You don’t have to be expecting a baby to know that pregnant mothers suffer a whole range of uncomfortable ‘side-effects’. These may be anything from nausea and back pain to constipation, heartburn and fatigue, and most women are only too familiar with the less happy side of being pregnant. In fact, studies show that 50 per cent of women suffer with low back pain during pregnancy.
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Chiropractic can often restore the feelings of blooming health and vitality that are supposed to accompany pregnancy. It works on the principle that the nervous system controls every part of the body through the nerves branching off the spinal cord from between each spinal joint.
If the joints are not moving properly (as a result of poor posture, stress, accident or other factors) the nerves can be affected and cause discomfort, pain or even disease.
Chiropractic involves gentle and specific manipulation of the joints of the spine and limbs, to restore mobility, relieve pressure on nerves and allow the body to heal. No drugs are used, making it an ideal treatment for those who are expecting.
As a baby grows in the womb, the mother’s centre of gravity shifts, and the normal curves in her lower back become more extreme. These are likely to affect her posture, and she may find herself leaning slightly backwards to compensate for the added weight in front.
In addition to this, pregnancy triggers hormonal changes that lead to a loosening of ligaments throughout the body. This is of particular importance around the lower back and pelvis, as it allows the baby to pass through the birth canal, and it persists for about three months after birth. Lax ligaments can lead to instability and discomfort in the pelvic area.
The enlargement of the breasts during pregnancy can worsen a tendency to be round shouldered in some mothers, and this may also affect the position of the neck, leading to headaches.
All such changes in posture and pelvic instability may result in pain and discomfort in the pubic area, buttocks, groin, legs, lower back, ribs, neck, head and many other places. Chiropractors use a variety of techniques, specially tailored to suit pregnant women, to treat this pain and discomfort. All are gentle and painless, and they are regularly used to treat patients right up to the time of birth, and again when relief is needed for the stresses and strains of the birth and the handling of a young child.
The first visit to a chiropractor will begin with an in-depth discussion of the patient’s symptoms, medical history, lifestyle and posture. She will then be examined using standard neurological and orthopaedic tests, before the chiropractor reports on the findings, gives a diagnosis and begins treatment. The patient will be told how many treatments are likely to be necessary, and over what period of time.
Treatment itself consists of gentle, very specific hand movements, known as adjustments, which are applied to the affected joint in order to restore normal mobility. It may also include other stretching and massage techniques if appropriate. A chiropractor will often also prescribe gentle exercises that will help the patient to strengthen postural muscles, and may offer dietary and lifestyle advice to improve a mother’s general fitness as she prepares for the birth, and as she recovers after it.
It is advisable for mothers to return to their chiropractors for a check-up after the birth, to ensure that no further nerve irritation has occurred during or after labor. At this time, chiropractors strongly suggest that the baby is also examined and treated if necessary. This is because birth is one of the greatest physical traumas most of us will experience, and small adjustments early on can make a huge difference to a child’s health later.