As mothers, one of the things we find hardest to remember is to take care of ourselves. We can preach about the importance of practicing self-care until our lips turn blue, but the reality is that many of us struggle to even find time to brush our hair in the mornings. If there was ever a better time to exercise self-care, pregnancy would be it. During pregnancy, our bodies go through physiological and endocrinological changes to create the perfect environment for a baby. Is it magical? Yes. Is it miraculous? Yes. Is it uncomfortable? A resounding yes. Enter chiropractic care. Chiropractic care, which involves the adjustment and maintenance of the body’s alignment, is incredibly beneficial for both mom and baby during pregnancy and afterwards.
Nervous system-based chiropractic care works by aligning the spine in order to keep the nervous system balanced. This means that brain-to-body communication flows the way it should. When the body is at ease, it is able to heal and regulate itself the way that it’s designed to. Pregnancy creates many changes with the posture and nervous system, and as the baby grows, chiropractic care can help moms prepare for the birth and labor process, as well as postpartum recovery. We spoke with Dr. Lauren Collins, who offers nervous system-based chiropractic care at her practice, Abound Chiropractic, about working with moms and babies. Babies grow very quickly, so her approach with them is to amplify everything that’s right, rather than focusing on correction, to promote growth, development, resiliency, and create a healthy foundation for them to thrive.
How can chiropractic care help with sciatica during pregnancy?
Dr. Lauren: Your posture changes so much during pregnancy and all those hormones help loosen things up to make room for your baby. When that happens, the joints become a little bit more loose, and the heaviness of your uterus, compounded with our day-to-day activities, can cause some dysfunction in the mechanics of the pelvis and spine. This can lead to issues like sciatica. Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve, which starts in the lower back and then passes through the glutes, gets irritated. It can be super painful, and a true sciatic pattern will cause pain down the legs, and even sometimes into the feet. Other times, it’ll be just in the glute/hip area, so it makes it really difficult to sit, walk, stand, do exercise, or any of your day-to-day activities.
Getting adjusted helps to restore those normal biomechanics and will work on those muscles. It’s important to get checked out because sometimes we’ll look online, use those buzzwords, and diagnose ourselves. You’ll be doing all the home care and stretches, but that may not even be the problem. You might just require some simple adjustments, or it might be a combination of that with changing how you’re supporting your posture and mechanics at home. Especially with many of us working from home now, that extra stress on your body, along with carrying your baby, can aggravate things more. If you think you have sciatica, contact a chiropractor and get checked instead of trying to self-diagnose, because it’s usually something that’s simple to correct.
What can chiropractic care do to potentially flip breech babies or encourage them to do so?
Dr. Lauren: If you’re familiar with getting adjustments during pregnancy, you may have heard about the Webster technique. It is a prenatal adjusting technique that focuses on adjusting the sacrum, the triangle-shaped bone that’s at the base of the spine and kind of the keystone to the pelvis and round ligaments. When those ligaments get really tight, it can make things a little more constrained for baby to get in the right position. So, treatment is about creating balance in mom’s body by adjusting the pelvis and working on all of those supporting ligaments and muscles with the Webster technique, in addition to other things to help create the balance that will encourage baby to get into the best position. There can be misconceptions that the chiropractor will turn the baby, but that is out of our scope. That is an obstetrics practice. But, what we find is that when we create that balance and facilitate an optimal environment, a lot of time the babies can turn on their own.
A lot of times, we only think about baby being head-down, but there is a lot of nuance to whether baby is nice and aligned in the center, and not laying diagonally, or with his head crooked one way or another. All those things can potentially make labor difficult. When babies aren’t in great positions, that affects their development and you can see it when they come out. If they had a head tilt in the womb, their neck muscles can be tight when they’re born. Birth can be unpredictable, labor can be unpredictable, but as long as we can set the stage for things to go smoothly, it helps a ton.
How will we know when babies need chiropractic care?
Dr. Lauren: I recommend just getting checked right after birth because that can be such a sensitive time to identify things early and get baby off to the right start. Lip and tongue ties is one of the things we check with newborns. If they were in a weird position or if there was a long labor, or if you just want to be proactive, getting them checked is always going to be my recommendation. One sign to look for in small babies is feeding issues, like if you’re having a difficult time getting a comfortable latch, even with the help of a lactation support professional. Other signs to look for are any lip or tongue tie problems, baby favoring a certain side, a head tilt, a rigid or arched posture, if they hate being in certain positions, constipation, and recurring infections or illness, like ear infections. As they get older, you can look out for their moods, digestion, behavior, or sensory issues. Checking their nervous system and making sure everything is working well there is very helpful.
If a baby prefers to sleep on one side the whole night, is that an issue?
Dr. Lauren: For sleeping, I wouldn’t be as concerned, but watch baby’s activities and movements throughout the day. When baby is being changed, or you’re doing tummy time, see if baby is favoring one side. If they do great rolling one way, but never in the other direction, then look for asymmetries. If baby is active and those things line up, they might be worthwhile to check. If baby is uncomfortable, that’s usually an indicator that something is wrong. Their bodies are resilient and smart, so if motion is limited, they’re just going to do what they can with that side of their body.
Can adjustments help babies sleep longer?
Dr. Lauren: Generally speaking, I would say no. At least, not in the way that most of us want more sleep. Babies waking in the night is generally normal, and they’ll reach a point where they sleep better. But, if baby has a hard time settling, seems uncomfortable, more fussy and irritable, that can be an indication that something else is going on, and it might be a good time to get checked. After babies get adjusted, they typically take great naps and sleep better on the day of their adjustment. It relaxes and calms them because of the effect it has on their nervous system.
Dr. Lauren Collins is a doctor of chiropractic, offering Nervous System based chiropractic care at her practice Abound Chiropractic to growing families with a focus on serving aspiring + expecting + postpartum mamas and their babies. Located in the DFW Metroplex inside the Birth & Wellness Center of Arlington.