by Dr. Lauryn Brunclik, D.C.
Many pregnant women already understand the importance of eating healthy, getting exercise, and constructing a safe and natural birth plan. Preparing for a healthy pregnancy can be difficult and often involves an entire team of specialists. This team may include an OB/GYN, midwife, doula, nutritionist, yoga instructor, massage therapist, or acupuncturist. Although the traditional team of specialists are vital to a pregnancy, there is another trained professional that women are turning to increasingly more for relief during pregnancy– their chiropractor.
More women are realizing that “normal aches and pains” are not a must during their pregnancy and that they can find relief. These women are seeing how incorporating chiropractic into their prenatal choices helps create a more comfortable pregnancy and labor.
As a woman goes through pregnancy, many changes begin occurring to her body. As her weight increases and stomach expands, her center of gravity shifts forward, causing the rest of her body to compensate to not tip over. This shift in gravity can often put stress on a woman’s lower back. This is why it is so common for women to experience low back pain or sciatica during their pregnancy. The increase in weight can also predispose nerves, muscles, joints, and connective tissue to stress and damage.
In addition to a shift in gravity, there is an increase in the hormones relaxin and elastin that cause ligament laxity throughout a pregnant woman’s body. This ligament laxity is essential for birthing to allow the pelvic bones to expand to greater than normal widths. This ligament laxity, although beneficial, can cause pelvic and spinal instability. Increased weight and joint laxity during pregnancy may also make pre-existing misalignments in the spine or pelvis flare up and cause discomfort. This means that although the woman may not have noticed her misaligned rib before, she’s more likely to notice it now that rib expansion is essential to not getting kicked in the liver!
The increase in ligament laxity that occurs during pregnancy may also cause joint misalignment and pain due to restricted motion and resulting inflammation. Chiropractors are trained at finding these misalignments in the body and restoring proper motion through adjustments. It is also due to ligament laxity that pregnant women require very little force to be adjusted, and adjustments are very gentle. Through specific spinal adjustments and training in proper biomechanics, chiropractic can help decrease many of the painful symptoms women experience during pregnancy.
Chiropractic goes far beyond just eliminating pain and discomfort during pregnancy. When a person has misalignments in their spine, it can cause disruption in your nervous system. The brain communicates with vital organs through nerves that exit the spine. When a misalignment in the spine occurs, it can put stress on the communication between the brain and the corresponding vital organ systems that the nerve near the misalignment controls. Although this disruption in communication is rarely an immediate threat to one’s health, when a woman is assisting in the growth of a new human being, it is vital to have proper communication within the nervous system and optimal functioning.
The pelvic bones are particularly important during pregnancy because of what they protect and support. Two of the main support ligaments for the uterus, called the utero-sacral ligaments, attach directly to your sacrum. The sacrum is the triangular bone at the base of your spine, and the keystone of your pelvis. When a misalignment occurs in the pelvis, and the sacrum is affected, it can cause tension on one of the ligaments. This is often why a pregnant woman will experience pain on one side more than the other. This tension on the utero-sacral ligament can also put torsion onto the uterus, as one side is being pulled more than the other. This torsion may cause intrauterine constraint of the baby, affecting optimal fetal positioning.
Keeping the pelvis in alignment and able to move freely is very important, not only for less discomfort during your pregnancy, but also for a safer and easier birth. In order for a baby to exit the birth canal with minimal complications, the sacrum must be able to rock back, and then forward. If the sacrum is misaligned in the pelvis, the ability to move or rock back and forth greatly decreases, and may cause problems with labor progressing.
Although all chiropractors are trained in adjusting pregnant women, there are some that have additional training and certification in a technique called “Webster Technique”. This technique uses gentle adjustments to the sacrum to achieve neuro-biomechanical function in the mother’s pelvis. In fact, surveyed chiropractors reported up to 82% success in relieving musculoskeletal causes of intrauterine constraint. When successful, the Webster Technique may decrease costs of labor and delivery, and help avoid risky procedures such as forceps, vacuum extraction, external cephalic version, cesarean section, or a vaginal breech delivery.
To find a doctor of chiropractic who offers specialized attention and consideration for pregnant women and infants, and is certified in Webster Technique, visit the ICPA website at icpa4kids.org.
Dr. Brunclik is the chiropractor and owner of Blue Hills Chiropractic in Cumberland, WI. The clinic focuses on the care and individual needs of women and children. She is certified in Webster Technique. More information on her and her clinic can be found by visiting www.bluehillschiropractic.com, calling 715-822-2500, or searching for Blue Hills Chiropractic on Facebook.