Pregnancy should be an enjoyable life experience, however, during pregnancy a woman’s body goes through enormous changes. Due to ligament laxity and the shifting of the centre of gravity, mothers to be can develop poor posture and more than 50% of pregnant women experience ‘low back pain’.
There are many difficulties that you may experience during pregnancy, such as back pain, sore legs, headaches, sciatica, shortness of breath, dizziness, morning sickness, fatigue and Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction that can be attributable to the health of your spine. Chiropractors are trained to recognise mechanical dysfunction of the spine, along with the muscles and joints. Chiropractic can be a great source of relief during the 9 months of pregnancy (and beyond).
Chiropractic is Safe for Pregnant Mums
Chiropractic treatment offers a safe, gentle, drug free alternative for the relief of discomfort during pregnancy and can play an important role in ensuring that your body and spine are functioning normally. This can result in less pain for the mother to be and more room for the developing baby so that both mother and baby experience less physical and emotional stress.
Also, by reducing the stresses and strains on the joints and muscles, normal daily activities can be continued throughout the 9 months and many women find that labour is shorter and less painful.
The Chiropractic Aim
Chiropractors offer a conservative approach to treatment of pregnant women, without the use of any drug interventions. The aim is to alleviate the stresses and strains of pregnancy and to improve comfort for both mother and baby.
There are 10 simple guidelines that enable a chiropractor to meet the goals of a happy and healthy mother and baby:
1. First, do no harm
This rule is the same for all chiropractic patients. Chiropractors are aware of the special considerations and unique physiology of pregnancy, and they take this into account when examining and treating any pregnant patient.
2. Hormonal influences
Chiropractors recognize the powerful hormonal influences of pregnancy, the rapid weight gain, and the physiological changes that stress the woman’s physique. Levels of the hormones progesterone, oestrogen and relaxing affect, the relaxation of smooth muscle tone, the pliability of connective tissue and the laxity of the ligaments (more stretchy). Chiropractors therefore notice an increase in spinal and pelvic laxity in the pregnant woman (joints feel ‘looser’) and they alter their examination and treatment techniques to account for these changes.
3. History taking
The same care is given in taking a history in the case of a pregnant woman as with any other patient. But special attention is warranted for:
- Previous pregnancy and delivery
- Past/recent trauma
- Any underlying medical conditions/medications
- Personal/family history of deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
- Psychosocial history, including other children and family members
- Nutrition / alcohol intake / smoking habits.
In addition to the full chiropractic, orthopaedic and neurological examination performed with all patients, special care is taken with:
- Close observation of any postural changes
- Changes/difficulties walking
- Changes to the ribcage to accommodate the ‘bump’
- Soft tissue changes
- Changes to blood pressure
- Generalised or localized oedema /swelling
- Special emphasis given to the area of complaint.
Chiropractors are in a unique position to determine special postural influences and muscle imbalances in each case, and to attend to the individual stressors with each visit. They are also in position to help the healthcare team by tracking blood pressure and being alert to any changes.
5. Let the woman decide
Research shows that the happiest and healthiest pregnancies and labour occur in women who listen to all the advice, and then make their own decisions as to the best way forward.
Chiropractors always inform their patients of the treatment plan, goals and progress, and offer exercise and lifestyle advice. There are also different chiropractic treatment techniques to choose from, which the chiropractor will explain to you. The pregnant patient is then in a good position to make a decision as to how much of which type of therapy to take up.
6. Providing a comfortable environment
Feedback is always requested as to the comfort of the patient, which can be created through the use of:
- Pregnancy pillows
- Pregnancy beds placed on a flat table
- Separation of the thoracic and pelvic piece of the chiropractic bench
- Use of a knee-chest table.
Virtually any chiropractic technique may be used, modified to take into account the hormonal influences on the soft tissue structures as discussed earlier. The treatment aims in the 1st-2nd trimester to support the biomechanical structure as soon as possible, and then in the later stages, to reduce tension, support the increased stress on the musculoskeletal frame, and maintain good alignment of the pelvis.
8. General advice
Chiropractors are able to provide specific advice regarding work and work postures, exercise, and positions to help reduce constraint on the baby, according to the needs of the patient.
9. Exercise advice
Chiropractors provide appropriate exercise advice according to the patient’s pre-pregnancy level of fitness and current condition. Exercises can include those that strengthen the core muscles and pelvic floor, and stabilise and rebalance the pelvis. Activity is important to:
- Strengthen muscles to take on a bigger load
- Make joints stronger and more flexible
- Improve circulation
- Help prepare for the physical exertion of labour and recovery afterwards.
10. Part of the team
Chiropractors and midwives have a great deal in common when it comes to care during pregnancy: both have a preference to work within the body’s normal function and natural healing abilities, as well as to provide support for a non-invasive birth. Midwives are on the frontlines of pregnancy care and are often eager to find someone who can help with the maladies of pregnancy, most commonly back and pelvic pain. Chiropractors therefore have a place as an integral part of the pregnancy health care team.
Chiropractic treatment offers a safe, gentle, drug free alternative for the relief of discomfort during pregnancy and can be a great source of relief during the 9 months of pregnancy (and beyond) for both mother and baby.
Helpful Hints and General Advice
Some simple suggestions that may help make you more comfortable during your pregnancy:
- Try to get fit prior to your pregnancy
- Continue exercising during pregnancy, focusing on toning pelvic muscles
- Exercise comfortably to improve circulation
- Pelvic rock and cat stretch exercises on all-fours (ask your chiropractor)
- Do not perform excessive stretching exercises, particularly in the 3rd trimester
- Wear flat supportive shoes, such as trainers
- Sit with knees lower than hips
- Do NOT rest in a recliner or slouch in a chair
- Learn and use the ‘neutral spine’ positions (your chiropractor can help)
- Use a pillow under the abdomen and between the legs in bed
- Keep your back flat when standing for long periods
- Support your lower back with a cushion when sitting
- Avoid crossing legs whilst sitting
- Sleep on the left side to encourage the baby to that side
- Lean on a bean bag or exercise ball during relaxation
- Take frequent rests, lying down towards the end of your pregnancy
- Avoid travelling in cars with bucket seats
- Use ice packs on your lower back if it feels sore
- Do not use heat.
- Consult a chiropractor throughout your pregnancy to avoid pain.