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Knowledge Base: Prenatal Chiropractor
During pregnancy, your body ramps up production of certain ligament- and joint-loosening hormones that help pave the way for baby to make an exit. (Without them, your baby’s head would never be able to fit through your pelvis) But those hormones, combined with your gorgeously swollen belly, can also rapidly lower you center of gravity, leaving you loose-limbed, sway-backed and unusually clumsy.
All of this can do quite a number on your spine. Enter, chiropractic care, or the process of adjusting or realigning your spinal cord (and the ligaments and muscles that surround it) to lessen the pain and promote health throughout the body. It’s thought that chiropractic care may be able to undo some of this damage and realign your lower body for an easier birth. Some chiropractors also claim that these adjustments can reduce the likelihood of miscarriage, control morning sickness and even lower your risk of pre-term delivery. The chiropractor’s ability to realign and, in many cases, relax the ligaments and muscles in your pelvis has led to the Webster Technique, a method that helps breech babies to turn themselves, naturally.
Is chiropractic care during pregnancy safe?
There are no known contraindications to chiropractic care throughout pregnancy. All chiropractors are trained to work with women who are pregnant. Investing in the fertility and pregnancy wellness of women who are pregnant or trying to conceive is routine care for most chiropractors.
Some chiropractors take a specific interest in prenatal and postnatal care and seek additional training. Below represents designations of chiropractors who have taken advanced steps in working with infertility and pregnancy wellness.
Subluxations of the spine, commonly know as joint dysfunctions, occur when two or more vertebrae become restricted and impede the body’s ability to communicate with itself. Joint dysfunctions during pregnancy can be caused by the changes taking place in your body as it prepares to support you and your new bundle of joy.
Chiropractors that have been trained to work with pregnant women may use tables that adjust for a pregnant woman’s body, and they will use techniques that avoid unneeded pressure on the abdomen.
A chiropractor who is trained in the needs of women who are pregnant will also provide you with exercises and stretches that are safe to use during pregnancy.
Changes such as weight gain in the abdomen, poor posture and rotation of the pelvis force the body to unnaturally adapt to additional stress placed on the spine. These changes negatively affect joint function and nerve communication throughout the body.
Establishing pelvic balance and alignment is another reason to obtain chiropractic care during pregnancy.
When the pelvis is misaligned it may reduce the amount of room available for the developing baby. This restriction is called intrauterine constraint.
A misaligned pelvis may also make it difficult for the baby to get into the best possible position for delivery.
This can affect the mother’s ability to have a natural, non-invasive birth. Breech and posterior positions can interfere with the natural ease of labor and lead to interventions such as c-sections.
Always get your doctor’s approval before seeing a chiropractor during pregnancy. Chiropractic care isn’t typically recommended if you’re experiencing the following:
placenta previa or placenta abruption
moderate to severe toxemia
Other evidence points to improved outcomes in labor and delivery for women who’ve received chiropractic care during their pregnancy. In fact, it may help reduce the length of time you’re in labor.
In addition, regular chiropractic care while you’re pregnant can offer the following benefits:
help you maintain a healthier, more comfortable pregnancy
relieving pain in the back, neck, hips, and joints
help to control symptoms of nausea
Proper nutrition is another essential factor to maintain a healthy pregnancy. Be sure to incorporate good sources of protein, iron, calcium, and fruits and vegetables into your diet. Try to curb those sweet treat cravings, since too much sugar can cause you (and the baby) to gain unnecessary weight. Finally, be sure to stay hydrated by drinking approximately eight 8-ounce glasses of fluids per day.
Q: Is Chiropractic treatment safe during pregnancy?
A: Yes! Gentle chiropractic treatment including joint mobilization, soft tissue treatment, and therapeutic exercise is safe and effective during pregnancy. Doctors of chiropractic are trained to address the challenges of the pregnant body including loosening ligaments and increased weight.
Other issues chiropractic can help with during pregnancy:
Low Back Pain
Low back pain during pregnancy is caused by increased stress on the lumbar spine by an anterior shift in center of gravity. Compensatory muscle tightness and altered gait patterns also contribute, and this pain ranges from mild to severe depending on the patient’s activity level, daily activities and work duties.2,6 Low back pain is also very common during the postpartum period.7
Sciatic Nerve Pain
Hypertonicity in the gluteal muscles and deep external rotators can irritate or compress the sciatic nerve during pregnancy. Some studies suggest the baby’s growth contributes to uterine pressure on supporting vasculature or direct compression of the sciatic nerve, which results in low back pain with radiation into the legs.8
Ligament laxity caused by hormonal changes during pregnancy allows these traditionally stable and primarily weight-bearing sacroiliac joints to move and shift. This increased mobility puts stress on the surrounding ligaments and muscles, which may cause pain.4 Patients sometimes incorrectly describe their discomfort as “hip pain,” however they indicate the sacroiliac joint as the area of complaint.
Pubic Symphysis Pain
During pregnancy, the hormone Relaxin allows the ligaments stabilizing the pubic symphysis joint to relax, and therefore allows the joint to move and separate. Also called Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction, or SPD, this condition produces pain and limitation of mobility. It also may contribute to instability of the bony pelvis.9
Round Ligament Pain
The round ligaments of the uterus contain contractile fibers, and suspend and connect it to the anterolateral abdominal wall on either side. As the uterus grows, the round ligaments also stretch and can cause a sharp pain on either side of the abdomen or at the attachment sites of the ligaments near the pubic bones or labia.10