Chiropractic and Pregnancy: 7 Facts Every Woman Should Know.
There are a lot of misconceptions about pregnancy which cause confusion and create questions such as if vitamins should be taken, how much activity and what sorts of activity are safe, and what are "normal" experiences and symptoms during pregnancy. Each of these questions can be a blog topic by itself, but today I want to examine some of the most common questions I hear about pregnancy and chiropractic. These include: Is chiropractic safe during pregnancy? Can chiropractic help low back pain and sciatica? What about gastrointestinal issues? How can I plan for pregnancy? What can I do to ensure a healthy pregnancy? What about after pregnancy?.
1) Is Chiropractic safe during pregnancy? Yes. There are very few clinical contraindications to adjustments during pregnancy and it is very safe, both for the mom and the baby. In our office we have specially designed tables which are completely safe for the baby and allow for abdominal space specifically for pregnant moms. We also offer a variety of techniques which allow us to adjust in different positions depending on term, discomfort, and patient preference. We see many pregnant women in our office in Victoria, MN and we love them!
2) Can Chiropractors help with low back pain and sciatica during pregnancy? Roughly 50% of women report low back pain at some point during pregnancy. This is due to the increased weight in the breasts and abdomen which pulls the center of gravity forward. The low back and pelvis compensate by increasing their curvatures which can compress tissue and reduce mobility. Other factors also contribute to low back pain.
Most women experience significant relief from both low back pain and sciatica after chiropractic care. I recommend regular chiropractic care throughout the pregnancy to prevent/decrease pain, keep spinal joints healthy and mobile, and optimize nerve communication and function. Other beneficial activities include gentle yoga positions like cat-cow (see helpful video here), going for a light walk, and pelvic tilts (see more here).
3) Is there anything a chiropractor can do for constipation, urination urges, abdominal pressure during pregnancy? Yes. There is only so much room in the body so as the baby grows it begins to put pressure on and displace internal organs, especially the large intestine and bladder. This can lead to constipation, frequent and urgent urination, and a feeling of pressure inside the abdomen. There are several things pregnant moms can do to ease these symptoms. First, sleeping on your side with a support pillow and taking occasional rests in that position throughout the day takes pressure of the bowel and bladder and allows for better digestion. Second, getting light exercise and staying hydrated helps move food along the digestive tract. Occasionally, if the round-ligament of the uterus is tight it will put pressure on the bowel, especially if your pelvis is twisted. Getting your pelvis adjusted by a chiropractor can help balance the tension side-to-side and ease some of the pressure. Finally, pelvic floor exercises (see here) before, during, and after pregnancy increase overall abdominal support and contribute to a healthier pregnancy and delivery.
4) Should I be taking vitamins? Always consult a qualified healthcare provider, like your chiropractor, who is qualified and trained with supplements, diet, and pregnancy before starting a supplement. Proper nutrition for the mother is VERY IMPORTANT for the developing baby and should begin well BEFORE pregnancy. Diet is of first importance... supplements are not a substitute for an unhealthy diet consisting of high quality and varied protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Nutritional needs change throughout the pregnancy and should be custom-designed for each woman, especially women who are vegans, are carrying more than one child, or women who smoke/drink/use drugs.
A high-quality multivitamin recommended by your healthcare provider is recommended at least 6-months before conception to address any nutritional deficiencies in the mother prior to pregnancy. Be very cautious with herbal supplements and essential oils until you have checked that they are OK during pregnancy.
5) How much activity is safe during pregnancy? Exercise during pregnancy is great and should be encouraged for most women. A few general rules: don't start a new exercise routine during pregnancy, keep your heart rate below 140 bpm, keep intensity at 1/3 of the level prior to pregnancy. I recommend going for a couple 20-minute walks a day for most women and working with a personal trainer who specializes in pregnancy for those women looking for something more intense. Pelvic exercises, body-weight squats, and comfortable yoga poses are good activities. Like with everyone, exercise on an aligned spine is best.
6) What can I do now to help recover better after delivery? Generally, the healthier a woman is going into a pregnancy, the faster she will recover. Many things can contribute to a faster recovery including proper exercise and nutrition before, during, and after pregnancy, regular chiropractic care, a solid birth plan, and a reliable support network. Obviously there are many other factors outside anyone's control which can contribute to recovery speed. I recommend starting basic exercises as soon as 2-hours after delivery to increase muscle tone and help restore the "normal" alignment and dexterity of the spine as well as reestablish correct motor muscle patterns. I encourage mothers to bring their baby into the office so they can both have their spine and nervous systems evaluated and adjusted as soon as possible after delivery.
7) When should I start seeing a chiropractor? Everyone with a spine can benefit from seeing a chiropractor, regardless of pain or current health. I highly recommend regular chiropractic care throughout the entirety of pregnancy for spinal and nervous system health. If you're struggling with pain and have never been to a chiropractor before, it's not too late to start care! I accept and welcome new patients at all stages of pregnancy in my office in Victoria, MN.