The chiropractor and pregnancy — tips and techniques to lay a healthy foundation for treating pregnant patients
AT OUR CLINIC A WIDE VARIETY OF PATIENTS includes many women seeking chiropractic care during and after pregnancy. Women begin their care at all stages of their pregnancy journeys, but on average for the chiropractor and pregnancy, we typically see patients who have not previously been under care begin around the 20-week mark.
However, with 20 weeks being the halfway point, most moms-to-be notice more strain to their sacroiliac joints, pelvis and lower back, and even symptoms of sciatic pain. When the pain starts, that is when on average most pregnant women start care.
Pregnant patient relationships
Some of my favorite days have been when a patient I have grown to know well comes in and tells me that she is pregnant, and I have the privilege of providing chiropractic care throughout her pregnancy.
We have developed a wonderful relationship with providers in our community, and through my own personal motherhood journey I have made many professional relationships with other prenatal providers in our community. Many of the pregnant patients we see are referred to us by patients who have already experienced care in our clinic.
As a mother of two, I have had very different pregnancy experiences, and both of these pregnancies have helped me to grow and understand that:
1) no pregnancy is the same, and
2) I have an awareness of what a pregnant mother lying on my table is going through.
Chiropractor and pregnancy: adjusting pregnant patients
It has allowed me to know that an adjustment is not one-size-fits-all. I was well-adjusted through both of my pregnancies and carried certain adjustments and techniques that provided relief, and I use those methods on pregnant patients.
I had a vaginal delivery with my first child, Braxton. It was a super-easy pregnancy and delivery. I then had a breech baby until week 37 with my second child, Bristol. I had a cesarean section with her. Both of those experiences gave me an appreciation for all births that I did not have before. I am thankful for both of my deliveries and would not change either experience.
How ongoing education contributes to care
I started off by taking the Webster Technique certification in chiropractic school. It was eye-opening to know and understand how the body changes through each phase of pregnancy.
Keeping a balanced pelvis and nervous system is crucial for mom and for baby to grow and develop leading up to delivery. I try to surround myself with other doctors in the profession who excel at prenatal care and continue to expand my clinical experience. This allows me to have a continuous and ongoing education as I grow as a prenatal chiropractor.
During pregnancy, women’s bodies go through so many changes, partly due to a growing child, but also due to hormones. These hormones and changes to our body cause our pelvis, lumbar spine, and supporting structures to be more expanded than normal. This can cause spinal misalignments, muscle tightness and potential instability, and can lead to pain.
Chiropractic care, as we know, decreases pain. However, staying well-adjusted throughout pregnancy allows bodies to be as balanced as possible, so the baby is in the best position possible for birth leading to a smoother labor and delivery. If a mother is pregnant with multiples, that greatly increases the pressure that can impact the lumbar spine and pelvis. With chiropractic and pregnancy, care is important to help with recovery along with keeping the new mother’s body as comfortable as possible through the changes after a baby is born.
Evolving changes of chiropractic and pregnancy care
The shifting center of gravity can contribute to many things, including imbalances, postural changes, pain, discomfort, and decreased range of motion. Chiropractic care can help a pregnant mother stay as balanced as possible along with limiting postural changes, pain and discomfort.
Most people succumb to lack of foot stabilization, and that is significantly increased during pregnancy. The hormone relaxin causes the ligaments in the body to expand, especially impacting the feet. That means there can be a loss of support during pregnancy.
Foot stabilization through custom orthotics restores healthy function of all three arches of the foot, providing critical support for pregnant patients. It’s critical the arches of the feet have support during pregnancy. Custom orthotics allow a pregnant woman to feel more balanced and keep her body in proper alignment by giving her the proper support needed through pregnancy.
Foot stabilization and properly supporting the arches of the feet can help lead to achieving optimal balance and allow the spine to function at 100%. When the body is balanced and the spine is free of interference, this helps lead to the body functioning at 100%. This means we are at our healthiest and a pregnant woman’s body can develop and thrive throughout her pregnancy.
When treating a pregnant woman, I always follow the Webster Technique. I focus on the pelvis, muscles and ligaments supporting the uterus to keep the pelvis in the best alignment possible.
I try to avoid side-posture adjusting unless absolutely necessary due to the strain and torsion it can place on a pregnant patient’s pelvis. As a mother gets closer and closer to her due date, I make sure her pelvis is balanced. I like to keep her spine in proper alignment so it can communicate to her body as labor nears.
In the last four weeks of care, I typically see a pregnant patient a minimum of once per week to ensure her body is in proper alignment and functioning at 100%.
Less pain, less fatigue
Stabilizing the body and keeping the spine in proper alignment allows a pregnant mother to be as comfortable as possible. In my experience, the lower the pain and discomfort, the less fatigue a pregnant mother will have.
A lot of times, fatigue is related to hormones that occur in various trimesters. The period of pregnancy that I have seen chiropractic care help most with fatigue is the third trimester, when the body can easily come out of alignment. During this time we are able to realign and stabilize the body, allowing the pregnant mother to function better and feel less discomfort after the adjustment.
Chiropractors can begin by talking with patients who are planning to start a family or patients who already have children. Chiropractors can also reach out to OB/GYNs in their area to communicate and educate about the importance of chiropractic care. We have a wonderful relationship with prenatal professionals in our area. Many of those professionals refer patients to our office because of the information we have shared with them about chiropractic and pregnancy.
If you are a chiropractor interested in treating pregnant patients, I recommend that you look into the Webster Technique by reaching out to the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association. Start surrounding yourself with chiropractors who see and take care of pregnant patients and then ask questions.
I would tell a woman who is pregnant or considering pregnancy how important a chiropractor and pregnancy care is to the health of both the mother and baby. She should find a Webster-certified chiropractor in her area to begin her pregnancy journey. Also important is for patients to find a chiropractor who uses custom three-arch orthotics in their practice and scans their patients’ feet to ensure proper foot stabilization to complement chiropractic treatment during and after pregnancy.
CAITLIN HALEY CORONA, DC, is a graduate of Arkansas State University and Parker University. She has completed specialized training in pregnancy and pediatrics and is certified in the Webster Technique. She practices at Bledsoe Chiropractic in Conway, Ark., and can be reached at email@example.com.