Pregnancy Chiropractic: Essential Care for Both Mom and Baby
Do yourself and your baby a favor. Chiropractic care throughout pregnancy is not only safe…it is essential. A mother’s systems and organs are now providing for two, and their optimal function is critical for the baby’s healthy development. Specific chiropractic care throughout pregnancy works by enhancing nerve system function, thereby providing greater health potential for mom and baby. Adjusting women throughout pregnancy is one of the most rewarding parts of our work because a healthier pregnancy means an easier labor and delivery, and a better transition for the baby into this life.
During pregnancy, there are several physiological and hormonal changes that occur in preparation for creating the environment for the developing baby. A mother’s weight gain will ideally reach between 30-40 lbs., which often leads to postural distortions. As her center of gravity shifts forward to accommodate a growing belly, the natural curves of the spine, particularly in the lumbar region, become exaggerated. To stabilize the body, the hips may expand laterally, thereby often putting pressure on the sacro-iliac joints. In preparation for childbirth, the hormone relaxin causes the ligaments, tendons and cartilage of the pelvis to soften and become more pliable. The increasing weight of the developing baby places additional pressure on the spine and pelvis. Towards the end of pregnancy, changes are seen in gait pattern – the “waddle.” The resulting vertebral misalignments may cause spinal instability, pinched nerves, tight muscles, and decreased mobility. A doctor of chiropractic specializing in pregnancy chiropractic is trained to detect and gently correct spinal imbalances so that those precious nine months and beyond are comfortable and enjoyable as possible.
Adjustments result in an easier pregnancy, significantly decreased time in labor, and assist new mothers back to prepartum health. Studies have shown that women receiving chiropractic care throughout their first pregnancy had 24% shorter labor times than the group which was not adjusted, and multiparous subjects reported 39% shorter labor times. In addition, 84% of women report relief of back pain during pregnancy with regular chiropractic care.
Another important reason for care throughout pregnancy is to help establish balance in the mother’s pelvis. Williams Obstetrics Text tells us that “any contraction of the pelvic diameters that the diminish the capacity of the pelvis can create dystocia (difficulty) during labor.” They further state that the diameter of the woman’s pelvis is decreased when the sacrum is displaced. Bones of the pelvis that are out of alignment or subluxated will directly affect the way the uterus will be supported. Unequal ligament support will distort the uterus reducing the amount of room available for the developing baby. This condition is called intrauterine constraint and is considered the primary cause for a baby to turn in the breech position.
The Webster Technique, developed by Dr. Larry Webster, founder of the International Pediatric Association, is a specific chiropractic analysis and adjustment, which enables chiropractors to establish balance in the pregnant woman’s pelvis and reduce undue stress to her uterus and supporting ligaments. This balanced state in the pelvis makes it easier for the breech baby to turn naturally. The Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics reported in the July/ August 2002 issue an 82% success rate of babies turning vertex when doctors of chiropractic used the Webster Technique. Further, the results from the study suggest that it may be beneficial to perform the Webster Technique as soon as the 8th month of pregnancy when a woman has a breech presentation.
What are the benefits of chiropractic care before, during and after pregnancy?
Preparing the body for a healthy pregnancy – Relieving back, neck and joint pain – Re-establishing mobility and flexibility – Controlling the symptoms of nausea, fatigue, swelling, and carpal tunnel syndrome – Ensuring a properly functioning nerve system crucial to the proper development of the baby – Facilitating breech baby to turn in the vertex (head down) position – Preventing potential cesarean, forceps or vacuum births – Reducing prolonged labor and delivery times
Traumatic Birth Syndrome (TBS) is a condition in which the spine is injured during or shortly after the delivery process resulting in nerve system damage or interference. Stress to the nerve system is typically found in the infant’s neck and occasionally in the mid and lower back.
Occurrences of this disorder are found when the head, neck or any other part of the spine and pelvis of the infant have been pulled and twisted during the birth process; the birth process is prolonged; the delivery process is difficult; extraction aids are used during delivery (forceps, vacuum); the child is delivered by cesarean section. For TBS to be present, there must be damage to the nerve system. Injuries in TBS may go unnoticed during trauma of the delivery process. TBS may be painless in about 95-97% of infants and adults. The patient, therefore, cannot rely on pain as a sign of the condition. An examination by a chiropractor is the only way to determine the presence of the severity of TBS. Possible effects of TBS include spinal damage during the delivery process resulting in post traumatic spinal joint, posture and nerve dysfunction, as well as nerve system damage which may lead to malfunctioning organs, glands and muscles. Examples of stress to the nerve system include a reflux, colic, chronic ear infections, decreased immune function, lack of motor coordination, muscle spasticity, cerebral palsy, torticollis, misshapen skull, facial asymmetry, postural distortions, difficulty crawling, and walking on tip toes, to name a few.
When there is a greater respect for the life of an infant, the danger of the injury of TBS may be significantly reduced. Patients who understand the importance of preventive health seek alternative measures such as home deliveries, natural birthing and less traumatic approaches to childbirth. They understand health is a journey from the beginning of life to one’s last breath, and for this reason, they value maintaining the integrity of a properly functioning nerve system.
Many chiropractors specializing in family care see thousands of infants and children on a regular wellness basis to keep these kids as healthy as possible, thereby creating healthier adults. Adjustments to infants and kids are very gentle and specific – with a pinkie or index finger the doctor applies a mere ounce of pressure on the spine to correct misalignments and pressure to the nerve system. In fact, a baby often sleeps through the adjustment and children think adjustments are fun.
Considering your child’s neurology controls mental and physical development, as a parent, wouldn’t you want your child to be as healthy, inspired and productive as possible from day one?
Editorial Provided by Dr. Caroline von Fluegge of Balance Atlanta Family Chiropractic, Atlanta’s expert in pregnancy and pediatric chiropractic care.