Chiropractic adjustments lead to safer, easier pregnancies and childbirth

This is the first in a series of articles devoted to discussing the benefits of chiropractic.

Chiropractic for pregnancy, you ask? But, your Ob/Gyn has never mentioned it. Your midwife has never suggested it. You should know that mounting research is saying—well, they should. Chiropractic is so beneficial to pregnancy and labor that there are techniques and certifications of practice dedicated to them. Why? Because to put it quite simply, chiropractic drastically improves the overall physical experience of pregnancy by easing the typical pains and discomforts while greatly reducing complications that may arise during childbirth… including those that lead to an unnecessary cesarean section.

When I was in the later stages of pregnancy with my second child, I began to mentally prepare myself for the labor. The birth of my first child was a natural vaginal delivery, free of any medical interventions. I consider myself lucky that I did not have a high-risk pregnancy. I was able to follow my birth plan to the letter— with one significant caveat: I was in labor for 23 hours. I pushed for four of them. The labor was long and tiring. Somehow (probably through the natural flow of adrenaline), I was able to maintain positivity and remain psychologically upbeat though, at times, delirious. When my son was finally born, there was meconium in the amniotic fluid because of the long hours of stress he endured. With the efforts of an emergency pediatric team, his airways were cleared and his APGAR score was deemed strong and healthy. It’s three years later, and he continues to be a bright, healthy, vibrant little boy.

What does my son’s birth have to do with chiropractic? Absolutely nothing. I didn’t consult the services of a chiropractor during my first pregnancy. Despite voraciously reading any book I could find on the subject of pregnancy and natural childbirth, I was presented with precious little information about chiropractic. I have since come to realize that the need for chiropractic care during pregnancy is rarely addressed in traditional circles of American medicine; i.e.: your Ob/Gyn’s office. It’s still considered taboo by most doctors. Even my midwives knew little about the benefits. While some consider it still a new practice of health care, escalating research suggests that the benefits of chiropractic are innumerable and, for pregnant women, invaluable.

So why does the chiropractic approach to health and wellness continue to be eschewed by doctors? The answer might be in their fundamental differences in philosophy. The chiropractic method attempts to prevent disease by encouraging healthy living and -with regular spinal adjustments- promoting optimal mind /body communication and function. Conversely, American medicine traditionally focuses on disease assessment and treatment once illness has already occurred. Some professionals refer to these two approaches simply as being proactive versus being reactive.

I actually discovered chiropractic for pregnancy through a tip from another mom. I was 37 weeks pregnant, and my daughter was transversely breech. She hadn’t budged for two weeks so my midwives began to prep me for possibilities other than natural childbirth. They suggested External Version—a technique that is uncomfortable at best and excruciating at worst. (In layman’s terms, External Version is a process by which an Obstetrician attempts to rotate a breech baby by manually grasping baby through the mother’s belly and turning him with short swivels of motion. Epidurals are routine because of the potential for pain, and if the mother is tense from the pain the chance of success is significantly reduced.) If it fails or is declined, generally the only other option presented is cesarean section. Still, I vetoed the Version. I went home and cried that night. Little did I know my life was about to change.

I was introduced to a local chiropractor certified in the Webster (breech) technique. Once he told me that he had a 99% success rate, I was more than interested. The process is non-invasive, painless and consists of a few specialized spinal adjustments. To be clear, the Webster technique does not in any way involve touching or adjustment to the abdomen. Chiropractors have special tables that accommodate pregnant bellies as well as an assortment of pillows to ensure comfortable positioning. The basic idea behind the technique is simple: typically there is a misalignment (called a subluxation) in the lower spine due to all of the physiological, hormonal and neurological changes a women undergoes during pregnancy. These events displace vertebrae that in turn constrain muscles and ligaments surrounding the uterus that in turn prevent the baby from relaxing into the head-down (vertex) birthing position. Once the chiropractor is able to re-align the vertebrae, any tension around the uterus is released allowing the baby to turn naturally. Statistically, 90% of babies will turn by the 10th adjustment.

My daughter turned in five sessions. And, I felt better physically not to mention the emotional boost of dodging the bullet of a c-section. My daughter was born post due-date by 6 days. That last week, I had cancelled chiropractic appointments because of Braxton-Hicks contractions accompanied by several convincing bouts of false labor. Frustrated by the fifth day, I called my chiropractor. He kindly invited me to his office for a gentle sacral adjustment that was sure to “put me in real labor within 12 hours.” It did. My daughter’s labor lasted a total of 12 hours— half the time of my first. The compelling affect of chiropractic for me was revealed during the pushing stage of her labor. I pushed for a grand total of six minutes. My chiropractor asserts that my son’s birth was so long and hard because of long-standing misalignments I had in my lower back. And, I find it hard not to agree. The events of my two deliveries were stunningly different. The experiences were polar opposites. As far as I’m concerned, chiropractic had everything to do with that.

Needless to say, I wish I had known about chiropractic during my first pregnancy. It’s difficult to ignore the research findings touting the benefits of regular spinal adjustments. In a recent study, women receiving chiropractic care during their first pregnancy had 24% shorter labor than the alternate group not receiving chiropractic. Likewise, pregnant moms of more than one child reported 39% shorter labor than in subsequent births. In general, 84% of the women polled report relief of back pain during pregnancy with chiropractic care.

Chiropractic has truly improved the quality of my life. As part of our monthly routine, I take my children with me to regular chiropractic adjustments. I do believe that it allows our bodies to function better, our immune systems to fight infection harder and our minds to think clearer than they would without. Now, if only the word about chiropractic could be widespread to other pregnant moms…

Interested in learning more about chiropractic? Check out some of the resources used for this article listed below.