I have many mothers join my practice during pregnancy with the thought that it won’t be needed once baby arrives. I have several others who call for their first appointment shortly after birth begging for relief of new found pains and problems. It doesn’t take either mother long to understand just how valuable chiropractic care is as a standard of care in a healthy lifestyle.
I have shared much information about care throughout pregnancy here on the blog and within my book, but I feel as though the topic of postpartum chiropractic care is an extremely important topic within itself. I am not just talking about the week after having your new baby, which of course is highly needed, but also the months – and even years for some – after having children.
After giving birth, you may not consider one of your first outings should be to the chiropractor, but once you think about the journey you have accomplished, you may think again. That first visit after birth is wonderful for both mother and baby. Your baby has just experienced quite the ride – no matter how she entered this world. Her positioning within your uterus may or may not have been ideal, the birth process is strenuous, and the world can be a hard place to adjust to. A great family chiropractor is exactly what she needs! I’ll save those details for a future blog, but know that a newborn definitely can and should be seen after birth.
Today, though, I want to talk about YOU… the mother.
As you may (or may not) have realized, your body has changed significantly throughout birth:
- Ligaments have loosened
- Bones have spread
- Nerves have been pinched
- Back Pain has persisted
- Weight has shifted
- Posture has changed
- Balance is different
- Hormonal tides have caused chronic complaints
After giving birth, some of these problems disappear while most linger and new ones arise. The body immediately begins working to tighten the ligaments and realign organs and bones, but it is a process. This can take months, even up to a year to completely occur. And while this is happening, you are altering your body by holding a baby, leaning to breastfeed, survive in a state of exhaustion. To put it mildly, your body is not in its peak performance state.
Seeing a chiropractor immediately after birth grants you the ability to jump start your body’s healing process. Chiropractic care ensures proper blood flow to these tightening ligaments, aligns the spine to allow proper neuron reception and movement, and can alleviate aches and pains.
There are, of course, the most common areas needing adjustment after birth; the pubic bone, sacrum, and lower back. While pregnancy can alter these areas, birth significantly throws them out of place. A good adjustment will ease the body into motherhood with far less pain than a mother who does not get adjusted. Continual chiropractic care throughout the postpartum period speeds the recovery time as a whole, too.
Postpartum chiropractic care can also be responsible for the following:
- Correcting Posture
- Speeding Pelvic Floor Recovery
- Alleviating Sciatica and Nerve Pain
- Aiding in the Prevention of Postpartum Depression
- Relieving ‘New Mother Wrist’ Pain
- Subsiding Headaches
- Providing Comfort for Better Sleep
If you are planning to have more children, it is even more important to help heal your body properly. Future pregnancies deserve a strong foundation and healthy start.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “widely accepted, currently-used labor and birth interventions are not necessarily the safest care for women and babies.”
You read that right.
In February (2017), the ACOG released a new committee opinion that common labor and birth interventions should not be used on low-risk pregnancies. If you are currently pregnant and fall into this low-risk category, it is of utmost importance that you educate yourself on these recommendations. It typically takes the medical field years to come up-to-date and follow through reliably.
The ACOG recommends that low-risk pregnant women seek individualized care as opposed to common obstetrics practices. These doctors are trained and capable of handling more intricate pregnancies and are quick to intervene when it is not necessary.
The committee also recommends the following:
Stay home until “active” labor
This is around 6 cm dilated but can be witnessed as a shift in the labor. The mother moves into a more serious role and contractions become stronger and more frequent. Waiting until this time helps prevent an unneeded c-section and other birth interventions (such as pitocin). During this time (and before), a warm bath may help with the pain, as well as relaxation and support.
Keep track of the baby’s heartbeat with a hand-held device.
Skip the constant fetal monitoring, as research has not proven it to be safe for baby. It is also quite cumbersome and interfering with the natural process of labor. By using a doppler (fetal stethoscope), the risk of having a c-section drops drastically, as does the chance of needing forceps or vacuum to aid baby in being born.
Obtain continuous, one-to-one support from a labor companion such as a doula.
Hiring a doula or preparing your partner through a partner-based coaching childbirth class (such as the Bradley Method), reduces the chance of receiving a c-section, accepting pain medication, and
This shortens labor and reduces the likelihood of cesarean birth, use of pain medications, and increases the probability of a positive birth experience.
Drink clear liquids during labor.
Not eating or drinking in labor at the hospital is an outdated practice that can potentially spiral labor into interventions. Using an IV does not support the woman’s body in labor to move as needed. It is now recommended to drink plenty of clear liquid and the committee is currently still researching eating as needed while laboring. I can assure you that eating helps keep energy levels where they need to be, and food should be consumed if wanted.
Avoid a procedure to break the membranes (bag of waters).
Having your water broken does not shorten labor or prevent a c-section. It is an intervention and should be left to break when the body forces it to. If it does not break before baby enters the world, it is perfectly safe and healthy to be born “in the caul.”
Use upright positions and/or move about during labor.
Work with gravity during labor. Laying on your back is the opposite of productive. This increases the intensity of contractions and stretches the length of the labor. Choosing to be upright, moving around will shorten labor time and reduce the chance of having a c-section.
Try various drug-free pain relief methods.
Instead of planning to ‘take the drugs’ once labor begins, understand that a drug-free birth has no adverse effects and includes many benefits for both mother and baby. There are too many techniques to list to handle labor without drug interventions, but some include:
- Breathing Techniques
Use position of comfort and choice when pushing and giving birth.
