Chiropractic care along with other alternative therapies has become more popular during pregnancy. It has been shown that chiropractic care is one of the more common forms of complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) used. Among CAM, massage therapy and yoga are also a common form of alternative therapy used during pregnancy. It has been reported that about one third of the U.S. population uses alternative therapies, with a majority being women of childbearing age.
Most women experience some sort of pain during their pregnancy. The most common types of pain that are reported during pregnancy are low back pain and pelvic pain. There can be other pain associated with pregnancy such as neck pain, headaches, rib pain, and thoracic pain.
A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology concluded that a multimodal approach to low back and pelvic pain during pregnancy has more benefits than standard obstetrics. The multimodal group included obstetrical care plus chiropractic care, which incorporated manipulative treatment, stabilizing exercises, and patient education.
There are many changes occurring throughout pregnancy. During pregnancy there are hormones released that allow the ligaments to relax. This is a necessary process, which allows the pelvis to widen during childbirth. The laxity of these ligaments can also attribute to misalignments in the spine and pelvis. The increasing weight and expansion of the belly causes a shift in the pregnant woman’s center of gravity resulting in an increased curvature of the spine. The center of gravity shifts forward and down, which can cause the low back pain and / or pelvic pain. The pain is due to the shift because it causes strain to the lower back and compression to the joints in the spine and pelvis. The body also adapts to these changes resulting in postural adaptations that can cause pain to occur in the neck or midback.
Chiropractic care has been shown to provide many benefits for the mother-to-be. It helps to correct misalignments of the spine and pelvis to reduce and eliminate pain. It helps to correct potential causes of intrauterine constraint, which can allow the developing baby to be in the proper position for delivery. There are also benefits that allow for a healthier pregnancy such as, decreasing other symptoms of pregnancy, reducing risk of a cesarean delivery and it can help to decrease the labor and delivery time.
Chiropractic care during pregnancy is natural, safe and effective. There are specific techniques that are used to adjust pregnant women to allow for a comfortable safe adjustment. Chiropractors may use special tables, instruments or pillows to adjust. One specific technique that chiropractors may use is Webster Technique. This technique specifically addresses imbalances in the pelvis (the sacrum) and light pressure to the round ligaments (that help support the position of the uterus). By adjusting and treating these areas it reduces the intrauterine constraint by allowing the developing baby to get into the head down position in preparation for delivery. This technique is used when the pregnant woman knows that her baby is in a breech position (buttocks down) and if the child does not flip and become head down then the mother will have a cesarean section. When this technique is performed earlier, usually by 32 or 33 weeks of pregnancy there is greater chance of the baby flipping into the proper position. The Journal of Manipulative & Physiological Medicine reported in July 2002 that there is an 82% success rate of babies turning head down when chiropractors perform Webster Technique.
Chiropractic is safe and effective for the pregnant patient. Chiropractors are able to modify their techniques to provide comfortable adjustments throughout the progression of the pregnancy. Being pregnant doesn’t mean that you have to suffer through the pain. If you are pregnant or are planning to get pregnant, don’t hesitate to talk to a chiropractor, or even your healthcare provider about your concerns.
Dr. West is board certified by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE). She received her Doctorate of Chiropractic from Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, IA in 2012. Prior to attending Palmer, she received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Microbiology from Michigan State University.