Chiropractic for a Healthier Pregnancy

Gentle chiropractic care can help a pregnant woman achieve a healthier pregnancy by removing pressure on the spine and nervous system. This allows the woman’s body to function at its best, carry more weight and prepare for a natural, healthy delivery.

What effects does pregnancy have on the spine and nervous system?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Well, it has a lot of effect on the spine. So, the main thing that most people look at with pregnancy is the weight gain, right? A mom can gain anywhere from 20 to 45, sometimes even more pounds during a pregnancy. And what’s interesting about that weight is it tends to grow forward. So as the pregnancy progresses, your center of gravity moves forward, and that starts to load up the spinal joints of the lumbar spine very differently. When we put more stress to the front, instead of putting all the weight on the body of the vertebrae, it starts to affect the facets, which are what guides the motion of the vertebrae. And when they start to get stressed, then you can start to get a lot more pain. So, a lot of women will start to have lower back pain as the pregnancy moves on.

Then there is also pelvic alignment, which is so important because now we’re carrying more weight in the seat of the pelvis and then the pelvis can start to get stressed, a pubic symphysis, and they can get pain there.

There are also a couple of ligaments that are really important that help suspend the uterus, the round ligament, the uterosacral ligament, and the broad ligament. They can get in a contractile state because they kind of help suspend the uterus inside the womb there. When they start to get stressed, those ligaments can get tight and start to pull. And that can cause an awful lot of discomfort during pregnancy as well. We all know that expecting moms really can’t be taking medication. They can’t take pain medication or anything because they share the bloodstream with the baby and anything that she takes the baby gets. So, it’s the same reason that women don’t drink or any of those things and limit certain foods because again, they’re sharing the nutrition that they take in. So, if they take in something that could be potentially toxic, that would affect the baby.

Chiropractic is an excellent choice for the expecting mom because when we apply chiropractic adjustments and something called the Webster Technique. It really stacks the deck in the woman’s favor about having the best pelvic alignment and the best spinal alignment to minimize the stress and strains that are additionally caused by pregnancy and the additional weight gain. So that’s really what’s important. The other thing that is important to understand is as the pregnancy progresses, a woman’s body is going to create this hormone called relaxin which can create some ligament laxity. And that will also allow the spine to potentially subluxate more because it’s a little bit looser in design to move, but it’s also a trade-off because the better at moving and the more flexible the spine, usually the easier is the delivery.

Please explain what the Webster Technique is and how chiropractic care is safe for pregnant women.

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Well, that’s great. I think I’m going to take the second part of your question first, talking about the safety of chiropractic care. So, chiropractic care is extremely safe. And one of the things that I always “brag about” is our malpractice rates. When you look at the malpractice rate of a chiropractor, my malpractice insurance costs me about $2,300 a year. That’s not a lot. It actually costs more to insure my car.

How much they charge for malpractice insurance is truly based on how often your profession would hurt people or get sued. That very rarely happens in chiropractic because chiropractic is extremely safe. An OB-GYN can pay anywhere from $20,000 to $200,000, depending on how many live deliveries they do every year. So, there’s more risk involved in that. Your medical doctor pays close to $10,000 a year for malpractice insurance. A surgeon and an anesthesiologist, I’m sure those are in six figures. And again, it’s all based on the safety of what you do and how much risk is involved.

Insurance companies are really smart companies and they are not going to give a low fee to a profession that would be dangerous. So, I’ll rest my chiropractic safety record in our profession against any other profession out there because there are very few that pay less malpractice than we do. So, talking about the safety of it, I think we’ve got them all beat hands down. It’s so very safe.

Now explaining what the Webster Technique is, is important. Now the Webster Technique has become a familiar term in pregnancy and birth conversations now. Families are seeking out chiropractors who are proficient in Webster Technique as a way to support a more comfortable, safer, and easier birth. Typically, what we’re looking at with the Webster Technique is something called the sacral subluxation, which is the sacrum, that triangular wedge that the whole spine bounces on.

And when that is subluxated it can contribute to difficult labor, something called dystocia. And that’s usually caused by inadequate uterine function, pelvic contraction, or baby malpresentation. So, correction of the spinal subluxation usually has a positive effect on all the causes of dystocia or slow labor. It also helps relax some of the ligaments so the mom can have a more comfortable pregnancy because round ligament pain is something that is fairly common. Also, it’s a safe way to do chiropractic adjustments, to help the moms deal with some of the pain and discomfort of pregnancy as well.

So, it’s so important to understand that Webster Technique is really designed to help the mom have the easiest and simplest pregnancy that they can with the least amount of pain. So, it’s all designed to balance the hip and pelvis and relax some of the ligaments. It’s all very gentle and it’s done with drop work. There’s none of the clicking and popping associated with some of the more traditional chiropractic techniques. So, it’s safe, gentle, and extremely effective and all the research shows that 80% of the moms that undergo Webster Technique usually from week 20-ish on usually have shorter delivery times, less pain, and less need for interventions like Pitocin, epidurals and, of course, the C-section.

