New research showing how simple techniques can reduce stress and alleviate pelvic and back pain during pregnancy is to be unveiled at a public seminar in Cork tomorrow.
“Many expectant mothers experience increased stress, as they deal with a new set of understandable worries and concerns,” said Siobhán O’Mahony, a neuroscientist and principal investigator in the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience at University College Cork.
“For some mothers, high levels of pre-natal maternal stress may have consequences for the mental and emotional wellbeing of children in later life.”
Pilot studies carried out in two maternity hospitals in 2016 and 2017 investigated how a stress-reduction therapy impacted on both back pain and on pelvic-girdle pain during pregnancy.
“However, what we found is that stress is associated with an increase in these types of pain,” said Dr O‘Mahony, who is also a faculty member of the APC Microbiome Ireland at UCC.
For years, science had been making connections between stress and other types of pain, such as gut pain and muscular pain.
“We decided to investigate the role of stress in pelvic and lower back pain in pregnancy,” said Dr O‘Mahony.
“When pregnant women experience this pain, they tend to reduce their mobility, in an effort to alleviate the pain.
“There are not many successful therapies for this type of pain, which generally resolves following the birth of the baby.”
Dr O’Mahony added that about 8% of women continued to experience such pain following the birth of their child.
Meanwhile, two pilot studies were carried out on pregnant women in the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin in March 2016 and in Cork University Maternity Hospital in November 2013.
A stress/illness practitioner educated study participants about the stress system and how it works in the body, and taught them how to use gentle exercise techniques to alleviate the pain.
“This was essentially about teaching women how to adapt everyday physical movements, in a way that significantly reduced the pain they were experiencing,” Dr O’Mahony said.
Questionnaires assessing the level of participants’ pain demonstrated a reduction of 50% following two sessions with the stress/illness practitioner.
There was also, said Dr O’Mahony, a reduction in anxiety and stress and a significant increase in mobility.
“We took saliva samples from the women, before and after each session, and found a 30% decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, following each session.”
The seminar runs tomorrow, from 6pm-8pm at Cork County Library. It features speakers such as Ted Dinan of UCC’s Department of Psychiatry, Fergus McCarthy of the Obstetrics and Gynaecology department at CUMH and Bindu Begley, a yoga teacher and registered midwife. The theme will be ‘Simple Techniques to Deal with Everyday Stress.’
Admission is free.
Attendees are advised to reserve places at eventbrite.ie/e/stress-and-how-to-reduce-it-during-pregnancy-tickets-56336426769