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Chiropractic FAQ Sheet: Pregnancy and Infants

Reviewed by: Dr. Steven Knauf, D.C.

By Martha Michael

Chiropractic FAQ Sheet: Pregnancy and Infants

Chiropractic care is effective for individuals at any age, but it’s an ideal form of treatment during the vulnerable stages of life, including infancy and pregnancy. Making chiropractic care a part of your routine before starting a family is a good way to prepare for the physical challenges you face during pregnancy and during the postpartum adjustment following labor and delivery. Infants can also benefit from safe, gentle treatment from a chiropractor.

Here are some frequently asked questions about chiropractic care during pregnancy and for newborn babies.

How Can Chiropractic Care Benefit Pregnant Women?

There is evidence to show there are benefits of chiropractic care as a preventative measure during every stage of life. An article by WebMD says that many pregnant women get pain relief through chiropractic care.

Some of the most common areas where pregnant women experience pain are:

  • Back
  • Legs
  • Pelvis

"The best use of chiropractic, in general, has to do with musculoskeletal problems and, in pregnancy, a lot of women have problems that are caused by the uterus being off center," says Mary Hammond-Tooke, a certified nurse-midwife at The Maternity Center in Bethesda, Md. "The uterus is pulling out in front and not well-balanced in back."

Chiropractic treatment is a widely-used alternative therapy for mothers-to-be. Other modalities treating discomfort for moms-to-be include:

  • Herbal remedies
  • Tea and plant-based nutrition
  • Massage
  • Relaxation techniques

Chiropractic care for pregnant women is gentler than treatment for the rest of the adult population because it requires less pressure on the joints. Hormones cause their ligaments to become less fixed so manual treatment, such as pelvic alignment, is easier to administer.

Common symptoms leading pregnant women to seek treatment include:

  • Headaches
  • Sacroiliac pain
  • Upper back pain
  • Leg pain
  • Pubic bone pain
  • Rib misplacement

Pain emanating from biomechanical changes can be alleviated through alignment. Pregnant women carrying breech babies sometimes turn to a chiropractor with experience repositioning babies in utero. By changing the position of the mother-to-be they can sometimes cause the baby to reposition itself.

Does Chiropractic Care Contribute Better Birth Outcomes?

Spinal realignment affects nervous system function and it can play a part in reducing nausea and vomiting for moms-to-be, as well as reducing painful symptoms related to pregnancy. An article on the website for Magnolia Birth House in Miami talks about how the benefits of chiropractic care while pregnant can extend beyond delivery. It can also reduce complications during the birthing process.

Research by the American Chiropractic Association shows that routine chiropractic care during pregnancy results in 25 percent shorter labors for first-time moms. By maintaining the mom’s spinal alignment, babies have room to grow and assume optimal fetal positioning for delivery.

For women carrying a baby in breech position, a chiropractor can help establish the kind of environment the baby needs to assume the proper position. According to the Better Birth website, many chiropractors use the Webster Technique to counteract muscle tightness around the uterus to free up the baby to move its head down into place

A chiropractor can also restore a woman’s pelvic balance and prepare her by relieving tension in her muscles and ligaments. When her health is optimized through prenatal chiropractic adjustments, it lowers the chance she will need interventions such as pain medications.

What Role Does Chiropractic Care Play in Postpartum Recovery?

Following the trauma of labor and delivery you begin a process of recovery that affects you physically and emotionally. Anything that makes that process easier can relieve you physically and give your mental health a boost.

Postnatal chiropractic care addresses the outcome from approximately 40 weeks of challenges to your body’s normal function. Every stage of pregnancy compounds the stress your body is experiencing. An article by the Better Health Channel lists some of the sources of discomfort that may be experienced over the course of the pregnancy.

They may include:

  • Morning sickness
  • Indigestion
  • Varicose veins
  • Dizziness
  • Leg cramps
  • Fatigue
  • Back pain
  • Restless legs
  • Skin changes
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Nasal problems
  • Constipation

Routine chiropractic care is an effective monitoring system and enables you to discuss strategies to reduce uncomfortable symptoms.

An article by Healthline outlines what to expect during postpartum recovery that can last up to six months.

Week 1

  • Difficulty with movement
  • Pain at incision
  • Exhaustion
  • Extreme emotions
  • Constipation

Week 2

  • Discomfort from sutures
  • Soreness in the case of a C-section
  • Postpartum depression

Chiropractic care during the postpartum period can help speed up recovery and create more pelvic stability. A chiropractor can also help a new mother restore her pre-pregnancy posture and begin to rebuild her muscles after months of low usage.

Chiropractic Treatment for Infants

Babies as young as a few weeks old can be safely treated through chiropractic care. Treatment is vastly different for infants and children; they are handled more gently than the vigorous chiropractic adjustments an adult may experience. Through gentle manipulation, a chiropractor can have a positive effect on your baby’s digestion, nervous system function, and quality of sleep. It also seems to help reduce fussiness and even colic. Some parents see measurable improvement when seeking chiropractic care for newborns who have trouble sleeping through the night.

Chiropractic care can be an effective way to address the problems traditional medicine cannot solve. Colic, for instance, is one of the most distressing and least understood conditions that affect newborns.

Research conducted in the United Kingdom and reported in the Journal of Manipulative Physiological Therapeutics include reports by mothers who had chiropractic treatment for their infants. They reported improvements in the handling of problems including:

  • Sleep issues
  • Feeding problems
  • Excessive crying
  • Restricted range of motion

The results of the survey showed 95 percent of them found that chiropractic care was cost-effective and 90 percent rated their satisfaction as 8 or higher on an 11-point scale (yes, an 11-point scale).

Chiropractic adjustments for newborns enable them to move more comfortably. The proof is in the pudding: Many parents have found practical results from receiving postpartum chiropractic care.

The benefit of seeing a chiropractor regularly is that there’s a baseline for your overall health, making it easier to detect health issues when they develop. With routine visits you can get feedback about your nutrition, exercise, and other lifestyle choices affecting your wellness.

Through every phase of life -- from childhood through adulthood, including pregnancy and beyond -- making chiropractic care a regular part of your routine makes you better prepared for what lies ahead. You also have an expert to reach out to when your health is vulnerable and you need support.

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