From easing the birth passage for your unborn baby, to helping ‘hit the reset button’ on your body post-birth, visiting a chiropractor can have many benefits for pregnant women and new mamas.
One of my best friends swears by a visit to the chiropractor before giving birth, she says it lines everything up to make the baby’s passage to the outside world as easy as possible. And she seems to handle birth effortlessly so, when I got pregnant with M, I booked myself in with my chiropractor (someone I was no stranger to thanks to a dodgy shoulder caused by hours spent lugging a heavy laptop-laden bag on a London commute).
The experience was good, the chiropractor had a special table to accommodate the bump and gently realigned by hips, spine etc. A few weeks later, I had a quick birth largely free of complications and, in those last few weeks of pregnant waddling, I didn’t get any hip or back pain (in fact, the two days before giving birth I was happily trotting around miles of landscape gardens trying to get ‘things’ going!). I
also visited the chiropractor again a few weeks post-birth to get realigned and to sort the troublesome shoulder which had reared its head due to hours spent feeding and carrying a new bab. I haven’t had any problems since (and – here’s a tip – also moved to using a backpack as a change bag to evenly spread the weight…much more practical and comfortable!).
We weren’t sure if this kind of treatment was commonplace among pregnant women and new mums, and wanted to know more. So we asked Doctor of Chiropractic Sharon Sackey M(Chiro) DC at Aceso Family Chiropractic about the benefits and science behind visiting a chiropractor pre and post-birth. Here’s what she told us:
What exactly does a chiropractor do? I visited a McTimony practitioner, but there are lots of different types of treatment, aren’t there?
Chiropractors use a range of techniques to reduce pain, improve function and increase mobility. The best part is, it’s without the use of drugs or invasive procedures. We do this with the use of hands-on manipulation of the spine and all other joints and muscles of the body. As well as manual treatment, chiropractors are able to offer a package of care which includes advice on self-help, therapeutic exercises and lifestyle changes. This is why chiropractic care works so well during pregnancy, when you really don’t want to be popping pills.
Yes there are many types of techniques. Chiropractors all have a thorough foundation of Masters level training at university and have undergone hundreds of hours of clinical practice before graduating. Many chiropractors then pursue additional post graduate training in a variety of other technique depending on their areas of interest.
How can a chiropractor help women pre and post-birth?
Your body goes through a dramatic change during pregnancy. Not only do you gain a lot of weight, largely in one focal area, but you also become more supple in all your joints due to the hormone Relaxin. This combination of extra weight on a less stable frame does not bode well for optimal function of joints and relaxed muscles. Certain joints and muscles take the brunt of the load and this can often lead to aches and pains such as lower back pain, pelvic girdle pain, sciatica, and headaches to name a few.
Chiropractors use various pregnancy specific techniques to help release tension and
prevent strain the these vulnerable areas. This helps to ensure your body can accommodate that extra load properly without pain. This is equally important in those months after birth with all the repetitive, bending, swaying, sitting to feed that new mums have to do.
Chiropractic also helps to optimise the space around your uterus to expand, so baby has the most amount of room for movement and baby’s ability to adopt the optimal position for birth. Even the most straightforward births are a huge event for your body and to deal with, both natural births and c-sections. Getting treatment soon after giving birth, is like hitting the reset button. It can help to ensure everything is in the right place as your joints stabilise again.
When is the best time to visit?
The earlier the better! Chiropractic care is safe throughout pregnancy. I personally found huge benefit in having cranial work done by my chiropractor in my first trimester to help alleviate morning sickness. For all pregnancy related conditions, such as pelvic girdle pain, early diagnosis and treatment is key. We know from research that in over 60% of cases, back pain does not disappear after giving birth. If the dysfunction was there before, it doesn’t miraculously fix it’s self. So don’t wait for it to get worse or for it to go away after birth as this is often not the case.
If you are lucky enough not to have pain, around week 12-14 will be a good time to start care. After giving birth, as soon as you feel comfortable and safe moving around, book yourself an appointment, for many women this is around 2 weeks post-partum. After c-section you may want to leave it slightly longer as it will take your body around 4-6 weeks to heal.
Roughly how much does a treatment cost and how do you find a reputable practitioner?
Prices vary from clinic to clinic. At my clinic Aceso Family Chiropractic in Buckingham it costs £45 for your initial consultation. This is an hour long session involving a thorough examination, explanation and chance to ask questions and in most cases if it’s safe to do so, a treatment. Ongoing treatments are £35. At Aceso we also offer a free 20 minute Pregnancy Wellness Check which is a great opportunity to come in for a chat and a postural screen.
To find a reputable chiropractor, have a look at their website and social media pages for reviews. Ask friends for recommendations. Call the clinic and ask if they have pregnancy specialist chiropractors and ask if they use any special pregnancy pillows such as Belloost. Any clinic with a pregnancy focus will have specialist pregnancy equipment, so you know you’re on to a winner.
The most important thing is to check the chiropractor is registered with our regulatory body the General Chiropractic Council (GCC), using the search tool on the GCC website. The British Chiropractic association and United Chiropractic association also have a search tool.
What advice do you have for expectant and new mums regarding sitting, lying, carrying and feeding baby etc?
Sit up on your sitting bones. Try to avoid slouching, so not to jam up your pelvic joints as they need to be mobile to create space for baby to pass through the birth canal. Sit on a Swiss ball where possible and avoid sitting for more than 20 minutes.Try to walk without a handbag daily, 15-20 minutes will be a perfect time scale.
When lying down, try to change positions regularly and try to favour your left side.
Laying on your back is not the end of the world, but try not to lay on your back for long periods. During pregnancy and in the first 3-6 months post-partum, it is very important to avoid sitting straight up from a laying down position. This can cause separation of your abdominal muscles know as Diastasis Recti. Instead, roll on to your side first and push yourself up with your hands to sitting. This will help to limit the amount of pressure building in your abdomen, lowering the risk of diastasis recti.
When carrying and feeding baby, try to pull your shoulder blades down and back to prevent hunching forwards and creating upper back and neck issues. A gentle pec stretch for a few seconds, daily, will help to relieve should tension from feeding and carrying baby. And if you get a chance to lie down when feeding, take it. You don’t have to feed baby sitting up.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Pregnancy is an amazing and sometimes difficult time. After all you are growing a human. Take every opportunity to rest and nap whenever you can.
If you’re local to Sharon who is based in Buckingham, you can find out more about how a chiropractic can help you during pregnancy and in that postpartum period at her talk on Wednesday 8th November, 1pm at the Lace Hill Sports and Community Centre in Buckingham. Sharon will be sharing more practice tips on how to enjoy a pain-free pregnancy and beyond.
Thanks Sharon, we found this really fascinating and it certainly chimed with my experience of chiropractic treatment during pregnancy and post-birth. I have also suffered from Diastasis Recti (separation of the tummy muscles, also affectionately known as the ‘mum tum’), which Sharon mentions above. I haven’t found it that easy to get support to fix this, but start postpartum pilates next week (which is supposed to help!), as well as enrolling on an online fitness programme, and will share my journey.
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