baby from deep in the pelvis with the aid of ventouse and forceps.

The baby on examination seemed reasonably symmetrical in shape, although the cranium was slightly longer and thinner than the average; there was some asymmetry in the frontal eminences and in the large portion of the occipital bone.

Assessment of the cranial rhythmic impulse (CRI) of the baby revealed very restricted motion in the cranium and sacrum, with a fascial drag from the diaphragm into the thorax and lower neck. The occipital bone, where the skull meets the neck, was slightly compressed on the left side and outwardly rotated on the right side.

These findings were consistent with the failure of labour to progress, meaning that the pressure on the head from the cervix caused the membranes that help to enclose the cerebro-spinal fluid and help to maintain the shape of the head had become over tensioned and rigid, and that the occipital bone may be irritating the vagus nerve. The tension in the diaphragm along with irritation of the vagus nerve was my working hypothesis for some if not all of colicky symptoms.

Several sessions in which the tension was gently released allowed the situation to correct. The baby appeared to be calm during the treatments and subsequently slept very well. Within two weeks the colic symptoms had gone, during which time the frontal and temporal bones and dural membranes had been balanced. A few more monthly treatments are planned to deal with any further imbalances that may emerge as growth takes place.

It is always a good idea to check the mother shortly after birth. Ideally both mother and baby should be examined with a few days of birth. The mother's pelvis would have gone through changes during the process, and indeed the muscular uterus and associated soft tissues would have to accommodate and facilitate the movement of the baby. This gives rise to the potential for disturbance of these structures.

On examination, Mrs J's sacrum was restricted in a 'flexed' position with the large ilea slightly externally rotated with some compression through the left sacroiliac joint.

Gentle treatment helped to settle these bones and encourage a return of tone to the pelvic floor. This will help to prevent back pain and stress incontinence in the future. The muscular and stretched uterus, associated ligaments and pelvic floor may also be settled through gentle Craniosacral techniques.

Traditional manipulative techniques and massage can help to settle and manage many symptoms associated with traumatic births, but in my experience Craniosacral techniques can correct many of the underlying causes of those symptoms.


Upledger, Vredevoogd. Craniosacral Therapy. Eastland Press. Seattle. ISBN 0-939616-01-7. 1983.
Moeckel Mitha. Textbook of Pediatric Osteopathy. Churchill Livingstone. Edinburgh. ISBN 3-437-56400-5. 2008.
Odent. The Functions of the Orgasms: The Highways to Transcendence. Pinter and Martin. London. ISBN 987-1-905177-18-9. 2010.

Further Information

Jonathan Lawrence BA DO Cert Ed Osteopath is an Osteopath and Craniosacral therapist. He teaches practitioner courses in Craniosacral therapy. He is running an advanced workshop in the treatment of Mother and Baby after birth in March 2011. For further information please contact Turning Point Training on


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About Jonathan Lawrence

Jonathan Lawrence BA DO Cert Ed, following 4 years teaching Environmental Science, trained at the European School of Osteopathy graduating in 1985. Jonathan has been practising Osteopathy in private practice for 25 years, treating patients of all ages – from babies to the elderly. Having lectured to audiences ranging from small technique classes to presenting at the 2008 Advancing Osteopathy Conference, he established Turning Point Training in order to bring high quality and affordable professional courses in Craniosacral and positional release techniques to practitioners trained in conventional or complementary medicine. He may be contacted on Tel: 01769 579004;  

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