There has been a recent surge of curiosity about pregnancy and chiropractic care. The first question that must be addressed is, “What is chiropractic?” Chiropractic is a natural and non-invasive form of health care based on the principle that the body has the innate and inherent ability to heal itself without the use of external interventions, such as drugs or surgery.
An individual’s health is either directly or indirectly controlled by the nervous system. Any interference within the nervous system, due to trauma or biomechanical instability, impairs normal function and lowers resistance to disease.
Chiropractic adjustments remove these interferences (called subluxations) caused by abnormalities in the musculoskeletal relationships of the vertebrae. The nervous system is then able to function properly and optimally, enabling the body to heal through its own natural recuperative powers. This fundamental approach to wellness mirrors a new and changing attitude toward health care in the US and around the world.
The next questions to answer are, “How is chiropractic care going to benefit me and my baby during my pregnancy and why does it help?”
The most common reason a pregnant mother would seek a chiropractor is because she is experiencing back pain and neck pain. These aches and pains become much more prominent as a woman starts showing and the weight of the growing belly changes her usual posture. By the third trimester, a pregnant woman will feel the full weight of the baby in her womb and the heaviness of her milk-filled breasts. She will start arching her low back more, sleep in positions she is not used to, and sit and walk differently because she is trying to maintain her balance.
All these physical alterations of her posture add up and can manifest as excruciating pain. A chiropractor can help decrease some of the aches and pain by checking and adjusting the whole spine and making sure there is structural balance within the mother’s body.
However, chiropractors are not only making structural changes to the spine but also aiding in the nervous system’s interaction with the rest of the body. The nervous system controls the hormone and immune systems. By getting checked and adjusted regularly throughout pregnancy, the nervous system is able to help balance out fluctuating levels of hormones and boost the weakened immune system of a pregnant woman.
Above all else, the most important benefit of regular chiropractic care throughout pregnancy is creating the most optimal environment for the baby to grow in the womb. Maintaining the mother’s pelvic alignment allows for the baby to have maximal room to grow. Imagine a round balloon as a woman’s pelvic shape (this is not really the shape of the human pelvis, but please imagine it for the purpose of visualization!). This round shape without any interference or pressure would be the most ideal shape and position for the baby to grow. Now, imagine pushing your fingers into an area of the balloon creating a dented or altered shape of the balloon. This would be similar to what a misalignment or subluxation of the pelvis is. You can visualize how a minimized space in the pelvis can constrict and restrict the baby’s environment to grow as happy and healthy as possible.
Finally, chiropractic care throughout pregnancy may decrease the risk of a possible breech pregnancy. Breech is a term used for the condition and position of the baby, but chiropractors never perform any medical techniques to turn breech babies. However, chiropractors, especially those who are trained in the Webster Technique, address pelvic misalignments of the mother. By correcting misalignments, more space is created for the baby to turn or flip head-down on its own.
If your baby is in a position other than head down, the most direct method of correction is to have a medical doctor perform an External Cephalic Version (ECV). They will physically apply pressure to the abdomen under fetal monitoring and make sure they are safely turning the breech baby. Mothers who received this technique to turn their breech baby usually report it as painful and cause bruising for days afterward. Worse yet, this technique is not highly successful.
The Webster technique was developed by Dr. Larry Webster, founder of the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA). The purpose of the technique is to deliver a safe and comfortable adjustment to restore proper pelvic balance and function. “It was developed to restore the normal physiological function of the mother and improve her comfort throughout pregnancy in preparation for a safer, easier birth. He reported that in women who presented with a breech baby, the results of the adjustment appeared to normalize pelvic neuro-biomechanics and facilitate optimal fetal positioning.
It is proposed that sacral misalignment may cause the tightening and torsion of specific muscles and ligaments. It is these tense muscles and ligaments and their aberrant effect on the uterus which may prevent the baby from comfortably assuming the best possible position for birth.”
When the pelvis is out-of-balance it will make labor more difficult, more painful, and last longer. This can also lead to a twisting of the uterus, known as intrauterine constraint, which can make it difficult for a baby to get into the best possible position for delivery. Making the pelvis more mobile and symmetrical will make labor faster and easier with fewer medical interventions, and will help ensure that the baby is in the optimum position for birth.
Many people have no idea how important postpartum chiropractic care is. Once the baby arrives, the mom’s attention is focused on caring for the newborn, often at the price of her own health. The hormone relaxin is produced during pregnancy to relax and soften ligaments to make the birth of the baby possible.
After delivery, relaxin keeps ligaments soft for up to six months which increases vulnerability to lower back and pelvic joint misalignments, causing pain and discomfort. In addition, baby-holding and breastfeeding puts tremendous stress on the neck, upper back, shoulders and arms. However, postpartum care for mom is often neglected and many new mothers suffer from headaches, neck and shoulder aches as well as wrist and forearm problems such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and deQuervain’s stenosing tenosynovitis (tendinitis of the thumb).
The good news about the postpartum time period is that new moms have a unique healing opportunity since relaxin is still softening the mother’s ligaments, correcting musculoskeletal problems with postpartum chiropractic care is easily accomplished due to the body’s increased pliability.
This postnatal time is the most critical period to heal. With relaxin still coursing through the body, moms have the advantage to heal at 99%, even from the old injuries that were experienced before the pregnancy, such as injuries sustained from a previous car accident. Because of this, postpartum chiropractic care can be an excellent opportunity to attend to long-standing issues that have built-up scar tissue.