April 23, 2013
Pregnancy & Chiropractic
One of the more common questions we receive, from both potential and current patients, is about the safety and efficacy of chiropractic care during pregnancy. Why should you receive prenatal care? Is there a time when you shouldn’t? Can it really affect the baby’s position? What kind of techniques do you use? Will it hurt?
First off, there are no known contraindications to chiropractic care during pregnancy. We are trained to work with pregnant women, and use special tables and make adjustments to our techniques as to not put unnecessary pressure on the abdomen. In fact, care during pregnancy is one of the more documented areas of chiropractic research. Some of the benefits of regular chiropractic care during pregnancy include reducing average delivery time by two hours, controlling nausea, relieving headaches, reducing back and neck pain, establishing pelvic balance, reducing intrauterine constraint, and creating more space for baby which can effectively prevent a Caesarian delivery. During a time in which women cannot safely use many pain relievers and aids, chiropractic offers an effective, non-invasive method of pain management. Did we mention a 2 hour reduction in labor time??
Let’s talk a little more in detail about some of these effects. The basic premise behind chiropractic is that the spine houses the nervous system, and we manipulate the spine in an effort to help the nervous system function more effectively. Without going into too much detail, adjustments not only create more motion and reduce pain in the spine itself, but improve muscle function around the spine, ensure the sensory and motor function of our limbs, and improve the function of every organ system in our body. With pregnancy in particular, ensuring that the nerves that innervate the uterus and reproductive system are functioning properly can only improve the health of your growing baby (also helping with fertility prior to this point!). Additional side effects include greater comfort and reduced pain for Mom.
Biomechanically speaking, when a woman gains weight all in the belly, this naturally increase the lordosis (or curve) of her low back. This puts more pressure on the posterior part of the spine, which can effectively limit the space that nerves have to exit. These impingements can produce pain in the spine, tightness in the surrounding musculature, and even pain down the legs (where those nerves innervate). Additionally, muscles now have to adapt to accommodate this weight increase, and the entire biomechanics of the body change. Common places that “pick up” this pressure include the gluts, lumbar paraspinals (muscles that line the spine), psoas (our dominant hip flexor that runs along the front of the hips and into the groin) and the round ligament, which anchors the uterus to the groin. Round ligament pain is generally felt in the lower belly and usually starts in the 2nd trimester. Add to this increased weight and pressure in the legs and feet, not to mention water retention in those areas.
So now that we know why pregnancy produces pain (and particularly back pain), but what can we do about it? Most over the counter pain relievers are off limits during pregnancy and many other nutritional options are undocumented. Prenatal care at AWC focuses specifically on relieving these symptoms, and improving overall function during this time. We use very low force instrument adjustments on the low back (think of a light tapping on either side of the spine), and really focus on the soft tissues named above, in addition to some others in the legs and pelvis. There is no rotation or torqueing of the pelvis, and in general adjustments are gentler than in non-pregnant patients. We also can adjust the feet to relieve swelling, and perform manual adjustments on the upper back and neck, just like normal. We also utilize massage therapy during the second and third trimesters, which is when most of these changes occur.
Taking pressure off these muscles ensures that the pelvis is balanced and properly aligned. When the pelvis is misaligned it can reduce the amount of room available for the developing baby, which is called uterine constraint. This can also make it difficult for the baby to get in the best possible position for delivery. At AWC, we use special techniques (Webster Technique) in the final weeks of pregnancy to help ensure optimal balance in the pelvis. This balanced state makes it easier for a breech baby to turn naturally. The Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (Jul/Aug 2002) reported an 82% success rate of babies turning vertex when chiropractic physicians used the Webster Technique. Personally, I have had babies turn 180 degrees in as little as two treatments, and dozens of testimonials about the ease and quickness of delivery when compared to a pregnancy without chiropractic care.
I hope you learned a little about why chiropractic care is a great choice for a healthy pregnancy, and what sort of help it can lend. As always, we are here to guide and support you in your healthcare journey. Please call us at 843-416-8218. We are never too busy to help you or your loved ones.
Yours for Absolute Wellness,
Dr. Susan Doyle
Stats from www.americanpregnancyassociation.org