Pregnancy and Chiropractic

Pregnancy and Chiropractic

If this article doesn’t apply to you, take a look anyway!  You’ll be amazing at how improved communication between the brain and body promotes better body functions – even with labor!

Half of all pregnant women experience back pain, and many will accept it as part of the process.  While back pain might not be avoidable, after all gaining 25-35 pounds and carrying another human being around for 9 months can be a strain, pregnant women don’t need to suffer without help.  In a published paper, 75% of pregnant women reported that they experienced relief from pain while under chiropractic care.  Let’s take a basic look at the unique structural issues of pregnancy to understand why.

The normal weight gain along with a growing baby can increase stress on the sacro-iliac joints (SI joints).  The weight of baby also causes the pelvis to tip forward, anteriorly, and reduces the normal lordosis (forward curve) of the lower back.  Both can result in back pain or sciatica, where pain travels from the low back or buttocks, down the leg towards the calf and/or foot.  Further, increased breast tissue weight can put stress on mom’s mid-back, causing mid-back and neck pain.  As her center of gravity changes and postural shifts occur, mom’s head may translate forward, causing an extension of the head on the first vertebrae.  This could easily result in neck pain and/or headaches.  Chiropractic adjustments to reduce spinal misalignments are a welcome pain reliever for moms-to-be.  With less pain, women are able to stay active and continue to exercise throughout their pregnancy, which further improves their health and birth experience.  But the value in chiropractic care during pregnancy is much richer than just feeling better and staying active.

It makes sense that regular attention to the pelvis, spine, soft tissues and nervous system function throughout pregnancy would make labor more efficient.  Researcher Joan Fallon, DC investigated the impact of chiropractic adjustments on labor times.  She found that first-time mothers receiving chiropractic care during pregnancy experienced a 24% reduction in labor time, while those giving birth for the second or third time had an impressive 39% reduction in labor time.   J.M. Fallon. Textbook on chiropractic & pregnancy. Arlington, VA: International Chiropractic Association; 1994: 52, 109.

Chiropractic care helps to normalize alignment and function of the pelvis and can reduce musculoskeletal causes of intra-uterine constraint, which can promote proper presentation of baby during delivery.  While to goal of chiropractic care is NOT to turn a breech baby, many babies have improved their positioning from breech to a head-down presentation, following chiropractic care addressing mom’s pelvic subluxations (misalignments).  Chiropractic care, especially when utilizing the Webster Technique, can improve pelvic balance and make more room for baby. Pistolese R.A. The Webster Technique: a chiropractic technique with obstetric implications. J Manip Physiol Ther. 2002;25(6):e1–e9.

It’s also plausible to conclude that adjustments for pregnant moms could be beneficial to outcomes of delivery by looking at osteopathic research.  In a retrospective study, researchers examined the medical records of 160 women from four cities who received prenatal osteopathic manipulation and compared them to 161 randomly selected records of women from the same cities, who did not receive prenatal osteopathic manipulations.  They found a significantly associated reduction of meconium-stained amniotic fluid and preterm delivery and a marginally significant reduction in the use of forceps.  J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2003 Dec;103(12):577-82

Lastly, for those cautious, or concerned, chiropractic care for the pregnant woman has been given for over a hundred years and is considered safe.  The American Pregnancy Association states on its website, “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 a routine care for most chiropractors.”

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