There’s no question that a woman goes through tremendous changes during the nine months of pregnancy.
There certainly are physical changes, such as the expansion of the breasts and the uterus, but there may also be emotional changes, particularly if this is a difficult or a first pregnancy.
The expectant mother may be feeling an entire range of emotions, all at the same time, ranging from excitement about the impending addition to the family, to nervousness about the health of the fetus, and concern about the delivery itself.
You’ve almost certainly seen your pregnant patients go through both these physical and emotional shifts as they go through the various stages of their pregnancy. Of course, you will want to help make it easier for them to deal with the physical changes that occur with pregnancy, particularly during the second and third trimesters.
What are the changes that occur during pregnancy, and how might chiropractic care make these easier for your pregnant patients to bear?
Changes to the mother’s body during pregnancy
The most obvious physical changes that are likely to affect the spine will begin to occur during the second trimester. As the uterus grows to accommodate the fetus, the lumbar curve of the spine will increase to account for the stomach protruding further forward.
The pelvis will also start to shift position as the normally tough pelvic ligaments soften in preparation for eventual delivery. In order to counterbalance for the abdomen protruding forward, many pregnant women end up leaning somewhat backward as they stand or walk. This can then place pressure on the pelvis, the sacroiliac joint and the ligaments, causing additional pain.
All of these changes are not isolated to the back and pelvis, but will also affect the knees, ankles and feet. All of these shifts in the normal position of the back can also affect posture, which may lead to sciatica and edema (water retention) in the ankles and knees).
The second and third trimesters can also present difficulties with finding a comfortable sleeping posture. Current best recommendations are for pregnant women to not sleep on their back or stomach, but instead to sleep on their left side.
They should be in a fetal position, with the knees tucked up and a pillow between their legs. Unfortunately, this can be difficult for those who are used to sleeping on their back or stomach, as well as due to the fact that hormonal changes with pregnancy can often cause night sweats, making it difficult to sleep.
How can chiropractic during pregnancy help?
The most obvious targets for chiropractic adjustments will be the lumbar spine and the sacroiliac joint, in order to shift the vertebrae back into alignment, which will help relieve lower back pain. Adjustments to these joints may also relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve and help patients sleep more soundly at night.
Swelling and pain in the knees, ankles and feet can also be addressed with adjustments.
Of course, the most important thing to remember when working with pregnant women is to be very gentle and make sure the patient is properly supported as the adjustments are being performed. Pregnancy is a time of tremendous change for any woman, and chiropractic care can help make these changes easier by relieving pain.