What does a chiropractor monitor and check for during regular prenatal chiropractic visits?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Oh, that’s a good question. Well, we’re always looking at the comfort and the health of the mother and really, what we’re monitoring are what we call the pelvic listings or where we might see the misalignments or subluxations in the sacrum, pelvis and pelvic girdle. It’s so important to make sure that the mother is comfortable and relaxed because when mom is uncomfortable and she’s stressed, it makes it actually harder to deliver a baby. You can’t deliver a baby when you’re running from a tiger, so when you’re stressed and your body’s cranking out adrenaline and all these other hormones, it’s going to be very difficult to have a nice smooth labor. So, a chiropractor, really all we’re doing is monitoring the alignment of the spine, the sacrum, pelvis, and we’re also looking at a few of the soft tissues, particularly the round ligament, the uterosacral ligament, and the broad ligaments to make sure that they’re nice and relaxed. When they tighten up again, that can create problems in utero, create uterine constraint, and that can slow down the labor process or cause what’s called uterine constraint or dystocia.

In what cases does chiropractic care prepare the mother and baby for a healthy delivery?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: It does that in every case, Liz. It’s so important to prepare the mom with education, right? We’re always talking her down, trying to make sure she stays calm because they start to get nervous, especially when their OB-GYNs are telling them “Oh, it’s 35 weeks and your baby’s breached and if it doesn’t turn by week 37, we’re doing an ECV and this intervention and then if that doesn’t work, then we’re going to induce or do a C-section.” So, some of the moms really get stressed and they’re on edge because they’re so worried. I spend a lot of time with my moms, just trying to talk them off the ledge and make sure that they’re calm and relaxed. So, it’s really important to prep the mom and then with doing the Webster Technique, we’re making sure that the pelvic girdle is as aligned as it can possibly be, that there is no stress or pressure in the lumbar spine and that the ligaments that are supporting the uterus are as relaxed and lengthened as possible. And all those things really prep the mom for an easier birth.

Like I said before, when the Webster Technique is applied correctly, 85% of the time, it results in shorter delivery times, less pain, less need for interventions like the epidural and the C-section, and all those other things. So, it’s a way of stacking the deck in the mom’s favor to ensure that she has as natural a birth as she wants. It has to be the process that she wants. And they’re typically designing their birth plans with doulas or midwives, and we can assist a little bit, but they’re definitely more well trained than I am in that.

As a chiropractor, I just want to focus on delivering the best spinal care and Webster Technique to relax the uterosacral ligaments, the round ligaments, better align the pelvis, and just stack the deck in the favor of the mom to make sure she has the birth outcome that she wants.

How can a chiropractor help a mother and newborn post-delivery?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Well, those are great questions and it’s so funny, I work with moms every day. We probably adjust, I would say five to seven expecting moms every day, sometimes more, maybe a few less here and there, but we see a lot of them. And what they’re always talking about is they’re always looking at the end game, right? The day they deliver, and they think that that’s when everything gets easy, right? They’re like, “Oh, the pregnancy ends and all of a sudden everything’s going to be easy.” But anyone who’s ever had kids knows that it’s infinitely harder once the baby actually arrives. Your orientation to the world is no longer vertical. You’re constantly bent over, looking down, you’re lifting, bending, and carrying the baby. You’re lifting, and bending, and carrying all the accoutrements that go along with your baby, like the pack-n-play and the diaper bag. You’re changing diapers and you’re breastfeeding for 30, 40 minutes at a time. You’re just looking at your baby with your head dipped forward. So, it can put stresses and strains on the mom’s body and even on the dad’s body afterward. And just remember during the pregnancy, in some cases, most of the moms feel like they’ve been to hell and back once they’ve delivered. And then all of a sudden losing sleep, not getting the rest, all those things start to add up and add stress to the mind and the body.

A postpartum mom can subluxate just like anyone else. They still have the hormone relaxin coursing through their body, which makes it easier for the bones to get misaligned. There’s different stresses and strains. They’re not sleeping. All those things are so important, and they all start to create subluxation patterns in the body.

So, to keep the spine and nerve system healthy going forward, in spite of all the new stresses and strains and raising a newborn, chiropractic is great because it’s natural. It eliminates pressure on the nerve system. The moms feel better. It helps them deal with the physical and mental manifestations of the stress that they’re under. It’s just an incredible tool in the mom’s tool belt to keep her spine and nerve system healthy, and not to mention the baby.

We always talk about the moms, but no one ever gets the babies checked unless they’re informed. And you think about it if that baby spent three to four weeks in that head-down position without really moving a lot, that puts a lot of stress and strain on the neck. Sometimes infants are born with torticollis or a wry neck where the head is kind of stuck or locked over to one side. Sometimes the birth trauma itself can put stress or strain into the neck and an infant subluxation pattern can start from the birth process itself. So, we always recommend getting a baby checked and just about anyone who does their pregnancy with me, we always offer the initial well-baby checkup to just do the exam and check the neck on the infant.

There’s a lot of different things for a mom that’ll benefit her after she actually delivers. There’s lots of health benefits for the newborn, and that could be a time for another talk or another blog post, but we can certainly work on that but just making sure that everything is stacked in the mom’s favor, taking care of her health.

A healthier mom is going to raise a healthier baby. So that’s really it. It’s just general benefit to the mom pre and post. Pretty much anyone with a spine should be getting it checked regularly. Just like you brush and floss and see a dentist whether your teeth hurt or not, caring for your spine is an important part of your overall health because your spine protects your central nervous system. That central nervous system runs, regulates, and heals your body. And that’s what makes chiropractic important in any stage of growth, development, or pregnancy.

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