When it comes to pregnancy and chiropractic, there are skeptics. Some people believe that chiropractic has only some weak benefits for back pain, and that’s about it. (Not true!) Others think it might be dangerous for the mother or the baby. (Also not true!) Indeed, skepticism is so high that when I wrote a post in late February this year regarding the possible benefits of Chiropractic for pregnant women, the response from some folks on Twitter was cynical, and even outright derogatory.
First, what I’m skeptical of is our own obstetric practices in this country. Our rate of c-section is two to three times higher than that recommended by the WHO. Well, that’s a bit of a misrepresentation, because the WHO doesn’t actually recommend a number. What they say is that according to their data, newborn and maternal deaths increase as the rate of c-section increases beyond 10-15%. Ours in the US is sitting at 32%. So maybe we need to rethink how we’re doing childbirth? Maybe? And Chiropractic can play a part in that.
Second, Chiropractic has been demonstrated to make a difference for women beyond simple back pain resolution. Not only have I seen it in practice, but so have many other Chiropractors and pregnant women. My wife insisted on chiropractic care throughout her pregnancy, and there are reasons for that.
In this case study, the authors used the Webster technique, a chiropractic method of assessing and adjusting pregnant women. They used it to help a fetus turn to the correct position for childbirth. When the baby is in the correct position, it’s easier for women to deliver, reducing the need for any intervention, including c-section.
Another case study demonstrated the possibility that Chiropractic care can reduce the duration of labor. The patient, a pregnant woman who had a very long first labor developed tailbone pain post delivery. That’s what brought her to the chiropractor. Her second labor and delivery were much better, as she had received chiropractic care leading up to conception as well as during pregnancy. It was shorter and easier. The article does go on to say that there is a need for more research in the matter, with which I agree.
A third case study continues to demonstrate the use of the Webster technique to allow the baby to turn from a breech position. This result was verified by ultrasound. The technique utilizes an understanding of the pelvis subluxation that occurs. It creates taut round ligament fibers and other pains, all of which improve under chiropractic care.
What makes pelvic subluxation common in pregnant women? Despite what a couple of Tweeters out there might think, hormonal changes do play a part in causing subluxation. You see, relaxin is a hormone produced by the body during pregnancy which has the effect of loosening the ligaments and other soft tissues of the body. Relaxin makes the body more susceptible to subluxation, even under otherwise normal stresses. Other hormones, like progesterone and estrogen, also contribute to this phenomenon. A review of the literature on pubmed offers an explanation. Some women experience this more than others, but it does happen. So, yes, there are hormonal causes of subluxation.
Unfortunately, I didn’t find any other longer reaching studies regarding the techniques I use in practice. Some people will disregard case studies as immaterial, and I get that. A case study is just that, a study of one case. It’s an opportunity for greater study. It doesn’t mean there is no merit to the idea. In fact, it means there might be some merit, and it just requires additional study to affirm or deny it.
That review of the literature on pubmed here has a lot more to say on the effectiveness of chiropractic in pregnant women. I’ve been caring for pregnant women for ten years. I’ve only rarely had cases where they didn’t receive all the benefits I’ve written about. Every single one of them who had a breech presentation successfully turned the fetus to the correct position following their adjustment (or several). I know without a doubt that chiropractic works in the ways I’ve described. I hope that our current obstetrics system catches up to that knowledge someday.
In the end, what we want is a healthy baby and a healthy mom. I wouldn’t do what I do if i didn’t know that it worked.
Thanks for reading!