Pregnancy is an amazing and wonderful time in a woman’s life. Pregnant women experience many changes during this time. Her body changes, her hormones are altered (The female brain is highly altered by hormones), and her life as a whole will change drastically. These changes are all individual to each woman.
Through pregnancy one quickly realises how amazingly resilient and adaptable the human body is. However, it also makes it glaringly obvious how both subtle and more apparent changes can alter the biomechanics of the body drastically. If a pregnant woman is stressed or has misalignments in her spine, pelvis or sacrum she releases less oxytocin (feel good/love hormone) and more cortisol (stress hormone).
Pregnancy and Stress
It is vital that the pregnant woman control her stress levels as this can have a profound effect on her body as well as having an affect the baby’s development. If a pregnant woman has prolonged chronic stress this causes sympathetic stimulation of the autonomic nervous system.
The woman is constantly in a ‘fight or flight’ state. This increases her adrenaline and cortisol levels which then decreases blood output to her reproductive organs (this could be 60% or more). This in turn increases the fetal heart rate and decreases fetal oxygen (dangerous for fetal development over prolonged periods).
Each woman’s anatomy is unique to her. There are different pelvic shapes that make labour either easier or potentially more difficult. Females actually have more wedge-shaped vertebrae to accommodate for pregnancy. Due to all of these changes, pregnant women can often suffer from various aches and pains during pregnancy, most commonly low back pain.
Every female has these ligaments, but in non-pregnant women, they are 3-5 mm in diameter and cannot be felt. In pregnant women, they can become 10-12 cm long. They are the only ligaments in the human body with smooth muscle fibres. These muscle fibres allow them to stretch and contract for labour. They also stretch to accommodate the weight of the growing baby and to keep the uterus from moving posteriorly.
As the baby grows and these ligaments stretch this can cause a lot of pain for the mother. If one round ligament is tenser, it is thought to alter the torque of the uterus and alter its off-centre position even more. This increases the tension of the uterine wall even more and thus can be uncomfortable.
These ligaments prevent the uterus from going forward and down. If the sacrum is not moving well or is not in an optimal position these ligaments create a torque force onto the uterus altering its position which causes restriction within the uterine wall.
Chiropractic Care and Pregnancy
Chiropractors work with the natural healing capabilities of the body and its ability to adapt and function the way it is meant to. Throughout pregnancy, chiropractic is vital to the normal and optimal function of both the mother and baby.
Potential Benefits Of Chiropractic During Pregnancy
For the mother;
-in creating a state of balance in the pelvis, muscles, and ligaments, in turn, prepares the pelvis for an easier pregnancy and birth
-decreases interference and stress on the mother’s nervous system which controls and coordinates all of her vital systems and functions
-with optimal fetal positioning, there is a decrease in the risk for dystocia (abnormal labor/childbirth) and birth
For the baby;
-by reducing stress on the mothers’ nervous system – this, in turn, allows for better baby development
-with the pelvis balanced, the baby has more room to develop without restrictions and allows the baby to have more room to move into the best position for birth
-in being in the proper position this decreases the risk of dystocia with birth
*Dysctocia is caused by inadequate uterine contraction, baby malposition, and pelvic contraction
Biomechanical Changes During Pregnancy
Weight gain and postural adaptation during pregnancy will increase;
Demand and fatigue on spinal and pelvic muscles
Joint stress which causes misalignments in the spine and sacroiliac joints
A less active lifestyle
Stress on spinal and pelvic ligaments
Factors That Influence Pain During Pregnancy Making The Spine More Vulnerable
Hormone production (elastin) makes joint more mobile and less stable, this is to aid spreading of the pelvis as the baby grows
Weight gain of 11-16 kg during pregnancy is typical, being distributed mainly around the abdominal area
The body attempts to compensate for these changes and so the center of gravity is altered causing increased postural strain
Is Chiropractic Care Safe During Pregnancy
As always a thorough history and physical examination which includes neurological and orthopedic testing is done to ensure the pregnant woman is a good candidate for chiropractic care.
There are no known contraindications to chiropractic spinal and pelvic adjustments throughout pregnancy other than those affecting any non-pregnant individual, most commonly being some muscle/joint soreness after treatment.