Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy, Should You Get It?
Back, pelvis, and neck pain have been primary complaints of pregnant women for decades. Unfortunately, many of the standard recommendations for relief of such pain?e.g., sleeping with a pillow between the knees, taking warm baths, etc.?simply don’t cut it for a large portion of expectant mothers. On the brighter side, chiropractic care for soon-to-be moms may solve not only pain problems, but other pregnancy/delivery problems, as well.
How Chiropractic Care Works
The human body holds a complex musculoskeletal system, with the bones and muscles working much like levers and pulleys to facilitate desired movement. This is connected to the body’’s neurological system, since nerve impulses control the muscular movement that pulls on the bones. When the skeleton is misaligned, pain results because nerves and muscles become pinched or strained, and because the misalignment often creates excess pressure on the joints. Chiropractic adjustments work by realigning the skeleton, thereby relieving the nerve, muscle, and joint problems.
How Does Chiropractic Care Help Moms-to-Be?
When a woman is pregnant, the musculoskeletal system is required to accommodate the excess weight of the pregnancy. Although some of this weight is distributed evenly throughout the body as maternal fat stores, the majority of the weight is gained in the abdominal region and is made up of amniotic fluid, the fetus, and placenta. With gravity pulling against this extra weight, the body has to work harder to stay upright because so much weight is in one area. As the body tries to compensate for this shift in its center of gravity and to deal with the weight, the musculoskeletal system gradually becomes strained and pulled out of alignment. This is made worse by the fact that hormones released during pregnancy cause the joints to become looser so that the bones in the pelvis eventually can shift enough to allow the baby through the birth canal. The result is pain, most commonly in the lumbar, pelvic, and neck regions. Seeing a chiropractor during pregnancy can alleviate these problems.
Another benefit to chiropractic care during pregnancy that often is not discussed is an easier delivery. When the pelvis of a mother is misaligned as a result of the pregnancy, the baby sometimes can have a more difficult time turning into the correct position for birth because the pelvic bones are misaligned and therefore in the baby’’s way. While this does not mean the baby cannot be birthed, it can result in problems such as shoulder dystocia, which can mean longer, harder labors and which can become life-threatening for both mother and baby without intervention. By contrast, an aligned pelvis during delivery ensures that the baby can turn correctly and thereby encounter minimal resistance through the birth canal.
There Are Benefits, But Is It Safe?
When done correctly, chiropractic care poses minimal to no risk to the mother and baby. However, because there are multiple chiropractic techniques, a pregnant woman should make sure that the ones her chiropractor employs are low pressure (i.e., that the bones are shifted gradually back into place rather than quickly popped into alignment). This is because the hormones of pregnancy make the joints particularly loose, which can result in over correction.
The main side effects of chiropractic care for pregnant women are the same as for non-pregnant individuals. These side effects may include headaches, tiredness, and soreness in the treated region. This is mainly Because the shift back into alignment can put the treated region into stress until the muscles, nerves, and bones become adjusted to their new, correct placement. These are usually temporary. However, chiropractic care also can be considered safer than other treatments (especially during pregnancy) because it is a natural remedy and therefore does not have the complications that drugs or surgery could have.
Are There Other Things to Consider?
Pregnant women are advised not to lie on their back for long periods of time because the weight of the baby can press on main arteries that supply blood to the child. For this reason, pregnant women should make sure that their chiropractor adjusts them carefully in positions that take this into consideration. Many chiropractors also have special tables with a place cut out for the belly so that the mother does not need to lie flat on her back.
Women who already have hypomobility of the joints previous to their pregnancy should be particularly careful of the type of chiropractic adjustment they receive during gestation. The hormones of pregnancy can worsen this hypomobility and can make the risk of injury from a hard adjustment higher. For this reason, some chiropractors are hesitant to work on pregnant women, particularly those with this condition.
Because medications can affect how the body reacts to the chiropractic adjustment, pregnant women need to discuss any medications they are taking with the chiropractor. This includes prenatal vitamins and supplements. Pregnant women also need to discuss any previous physical conditions, pregnancy-related and otherwise, that may affect the effectiveness of the adjustment or which may cause injury if left unknown to the professional. The current obstetrician seen should be aware that chiropractic care is being sought so that medications and recommendations from the obstetrician do not conflict with the chiropractic care.
The Bottom Line
Although a pregnant woman may experience some minimal side effects from a chiropractic adjustment, the benefits of chiropractic care that is correctly given outweigh the risks. As long as the chiropractor is well-informed of the pregnancy and other medical conditions and treatments, chiropractic care is a safe, effective, natural remedy to pain related to pregnancy misalignments and can help the mother to deliver more easily.