This week, I have Dr. Crystal Draper, BAS, DC to discuss Chiropractic Care during pregnancy and postpartum. Crystal is a Chiropractor and Acupuncture Provider who is Webster certified and Doula trained. She has an inclusive family-based practice with a focus on pregnancy, postpartum and pediatric care.
In addition to the hands-on component of her practice, Crystal is also dedicated to education and awareness. She is faculty in the Clinical Diagnosis, Chiropractic Therapeutics and Chiropractic Principles Departments for undergraduate studies at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College (CMCC) in Toronto, and is active in pregnancy research at CMCC and in collaboration with Sunnybrook Hospital.
Can you tell me a little bit about what chiropractic care can offer during pregnancy?
Of course, Kira! And thank you for having me.
First off, before we talk about how chiropractic care can help during pregnancy, let’s talk about some of the growing pains of pregnancy.
In addition to nausea, fatigue, food aversions and cravings, back pain is a common challenge during pregnancy. In fact, it is the most common musculoskeletal complaint with 50-80% of expectant parents reporting back pain during pregnancy and 50-75% during labour.
That is where chiropractic care comes in. In my practice, I have found that many expectant parents are confused about what to do about their pain. They’d like to find relief, but they’re concerned about taking medications and aren’t sure if it’s safe to see a chiropractor. As a result, most do nothing, and unfortunately, just live with their pain. But they don’t have to.
Chiropractic care, including the adjustment (spinal manipulation), is a safe and effective treatment during pregnancy.
The Webster technique is a common chiropractic treatment used during pregnancy. The goal of the adjustment and treatment is to reduce the effects of sacral and pelvic dysfunction in order to improve their biomechanical function, which translates into less pain and optimal function (for both parent and babe).
Additionally, a chiropractor will discuss the postural and biomechanical changes happening to the expectant parent, and will suggest stretches and exercises to do at home to alleviate pain, get ready for labour and delivery, and keep them feeling great!
What about after the birth?
Chiropractic care is also essential after birth, for both parent and baby. If you think about what happens during the birthing process, it is traumatic for both parties.
It’s a good idea for the expectant parent to have their back and pelvis checked postpartum, and also to discuss ideal breastfeeding postures. Postpartum, many new parents experience neck, shoulder and mid-back pain. This is because of the awkward positions parents get into while feeding their babe.
As for the babe, being birthed, even a natural birth with no interventions, is a traumatic experience. Even more so if there are complications and/or interventions, such as vacuum or forcep assistance. This is a great time for the little one to come to a chiropractor. Common issues chiropractors treat in the pediatric population are colic, difficulty latching and turning their head to one side, to name a few.
When should someone check out a chiropractor?
It’s never too early. Chiropractic care is safe during all trimesters and a great way to help support a pregnancy.
Can chiropractic care be preventative?
Absolutely! Like we mentioned earlier, there are a lot of shifts and changes that occur during pregnancy. But studies have shown that expectant parents who seek chiropractic care throughout gestation experience pain relief and have, on average, shorter labour times.
This is because chiropractic treatment helps ensure the pelvis is in proper alignment, which will keep the parent feeling good and allow baby to get into proper position.
To get technical on you, when the pelvis is misaligned, there is a tightening and torsion of the ligaments that attach to the uterus, as well as specific pelvic muscles. This can cause a condition called “intrauterine constraint,” where the constraint within the uterus can prevent the baby from comfortably assuming the best possible position for birth, possibly leading to a breech presentation or a slow labour. That is why regular chiropractic care can make both the expectant parent and baby happy.
Posture and alignment often come up as concerns during pregnancy. How can chiropractic care help?
Posture and alignment are common concerns during pregnancy because of the changes happening in the expectant parent’s body as the little babe grows. During this time, the weight of the growing babe causes a shift in the parent’s centre of gravity, which can increase the pressure and forces through the joints of the spine and pelvis.
Chiropractic care can help by first increasing the expectant parent’s awareness of their posture. Also, specific adjustments and treatment, including the Webster technique, can help decrease low back and/or pelvis pain and pressure. Lastly, an at-home regimen of exercises and activities can work to alleviate any residual pain and help with preparations for labour and delivery.
Can chiropractic care support someone with lower back pain, SI joint discomfort and asymmetrical pelvic issues?
Yes, absolutely chiropractic care can support someone with any of those issues. Lower back pain, SI joint discomfort and asymmetrical pelvic issues are actually the most common presentations I see in my practice with expectant parents with a growing baby bump.
Shockingly, up to 90% of expectant parents will experience pregnancy-related low back and pelvic girdle pain. Thankfully, conservative treatments, including chiropractic care, can help ease the pain.
Are there any contraindications to chiropractic care? Any complementary treatments?
Chiropractic care is a safe treatment to use through all trimesters of pregnancy and will not harm the growing fetus in any way.
Most clinical studies have found very few adverse effects of spinal manipulation, especially for the treatment of low back and pelvic pain in pregnancy. The adverse effects identified consisted of mild and short term events, such as a temporary increase in pain following treatment.
It is important to note that these side effects are not isolated to the pregnant population, but can be general effects of chiropractic treatment or manual therapies in anyone.
However rare, more serious adverse effects of spinal manipulation in pregnancy have been reported with neck adjustments. This is thought to be a result of the hormonal changes of pregnancy. With the release of relaxin in pregnancy, there is an increase in joint laxity, increasing the susceptibility to injury.
Overall, chiropractic care has been shown to improve the expectant parent’s overall function and quality of life, and it can contribute to easier, safer births with less intervention. With that said, if there are any complications or medical concerns regarding a pregnancy, they should be discussed before receiving any form of manual therapy, as they may be a contraindication to care.
In regards to complementary treatments, acupuncture is a great therapy that can help with symptoms frequently experienced during pregnancy, including nausea and indigestion. Massage therapy is another good option as it can help alleviate the muscular tension and strains of pregnancy, as well as help to decrease fluid retention that commonly occurs around the ankles. Yoga is also a great option, but I don’t need to tell you that, Prenatal Yoga Doula!