Changes in hormonal balance are necessary to maintain a healthy pregnancy. It is these hormonal changes, however, that contribute to some common discomforts experienced throughout pregnancy. Increased progesterone levels create smooth muscle relaxation, allowing for expansion of the uterus. Elevated levels of relaxin cause ligamentous laxity. The combined effects of these two hormones cause postural changes that may stress the muscles and ligaments of the low back, pelvis, and abdomen. Consequently, pubic pain, low back pain, and sacroiliac joint pain are commonly experienced due to loss of joint stability. Chiropractic can be utilized throughout pregnancy to alleviate these common complaints. Gentle chiropractic adjustments are applied in order to restore proper joint alignment and motion.
Postural changes can also be contributed to alterations in gait and stance. Gradual weight gain combined with increased joint laxity causes these changes. As a result, loss of coordination and increased risk of injury may develop. Doctors of chiropractic are qualified to prescribe stretches and exercises to enhance proper posture.
Now, let's talk about labor and delivery. Two of the primary causes of C-sections are cephalopelvic disproportion and improper polarity of contractions. Cephalopelvic disproportion occurs when the baby's head is too large to pass through the mother's pelvic brim. Often times, this condition can be attributed to improper alignment of the mother's pelvis during labor. This misalignment decreases the size of the pelvic opening and interferes with the progression of labor. This makes perfect sense when you consider all of the mothers who have had a vaginal birth after c-section (VBAC) and delivered even bigger babies with subsequent pregnancies. Doctors of chiropractic are trained to recognize even the slightest misalignments of the pelvis in order to ensure an adequate passageway for delivery.
Improper polarity of contractions occurs when uterine contractions are not causing dilation and effacement of the cervix. In other words, labor is not progressing. Sometimes, this also can be attributed to pelvic subluxation. A subluxation occurs when the joints of the spine misalign and place pressure on the spinal nerves, interfering with message transmission to the target tissues. During pregnancy, subluxation is extremely common as a result of increased joint laxity and postural changes as outlined previously. Chiropractic adjustments are utilized to properly align the bones of the spine and pelvic, reducing pressure that is placed on the nerves of the sacrum. This allows proper nerve transmission to the muscles and ligaments of the pelvis and abdomen and normal labor progression.
Optimal fetal positioning can enhance chiropractic treatments and further encourage delivery near the estimated due date. The ideal position for the fetus going into labor is head down with the body of the baby lying on the anterior aspect of the mother's abdomen on the left side. Many modern positions that mothers-to-be find comfortable hinder this presentation. For example, spending the last month of pregnancy in a recliner or traveling in a car with bucket seats can encourage the baby to settle into the posterior aspect of the mother's uterus. Pregnant women should avoid body positions in which the knees are elevated above the pelvis and avoid crossing the legs. Spending time on all four hands and knees or sitting on a birthing ball can encourage optimal fetal positioning.
Studies indicate that chiropractic care throughout pregnancy may significantly reduce labor time and the incidence of back labor. Research concludes that first time moms experience a 24% reduction in average labor lengths