Chiropractic and Pregnancy
By Shelly Girard, B.S., L.M.T., L.M., C.P.M.
Illustrations by Paul Girard
| Postural Changes in Pregnancy | Benefits of Prenatal Chiropractic Care |
| Exercises | Chiropractors in S. CA |
Postural Changes in Pregnancy
During the course of pregnancy, a woman's body undergoes
innumerable changes biochemically and structurally which can
create postural strain and neck and back pain. A brief look at the
anatomy of the spine provides insight as to why chiropractic
adjustments can facilitate a healthier, more comfortable pregnancy.
The vertebral column is a strong, flexible rod composed of a series
of bones called vertebrae which enclose a protect the spinal cord,
support the head, and serve as an attachment for the ribs and
muscles of the back. This "spine" is able to rotate and move
anteriorily, posteriorily and laterally. The vertebral column shows
four normal curves which increase it's strength, help maintain
balance in the upright position, absorb shock, and help protect the
column from fracture.
The spinal cord, which courses down the
center of this column conveys sensory impulses from the peripheral
nerves to the brain and conducts impulse from the seat of the
Central Nervous System, the brain, to all of the peripheral nerves.
When an electrical impulse is stimulated in the brain, it travels a
neural pathway in the spinal cord. Misalignment of this vertebral
column can create pressure on the spinal nerves, irritating the
surrounding tissue and causing impeded nerve flow, discomfort
Over the course of a forty week gestation, a mother's
weight gain will ideally reach somewhere between 30-40 lbs. This
increase in weight can create spinal misalignment and/or postural
distortions which in turn affect nerves, muscles and mobility of
joints. As the bulk of this weight is deposited in the abdominal area,
the mother's center of gravity shifts forward. In order to
compensate, the natural curves of the spine, particularly in the
lumbar region, become exaggerated causing "low back pain".
The hips may also expand laterally to help stabilize the body, putting
pressure on the sacro-illiac joints. The hormones of pregnancy
cause muscles, ligaments, cartilage (such as the symphisis pubis),
and even bones to "soften" and become more pliable. Pelvic bones
"slip" and can become more easily displaced and/or fixated. In
addition, certain round ligaments attach to pelvis bones and then
to the uterus as it enlarges with the growth of the baby. When
these ligaments are strained or torqued, as with sudden movement
or "rolling over", they can cause even more discomfort for the
Benefits of Prenatal Chiropractic Care
Chiropractic care can:
- Correct vertebral misalignment and relieve pressure with gentle
and effective adjustments.
- Help ensure that pelvic bones are properly aligned, facilitating a
quicker, easier delivery.
- Re-establish the natural position and mobility of the joints.
- Provide freedom from interference of normal nerve energy which
is vital for the development of a healthy baby and mother.
The following exercises are simple, effective ways to help maintain
healthy spinal mobility and alignment during pregnancy.
Remember that breathing is an integral part of all stretching and
that regular practice achieves the best results.
- WAIST ROTATION:
STAND WITH HANDS ON WAIST, FEET ABOUT A
SHOULDER'S WIDTH APART. BEND FORWARD SLIGHTLY
FROM THE WAIST AND ROTATE UPPER BODY SEVERAL
TIME S CLOCKWISE-THEN SEVERAL TIMES FROM
COUNTER -CLOCKWISE. KEEP HIPS STATIONERY.
- HIP ROTATION:
SAME STARTING POSITION AS WAIST ROTATION. THIS
TIME, KEEP UPPER BODY AS STATIONERY AS POSSIBLE
AND ROTATE HIPS SEVERAL TIMES CLOCKWISE-THEN
SEVERAL TIMES COUNTER -CLOCKWISE.
- SPINAL STRETCH-SIDE TO SIDE:
SAME STARTING POSITION AS WAIST ROTATION AND HIP
ROTATION. WITHOUT MOVING THE HIPS BEND AT THE
WAIST AS FAR AS YOU CAN COMFORTABLY, FIRST TO THE
LEFT, THEN TO THE RIGHT. REPEAT SEVERAL TIMES.
- SPINAL STRETCH-FORWARD AND BACK:
PLACE FINGERS AT THE BASE OF THE SPINE-FINGERS OF
THE LEFT HAND TO THE LEFT OF THE SPINE, FINGERS OF
THE RIGHT HAND TO THE RIGHT OF THE SPINE. BEND
FORWARD SLIGHTLY FROM THE WAIST. NOW GENTLY
BEND SPINE BACKWARD, PUSHING FORWARD WITH THE
FINGERS AS YOU DO SO, AND RAISING HEELS OFF THE
GROUND. NOW MOVE YOUR FINGERS A LITTLE AS YOU DO
SO, AND RAISING HEELS OFF THE GROUND. NOW, MOVE
YOUR FINGERS A LITTLE UP THE SPINE AND REPEAT THE
PROCESS SEVERAL TIMES, MOVING UP THE SPINE AS YOU
DO. CONTINUE UNTIL YOU'VE GONE AS FAR UP THE SPINE
AS YOU CAN.
STAND WITH FEET ABOUT A SHOULDER'S WIDTH APART,
ARMS EXTENDED TO THE SIDES. KEEPING THE ARMS
EXTENDED, TWIST FROM THE WAIST UP ONLY FIRST TO
THE LEFT AND THEN TO THE RIGHT. REPEAT SEVERAL
TIMES. BE SURE TO LOOK IN THE DIRECTION IN WHICH
YOU ARE TURNING.
- PELVIC ROCK:
GET ON HANDS AND KNEES KEEPING A FLAT BACK WITH
THE SPINE PARALLEL TO THE FLOOR. GENTLY TENSE THE
LOWER ABDOMINAL MUSCLES AND SQUEEZE THE
BUTTOCKS, ROCKING THE PELVIS FORWARD AND TILTING
THE PUBIC BONE TOWARDS THE CHIN. HOLD THIS
POSITION, FEELING THE STRETCH ALONG THE LOWER
BACK AND SACRAL AREAS. RELEASE AND RETURN TO FLAT
BACK POSITION. REPEAT 10-20 TIMES WITH
CONCENTRATION. THIS EXERCISE PRACTICED DAILY
HELPS STABILIZE RATHER PELVIS, CORRECT
HYPERLORDOSIS OF THE LUMBAR REGION (SWAY BACK),
AND ALLEVIATES LOW-BACK PAIN.
If you have questions about chiropractic and pregnancy, please e-mail Shelly Girard, B.S.,L.M.,C.P.M., who is a Certified Massage Therapist, Licensed Midwife, and Certified Professional Midwife with over 20 years experience in body/mind medicine. She has a homebirth practice in Los Angeles, is a co- founder of The Wholistic Midwifery School of Southern California, and is currently pursuing a Masters Degree in Maternal/Child Health at U.C.L.A.