Chiropractic Care in Pregnancy
By: Dr. Lawrence Hauptly
As I look across the many birth forums and online resources for pregnant moms, I see chiropractic care being offered as a solution to many of the issues women are experiencing during pregnancy and the postpartum period. More and more women are realizing the benefits of consistent chiropractic care as they prepare for their little one to be welcomed into this world. As a family chiropractor that focuses on pregnancy and infant care, one of the most common questions I’m asked is, “How can chiropractic help during my pregnancy?” To answer this question, it’s important to understand how a mother’s pelvis / body works throughout pregnancy.
What does normal look like?
When a woman is pregnant, growing a new life, an incredibly complex chain of events has to take place, with little room for error. To name a few, mom’s body has to provide the perfect environment, the correct amount of nutrients, and sufficient stimulation for baby to grow optimally. The amazing part of all this is that her body is perfectly designed to do all this, while also maintaining her health at the same time. This requires her body to follow a very exact and precise “program.” Like a detailed, choreographed dance, every part of a mother’s body works in unison with her baby’s developing body to produce health. This “program” is run by the mother’s nervous system. Comprised of her brain, spinal cord, and a network of approximately 46 miles of nerves, this master controller of the body keeps everything working and coordinated. Without this system running the program as designed, life would not be possible. With this system working as intended, true health is not only possible, but inevitable.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t always work this perfectly. Everyday stresses can take a toll on a mother’s system, overwhelming its ability to adapt to it environment. When this happens, her nervous system is not able to communicate effectively. It’s like the cell phone reception is weak between her body and her brain. Neither one knows what it should be doing, and so, her health and the health of her baby become compromised. Essentially, the “program” begins to fail.
Effect on Mom
“The potential for damage in pregnancy and the postpartum period to a woman’s neuro-musculoskeletal structure is great,” Varney’s Midwifery warns. As the communication of the nerves diminishes, one of the first things that is affected is the muscles of the lumbar spine and pelvis. Couple that with the effects of relaxin and other hormones, and it is very easy for mom’s structural alignment to be thrown off. 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. The nerves of the low back control all the organs of the gut, as well as the pelvis and legs. Besides pain in the pelvis, pubic bone region, S.I. joints, and in the low back, common symptoms of poor communication in these nerves include constipation / diarrhea, gassiness / bloating, cramping in the legs, and perhaps most importantly, it can interrupt the normal function of the uterus / reproductive system of the mother, and therefore, baby.
Furthermore, this misalignment is also going to affect the ligaments and soft tissues in the area. To understand this better, think of the uterus and pelvis as a hot air balloon…the uterus is the balloon and the pelvis is the basket. In the front, there are two ropes (the round ligaments), and in the back there are two ropes (the sacro-uterine ligaments) that connect the balloon to the basket. Now imagine if you twisted the basket. There is no other option but to have abnormal tension on one or more of these ropes, and most likely, the balloon is going to twist as well. This abnormal tension throughout the uterus is going to affect how much room baby has to move around and limit the ability to get into a good position for birth. It’s not uncommon for baby to be breech or posterior (or any other malposition) in these situations. All of this tends to lead to the last thing mom and baby want, longer and more difficult labors. This, in turn, substantially increases the likelihood of having various interventions during labor such as Pitocin, forceps or vacuum delivery, and Cesarean section.
Effect on Baby
One of the more overlooked effects of a mother’s pelvis being misalignment are the effects on baby. Medically speaking, birth trauma is when there is some overt injury to baby during the birth process (fractured collar bone, nerve damage like Erb’s palsy or Bell’s palsy, etc). In chiropractic, we classify birth trauma as any insult on spinal function, including misalignments and decreased nerve function. These types of injuries can be less obvious, and takes special training to be able to detect. The most common area affected by birth trauma is the upper neck region of the spine, right where baby’s brainstem is located. The primary jobs of our brainstems are the necessary functions to keep us alive: heart rate, breathing rate, sleep, and digestion. Babies that have malfunction in their upper neck region can have nursing issues, colic / excessive crying, acid reflux, torticollis, difficulty sleeping, allergies / congestion. Later on these kids can develop things like anxiety, balance and coordination issues, ADD / ADHD, and focus and memory issues. This is why I always recommend newborn’s get checked, to make sure they don’t have any issues with their nervous system function, and to start out life as healthy possible.
How does chiropractic help?
The main job of a chiropractor is to restore law and order to the body. By finding where the nervous system is not functioning properly and stimulating those nerves through a chiropractic adjustment, normal function and communication can be restored. Once the brain and the body are able to communicate effectively again, the body is able to heal all on its own. The normal “program” comes back online, and health is restored. The idea is simple, but that makes it no less profound. Whether you are a pregnant mom looking for a better birth or a parent of a newborn that is struggling to thrive, I recommend getting checked by a chiropractor.
To find someone who focuses and has specialized training with pregnancy and infant care, go to http://icpa4kids.org/Find-a-Chiropractor/ . Just as with any other kind of doctor, not all chiropractors are the same, and this site is a great resource to find some of the best doctors near you.
About Dr Lawrence
Dr. Lawrence Hauptly is a family wellness chiropractor that focuses on pregnancy and pediatric care. He has been involved in the birth world in one way or another, working alongside his wife who is a birth doula and childbirth educator, since the birth of his oldest son. He is Webster’s Certified (a special technique for pregnancy) and just over a year ago, Dr Lawrence joined the team at Family First Chiropractic, in Murray UT.
When he is not in the office seeing patients, Dr. Lawrence spends most of his time with his wife and three children (soon to be four!), taking in all the outdoor activities Utah has to offer.
If you would like to contact Dr. Lawrence, his contact info is:
Family First Chiropractic and Wellness Center
746 E Winchester St., G-10, Murray, UT 84107