Can I share one of pregnancy’s best-kept secrets with you? Chiropractic care! I have to admit—I had no idea how beneficial regular chiropractic care can be for pregnancy and birth until I became a doula.
Chiropractic care is becoming a more integral part of prenatal care for many women, due to the many potential benefits for the pregnant and postpartum body. With a resurgence of interest in natural birth, women seeking low- to no-intervention births may also seek more gentle, alternative treatment methods for pregnancy ailments.
What is Chiropractic Care?
According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), chiropractic care is “health maintenance of the spinal column, discs, related nerves and bone geometry without drugs or surgery.” To put it more plainly, it is the science of realigning misaligned joints, which reduces stress on the spinal nerve and promotes general health throughout the body. And get this—of women who sought chiropractic care during pregnancy, 75% reported they found relief from pain (Borggren, 2007). Seventy-five percent?! Sign me up for that!
How Does It Help?
During pregnancy, the body undergoes many physiological and endocrinological changes. As the uterus grows, the structure of the body changes. The center of gravity shifts, ligaments become more lax, and shift in weight predisposes nerves, muscles, bones, and connective tissue to damage (Ohm, 2009). This—in combination with an increase in hormones—leads to spinal and pelvic misalignment. This misalignment contributes to lower back pain and an overload of stress to the nervous system—making it harder for the systems of the body to communicate. You know how we say pregnancy is a time of growth and change? Yeah, we mean that both figuratively, and literally!
Other possible risks of misalignment include stress on baby’s developing neuro-muscular system (i.e. torticollis), and effects on optimal fetal positioning at time of birth (Ohm, 2009).
Regular chiropractic care throughout pregnancy has been shown to improve the outcomes for many of the above-mentioned risks, including:
Promotion of optimal fetal positioning
When the pelvis is aligned, baby naturally has a bit more room to maneuver into that awesome left occiput anterior (LOP) position. This also includes turning those breech-presenting babies
Faster, more comfortable labors
Misalignment of baby in the uterus often leads to longer, more intense labor, as baby is unable to move down and press on the cervix. A woman who is regularly adjusted—and the pelvis realigned to its appropriate shape—provides opportunity for her baby and body to work together seamlessly. In fact, a review of statistics done in 2009 found that primigravida women (first-time mothers) seeking chiropractic care throughout pregnancy had 25% shorter labor time, and multiparous women averaged 31% shorter labor times (Borggren). Bazinga!
Minimized need for intervention
If mother’s biometrics are in tip-top shape going into her birthing time, obstetrical interventions are less likely to be recommended. The body is more likely to function at its highest level—like a well-oiled machine—and may not require any assistance in bringing baby earthside.
Is It Safe?
Even with all these potential benefits, people often wonder if chiropractic care during pregnancy is safe. Research is scarce, but there is some evidence to suggest chiropractic care is perfectly safe. In a retrospective case series of 17 patients performed in 2006, 16 patients demonstrated “clinically significant” improvement, with no adverse effects reported.
Though by and large chiropractic care is deemed safe and effective, there are some instances in which adjusting would not be appropriate. Such circumstances may include (Borggren 2007):
- Vaginal bleeding
- Ruptured amniotic membranes
- Sudden onset of pelvic pain
- Premature labor
- Placenta previa
- Placental abruption
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Moderate to severe toxemia
Selecting a Chiropractor
It is also important to note that not all chiropractors are created equally. It is true that all chiropractors receive some sort of training in working with pregnant women; however, there are special trainings and certifications that provide even more detailed instruction on adjusting the pregnant woman. When choosing a chiropractor, especially for the specific purpose of turning a breech presentation fetus, it is important to consult with a Webster certified practitioner (APA, 2016).
ICPA.com is a great resource for locating prenatal/pediatric chiropractors in your area.
Is Chiropractic Care Only For Pregnancy?
Not only does chiropractic care assist with pregnancy and birth, it is also a wonderful option for the postpartum period. It was noted that, in cases of moderate to severe pregnancy-related pelvic and other pain, it is likely to persist postpartum in 77% of women. It is suggested that receiving chiropractic care during pregnancy may minimize the risk of persistent pain postpartum (Borggren 2007). The normal birthing process is a physical feat, and regular chiropractic care may aid in a return to normal spinal functioning.
Though the research on chiropractic care during pregnancy is sparse, there is evidence suggesting chiropractic care is safe and effective. It’s ability to aid in the appropriate functioning of the body’s systems, creating space for baby to move into the optimal position for labor, and minimizing the need for obstetrical intervention in labor is reason enough to consider it as an alternative therapy for pregnant women.
What has YOUR experience been with chiropractic care in pregnancy and the postpartum period?
*Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is not medical advice. Any information shared in this article is merely for informational purpose. Any change in your treatment should be discussed with your healthcare provider before implementation.
American Pregnancy Association. (2016, September 2). Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy. Retrieved from http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/chiropractic-care-during-pregnancy/
Borggren, C.L. (2007 Spring). Pregnancy and Chiropractic: A Narrative Review of Literature. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2647084/#bib10
Ohm, J. (2009, December 1). Chiropractic Care for and Easier Pregnancy and Safer Birth. Retrieved from http://icpa4kids.org/Wellness-Articles/chiropractic-care-for-an-easier-pregnancy-and-safer-birth.html