You might have noticed that chiropractic care is becoming an important part of birth preparation for many pregnant women these days. These women are realizing the benefits of regular chiropractic adjustments as they prepare for safer, easier birthing for both themselves and their babies. Chiropractors have actually cared for pregnant women for many years. Recently, however, with the increased interest in natural birthing, and in an effort to avoid having a C-section, a growing number of mothers have incorporated chiropractic into their prenatal care. To understand how chiropractic care can contribute to a better birth, it is important to look at the mother’s neuro-biomechanics throughout pregnancy.
As a mother’s weight increases, her center of gravity shifts outward and her postural compensations respond accordingly. In addition, the ligament laxity necessary for birthing adds to instability in all of her joints, including her spine and pelvis.
“The potential for damage in pregnancy and the postpartum period to a woman’s neuro-musculoskeletal structure is great,” Varney’s Midwifery warns. “Shifts in the center of gravity forward and slightly up destabilize her posture and realign the carriage of weights and forces through her joints, predisposing nerves, muscles, bones, and connective tissues to damage. Increased levels of relaxin and elastin further aggravate this situation.”
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Changes During Pregnancy
These hormonal and structural changes can lead to spinal and pelvic misalignment and the consequent lower back pain many women experience during pregnancy. Lower back pain, in and of itself, is a burden to a woman’s daily function and quality of life. However, the misalignment of the spine and pelvis have a far more crucial consequence. In chiropractic, these misalignments are called subluxations. These insidious blockages cause stress overload to the mother’s nervous system, potentially impairing any of her vital systems and organs. During pregnancy, when a mother’s body systems are basically functioning for two, any interference to the nerve transmission supporting their function can be detrimental to her health and well-being. Reducing this nerve system stress is a key ingredient for normal bodily function.
To further understand the impact of spinal and pelvic misalignment throughout pregnancy, it is important to look at the mother’s anatomy. The mother’s pelvis has various key ligaments attached that support her uterus. As the baby grows, their role becomes increasingly important. If her pelvis is in biomechanical balance during pregnancy, the uterus will be supported symmetrically. This allows greater comfort for the mother and potentially optimal room for the baby's development.
Gross misalignment in the woman's pelvis may contribute to conditions like torticollis in the baby, with excessive stress to the baby’s developing neuro-muscular system. This is turn may impair his developing nervous system and adversely affect virtually any of his body’s systems and functions. Additionally, it is hypothesized that pelvic misalignments in the mother may affect optimal fetal positioning at the time of birth. The optimal position for birth is anterior vertex (rear-facing, head down). When a baby presents breech or posterior, it may be the result of an imbalance in the mother’s pelvis, forcing the baby to assume a compromised position. Baby malposition will result in a lengthier, less comfortable and more complicated birth. If mother’s biomechanics are compromised, obstetric interventions are more likely to be recommended and implemented. Each and every intervention has significant side effects for both mother and baby.
All obstetrical interventions increase the risk of subsequent and more serious procedures. For example, with any intervention (e.g. Pitocin, epidural anaesthesia, etc.), the risk of mechanical delivery (the use of forceps and vacuum extraction) and surgical delivery (C-section) multiplies substantially. These unnatural modes of delivery are risky and traumatic to both mother and baby. Proper prenatal chiropractic care, however, is a valuable tool to decrease the reliance on these invasive delivery procedures.
Medically classified birth trauma is when the baby has fractured clavicle and humeral bones, overt neuromuscular damage such as Erb’s and Bell’s palsy, or severe spinal cord injury. Chiropractic classification of birth trauma is much more specific and distinct. Evidence of birth trauma is when the baby has misalignments to his or her spine affecting nerve system function. These less obvious traumas can be detected by doctors of chiropractic as soon as a child is born. The unique expertise of chiropractors can detect and correct these misalignments with a gentle touch to the baby’s cranium and spine. When parents understand the importance of nerve system function and the potential trauma of birth, they recognize the importance of having their infants checked immediately after birth.
Fortunately, today’s parents are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of the mother’s pelvic biomechanics throughout pregnancy. Giving it due attention will not only result in a more comfortable pregnancy, but will optimize the baby’s developing systems in utero and contribute toward achieving optimal fetal positioning for a safer and easier birth for both mother and baby.
About the Author:
Dr. Ohm is a practicing DC in a family, wellness based practice since 1981. She is an international lecturer on the topic "Chiropractic Care in Pregnancy and Infancy" to practicing Chiropractors and affiliated Care Providers. A Post Graduate Instructor for numerous Chiropractic Colleges, ahe is also the author of many papers on pregnancy, birth, children and chiropractic.
Dr. Ohm is the founder of Makin' Miracles...Connecting Kid's n' Chiropractic, a community outreach program to educate children and adults about the life saving benefits of chiropractic. She is also the producer and writer of the children's chiropractic song, "Power On!" and educational video, "Birth Trauma: A Modern Epidemic." In addition, she is the Executive Coordinator for the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association, and editor of the ICPA's bimonthly newsletter.