Chiropractic Care and Pregnancy: Helping Women's Bodies to Adapt
Saying that a woman's body changes during pregnancy is somewhat like saying that the Tour de France is a bike ride. The demands on a pregnant woman's body require that she be able to constantly adapt to changes in her internal and external environments, both physical and physiological. A healthy nervous system is integral to this process, since it governs and controls these adaptive processes. Regular chiropractic care can help to make a pregnancy as comfortable as possible and also promotes an environment where the body can adapt to the unavoidable stresses of the pregnancy experience.
About 60% of women experience back pain during pregnancy. Women are turning to chiropractic care in increasing numbers (click here, here, and here for articles), due in part to research that indicates that chiropractic adjustment may ease low back pain associated with pregnancy. In 2006, Dr. Anthony Lisi published a retrospective case series of seventeen pregnant patient with low back pain, sixteen of whom experienced clinically important improvement in their symptoms after chiropractic care (click here for the abstract). Similarly, Stuber and Smith published a literature review in 2008 that showed positive results for resolution of low back pain in pregnant women using chiropractic care (click here for the abstract). A more comprehensive narrative review was published in 2007 by Cara Borggren (click here for the PDF).
While relief of low back pain during pregnancy is a great benefit of chiropractic care, a more important one may be reduction of intrauterine constraint via chiropractic adjustment. Intrauterine constraint is defined as any force outside of the developing baby that obstructs its normal movement. Intrauterine constraint is correlated with such conditions as craniostenosis, congential hip deformity, and breech presentation (click here and here). The Webster Technique, a specific chiropractic technique developed in 1978 by Dr. Larry Webster, can be used to relieve musculoskeletal conditions that can result in intrauterine constraint. A survey of 112 chiropractors using the Webster technique indicated a high rate of success in relieving the musculoskeletal causes of intrauterine constraint. Of these 112 surveys, 102 (92%) resulted in resolution of the breech presentation, while 10 (9%) remained unresolved (click here to download the PDF). Several individual case studies have also demonstrated positive outcomes by ultrasound analysis (click here and here for abstracts, articles are available for reading at Path of Life)
In the US, more than 80% of infants with breech presentation are delivered by C-section. Chiropractic adjustment may help women by empowering their bodies to reposition the baby into a vertex position, allowing for a vaginal birth and thereby avoiding major abdominal surgery and the resultant recovery. If your baby is breech, or if you know someone in this situation, please consider a chiropractic check of the spine and pelvis for indicators of intrauterine constraint. A simple, gentle, specific chiropractic adjustment might make the difference between a natural birth experience and major surgery.
Lastly, a study by Dr. Joan Fallon entitled "The Effect of Chiropractic Treatment on Pregnancy and Labor: A Comprehensive Study (Proceedings of the World Federation of Chiropractic, 1991: 24-31) showed a 24% reduction in labor time for first-time moms under chiropractic care, and a 39% reduction in labor time for women under chiropractic care who had given birth previously. This promising study confirms what chiropractors, midwives, and doulas have seen for years - that chiropractic care can ease labor and reduce its duration.
For more resources on Pregnancy and Chiropractic, see www.icpa4kids.org.
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