by Brian Bartholomew D.C. and Team
Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy
Anne’s* labor began with her water breaking. She called her midwife and her doula then settled in at home for what she thought would be a long first labor. The average first-time mom spends 16 hours in labor. But Anne didn’t expect to deliver within that 16-hour time frame.
While each pregnancy and labor is its own animal, women do tend to labor like their sisters. For instance, if one has fast labors, the others may also have fast labors. Three of Anne’s sisters gave birth before her, and they all had long and difficult experiences. But Anne’s labor did not end up being long and difficult like she expected. In fact, she gave birth just 8 hours later.
So what made Anne so different from her sisters? Giving birth at home with a skilled midwife can make some women more relaxed and focused, leading to a shorter and more peaceful birth. And studies show that the presence of a doula can decrease the duration and intensity of labor. But even these things together are not the total explanation. What’s missing from the picture? In no small part, Anne credits chiropractic care for her relatively easy labor.
Many people don’t understand that the baby’s passage out of the body is not just a straight shot. The baby doesn’t sit there waiting for dilation to happen so it can go through the cervix and be pushed into the world. He or she must navigate the pelvis, which requires an impressive amount of maneuvering. Rotation, head flexion and angling of the body must all be done in the right way at just the right time. Even the direction the baby is facing at the beginning of labor affects how difficult it will be for the baby to make this journey.
An alarming number of c-sections are performed every year for what medical professionals call failure to progress. Often this just means labor isn’t following the doctor’s prescribed time line. It can also mean that labor has truly stalled for some reason, and the doctor feels a vaginal delivery is unlikely. Proper alignment of the pelvis has an incredible amount of influence over the baby making it through without stalling along the way.
Optimal Fetal Positioning (OFP) is when the baby is in the proper position relative to the pelvis and the pelvis is in proper alignment with the rest of the body. OFP is a very important component for a safe and easy labor and delivery. This is where your chiropractor comes in. Dr. Brian is trained by the ICPA (International Chiropractic Pediatric Association) in the Webster Technique which helps keep the pelvis and corresponding muscles functioning optimally. A well adjusted, well aligned pelvis and relaxed surrounding muscles make pregnancy more comfortable and delivery much easier.
Anne and her sisters all share a genetic misalignment of the pelvis. Each woman naturally has a tilt in her pelvis causing one hip to sit higher than the other. The first sister to give birth had a long labor characterized by intense lower back pain. The second sister labored for almost 36 hours, with 3 hours of pushing. The third ended up with a c-section after laboring for many hours, because the baby got hung up on her pelvis and couldn’t make progress. So Anne decided to see a chiropractor during her pregnancy. Regular adjustments allowed her to go into labor with both her baby and her pelvis in proper alignment, giving the baby his best chance of a smooth passage.
Other Benefits of Visiting a Chiropractor
Chiropractic care during pregnancy isn’t just about setting things up for a great birth experience. Pregnant women commonly complain of back, neck and joint pain. As the uterus grows with the baby, it causes increased weight in the front and a marked change in the curve of the lower back. Women often compensate for this with postural changes that do more harm than good. In addition, a hormone called relaxin is secreted in the body during pregnancy. As its name suggests, its function is to relax things. One of those things is the musculoskeletal system, allowing things to shift out of alignment more easily.
Sciatica is a condition common in the later stages of pregnancy when the baby is large enough to put pressure on the sciatic nerve. The sharp shooting pain and numbness in the lower back and down the back of the legs can be debilitating, especially if the woman already suffers from other common pregnancy complaints.
Put all those issues together, throw in the common bad-for-your-back habits shared by most Americans, and you have a recipe for nine months of endless aches and pains. But regular chiropractic care can decrease or prevent most of these problems. Some women have even found relief from nausea with specific chiropractic care.
After the Birth
Birth can be physically difficult on both mom and baby. Your chiropractor can also help with recovery. It is safe for a healthy baby to get his first adjustment soon after birth. This is especially important when the baby has been delivered by c-section or with the help of forceps or a vacuum extractor, all of which put incredible stress on the baby’s neck and spine. See our article, Why Infants Need Chiropractic Care, for more information. Mom should resume her regular schedule of care as soon as she and her chiropractor feel that it’s time.
Is Chiropractic Care safe?
Available evidence shows that chiropractic care from an ICPA trained chiropractor is safe during pregnancy and for infants.
We can’t predict the problems any given labor and delivery will have. But regular chiropractic care can give a pregnant woman a head start for a shorter, more comfortable experience. With the added benefit of decreasing discomfort during pregnancy, it just makes good sense. Ithaca Family Chiropractic offers a free consultation. Call us today to find out how we can take care of you and your baby through your pregnancy and beyond.
*Name has been changed to protect privacy.
About the author:
Dr. Brian Bartholomew owns and operates Ithaca Family Chiropractic in Ithaca, Ny. His expertise is in pediatric care and structural corrective chiropractic care for all ages.
Dr. Bartholomew is available for outside speaking for businesses, churches, groups, athletic teams, rotaries, health food stores and anyone who wants to take charge of their health naturally!