Chiropractic has been shown to be gentle, safe, and effective treatment during pregnancy for musculoskeletal and other issues women experience during pregnancy. The physical and hormonal changes that take place in a woman’s body during pregnancy are often times unbearable, especially later stages of pregnancy. A study found that more than 76% of pregnant women experience pregnancy-related pelvic pain, low back pain, or a combination of them increasing in severity as the pregnancy advances. Regular visits to the chiropractor during pregnancy may help to alleviate some of these complaints.
Pregnancy-related issues will have a physical effect on comfort and posture because as the pregnancy progresses the baby gets heavier causing the woman’s center of gravity to shift. These effects can, in turn, lead the spine and joints to be misaligned.
Common Pregnancy Symptoms:
- Low Back Pain – by far, this is the most common symptom for pregnant women. Due to the developing pregnancy, the body shape and spine must change in order to leave room for the baby to grow and prepare for birth. Additionally, a protruding abdomen from a growing baby results in increased curvature of the back. These changes put strain on the lower back and result in misalignment and tight muscles. Pain can be anywhere from a dull ache to sharp pain.
- Sciatic Pain – similar to low back pain, this pain is resulting from spine curvature changes, and will often start as low back pain and lead to numbness, tingling, and weakness down one or both legs.
- Pelvic Pain – this pain can cause pregnant women to have difficulty walking or pain while walking. More often this pain shows itself closer to or in the 3rd trimester as the baby is dropping lower to prepare for birth therefore applying pressure to the pelvic region. However, pelvic pain can occur at any point in the pregnancy.
- Round Ligament Pain – going along with pelvic pain, round ligament pain is one that is usually experienced in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters due to a growing belly. This ligament is used to hold the uterus in place, and many women experience a sharp pain in the bottom of the baby belly or groin area on one or both sides.
- Headaches – most often these headaches are due to the drastic hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy.
All this to say any of these issues can or will cause misalignments in various parts of the body which is where a chiropractor comes in.
Chiropractic Benefits for Pregnancy
As professional chiropractic providers, we know that regular chiropractic visits during pregnancy can address the symptoms that come along with pregnancy, in addition to added benefits, like better sleep. Additionally, we know that a misaligned pelvis can cause issues with delivery, intrauterine constraint, position of the baby, and possible birth defects in serious cases. Chiropractic treatment has been shown to have improvements in comfort in pregnancy before the birth, and better outcomes in labor and delivery.
Pregnancy & the benefits of chiropractic include:
- The ability to maintain a healthier, more comfortable pregnancy.
- Pain relief from musculoskeletal symptoms such as back, neck, hips, and joint pain.
- Control nausea symptoms.
- Reduced labor and delivery time.
- Reduced interference with the nervous system which allows the body to operate at maximum potential even in a sensitive state.
- Reduced need for pain medications.
In addition to these benefits, chiropractic providers can offer diet and stretching exercises for the patient to perform at home in order to maximize results from chiropractic treatment. The bottom line is keeping the spine and pelvis aligned and balanced during pregnancy, which helps the entire body work more effectively.
Chiropractic Method for Pregnancy
& Webster Technique Certification
While all chiropractors are trained in how to adjust pregnant women, if you are interested in specializing in prenatal and postnatal care, then it is essential to get certified in Webster Technique. This technique is a type of chiropractic analysis and adjustment that focuses on releasing tension in the round and sacrotuberous ligaments correcting sacral and pelvic misalignment. These ligaments become strained during pregnancy, and tighten just as a muscle would. The Webster technique allows for the releasing of these ligaments bringing balance to the pelvis. By reducing nervous system interference with issues in the pelvic region, enhanced function of the pelvic muscles and ligaments lead to reduced tension on the uterus. As a result, the baby will be in the best position possible for labor and delivery. You can find more information on the Webster Technique certification at the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association.
Is Chiropractic Safe for Pregnancy?
Chiropractic care has been shown to be safe, and being adjusted during this time is very gentle if done properly. Contrary to popular belief, getting adjusted during pregnancy allows for the joints to move more freely due to the relaxin hormone produced in order to prepare the woman for delivery. This hormone allows for a gentler adjustment because the joints are easier to manipulate. However, this hormone also means that pregnant women need to be adjusted a little more often than usual as the relaxin hormone doesn’t allow the woman to hold the adjustment as well as when they are not pregnant. While chiropractic care is absolutely safe during pregnancy, and there are no known contraindications, it is important to note that there are some conditions in pregnancy where chiropractic treatment is not recommended.
Chiropractic care is not recommended or should be used with caution if the woman is experiencing any of the following:
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Moderate or severe toxemia
- Vaginal bleeding
- Placenta abruption or placenta previa
Using our best professional judgement should these issues arise is our best bet, and know that it is important to always be open to working with other providers especially the primary care doctor and OBGYN during a woman’s pregnancy.
Pregnancy Chiropractic Protocol:
- 1st treatment – it is always important, especially with pregnancy, to take the time to walk through and explain the first treatment so they will know what to expect and why it is being done that way. Allowing the patient to decide on which technique they would feel most comfortable with is a great customer service option.
- Clothing – advise patients that while there is no specific clothing requirement, it is best to wear clothing that is easily movable in case of therapeutic exercise during a visit is offered.
- Frequency of treatments – advise patients that doing pregnancy chiropractic, like with most conditions, is better sooner rather than later. Once per week until main symptoms/complaints are under control, then every other week until about 30 weeks. At this point, re-evaluate the woman’s symptoms and condition and move to weekly appointments until delivery.
- Make the office kid friendly – often times when pregnant patients come to us, this is not their first pregnancy, but may be their first time getting a chiropractic adjustment. If you plan on specializing in prenatal/postnatal care, then it is important to make the office kid friendly for the woman to feel supported, trusting, and comfortable with treatments and the practice.
- At home advice – while the woman may feel better after the adjustment (which is great!), they may have some issues in between visits. It is best to arm them with tools and advice that they can complete at home until their next adjustment. Trading an exercise ball for a chair or the couch is a good example of an option to implement at home to reduce strain on the back, keep good posture, and keeps muscles moving and relaxed.
- Postnatal/after delivery treatments – advise patients the number one priority after birth is to take care of themselves. The relaxin hormone stays in the body for about 2 months postpartum, and during this time, the new mother should be resting, sleeping when possible, and eating healthy. They should only be adjusted again when they are comfortable. Once more time passes, advise them on slowly starting an easy exercise regimen such as yoga and working on core stability.
Most importantly, we must build a rapport with our patients that makes them feel supported and comfortable, but especially with pregnant patients as this is a new time for them.
Should I Specialize in Prenatal/Postnatal Chiropractic?
Continued support and care is needed more and more in prenatal and postnatal care as the medical community learns about the challenges women face during and after pregnancy. So often women’s issues during and after pregnancy are swept under the rug being dubbed “normal”, when in reality, they are not, and women need and deserve more care during this time that chiropractors can offer. Their bodies go through massive changes and trauma both mentally and physically, and chiropractic treatment could bring true understanding and support to issues surrounding pregnancy. Most importantly, becoming specialized in this field can help normalize these issues, and bring them to light for the entire medical community.