As previously stated, lying on the back fights gravity, increases pain, and lengthens labor. This can be said for the second stage – or pushing, as well. There are several positions in which help baby move through the birth canal easier, and even aid in preventing tearing. Hands and knees, squatting (shorten birth canal by over 10%!), side-lying, or whatever is comfortable for the mother – that is the best position to push.
Rest and await the urge to push after full dilation.
Couples assume that 10cm means PUSH! The ACOG now recommends waiting to push until the body begins pushing on its own. There is a natural timeframe that the body creates after reaching maximum dilation. This time allows for rest and energy rebuild to effectively aid the body in birthing the baby.
Push according to one’s own urges and preferences.
Gone are the days with pushing for a count of 10 or bearing down and hold the breath to push as hard as possible. These tactics have been shown to cause possible harm and are no longer recommended. Allowing the woman’s body to be its own guide is now understood to be the best way to birth.
Following these recommendations can aid in achieving the birth a mother desires, one with little to no intervention. This is the absolute healthiest way for a baby to enter the world.
While pregnant, utilizing a knowledgeable chiropractor can also provide many benefits for mother and baby. I believe that opening your mind to alternative care and exploring additional birth team members can help make the journey of pregnancy and birth a more positive experience.
Giving birth is an intense experience in which the body pushes itself, causing stress and pains to the mother that can last well after the baby arrives. Even if no immediate pain is felt, there is still need for chiropractic care during the postpartum period.
I often explain to my clients that after having a baby, the body needs time and help to reach its full potential again. So many women complain about things never being the same, or that back, hip, pelvic, or wrist pain intensifies instead of dissipating. Considering all the body has been through during pregnancy: the hips widening, additional weight being carried, a postural shift, hormonal changes, and other ailments, it is easy to understand that the body may be out of alignment. When you then add hours of contractions, pushing, and birth into the equation, it’s clear that one of the first trips out of the house after having your baby should be to the chiropractor.
Did you know?
A woman’s pelvic biomechanics can be altered during birth. As the baby descends, especially if he is posterior (sunny-side-up), the bones of the pelvis can shift and become misaligned.
Chiropractic care can manipulate the pelvic bones, restoring balance and comfort.
Throughout the last few weeks of pregnancy that lead to labor, the following occurs:
• Hormones work to soften the ligaments between the bones in your pelvis which allows for the pelvis to shift, granting additional room for the birth. This can cause soreness in some women. These hormones are not only released to the pelvic region, but the entire body is affected. This means that all ligaments have the opportunity to become looser, weaker, or less effective. This puts you at an increased risk of injury, inflammation, and pain at all joints of the body. These hormones commonly cause instability and abnormal motion of the sacroiliac joint, pubic-symphysis, and other joints that can cause lasting pain.
• Baby drops lower into the pelvis, engaging for birth. This shift or drop can cause further stress on the body, as the mother alters her posture to accommodate this extra weight and different position from baby.
• Braxton Hicks contractions. These are the body’s way of preparing birth, and they can be both positive and negative. If brought on by dehydration, stress, over-working, or exhaustion, the body will not be working as a whole. Maintaining a healthy diet, proper sleep, and daily exercise should help keep Braxton hicks contractions to a beneficial amount.
If birth was difficult or traumatic, the spine and pelvic joints large challenges to overcome.
Once the baby has arrived, a mother’s center of gravity is altered drastically, causing her to even walk differently. Her hormones rollercoaster, and her body works toward nourishing the baby. Holding this new baby can shift the posture and strain the wrist, neck, or back. Failure to restore normal biomechanics may result in permanent health problems in need of medical intervention.
The jury is still out on exactly how long the hormone relaxin can affect the body postpartum. If it is still present, the ligaments of the body will not completely tighten. Research shows that the ligaments begin to re-tighten nearly 8 weeks after giving birth, but the process’ length can be different for each woman, taking up to a year or more. It is critical to work with a qualified chiropractor before ligaments begin to pull back, as it can cause long-term problems if the joints are not properly aligned.
During the postpartum period, chiropractic adjustments speed recovery time, aid the body in normalizing pelvic and spinal positions, and help correct the posture. Seeking chiropractic care within the first two weeks after giving birth may help to prevent headaches, shoulder problems, neck discomfort, muscle tension, lower back pain, sciatica, upper back pain, wrist and elbow pain, and more.
Sleep is a vital component to health, and it is not uncommon for women to have trouble sleeping during pregnancy. Physical, emotional, and hormonal changes during this time create stress on the body and nervous system, which consequently may make it more difficult for women to fall asleep and sleep soundly at night.
A sufficient amount of quality sleep for women is crucial throughout their pregnancy. Studies have found links between women with poor sleeping habits during pregnancy are at higher risk for birth complications such as low birth weight and pre-term births (University of Pittsburgh School of Health Sciences, 2013).
An added difficulty is that many conventional sleeping aids are not able to be utilized while pregnant. Luckily, there are several natural and safe remedies that women can utilize during this time in which sleep is crucial for both mom and baby.
Vital for promoting and maintaining bone health, vitamin D also plays an important role in neuromuscular functions, immunity, and reduction of inflammation. It is estimated that up to 50% of the general population is deficient in Vitamin D (Lee et al., 2008). Research indicates that insufficient levels of Vitamin D may negatively influence a person’s sleeping habits. A positive correlation was found between those with sufficient levels of Vitamin D in their system and an increase in their sleep quality and quantity (Blumberg et al., 2014).
Vitamin D is found naturally in very few food sources; the food sources with the highest amount of Vitamin D are fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel, and salmon. One of the best sources of Vitamin D is through sunlight. Our bodies are able to use the ultraviolet rays from the sunlight to synthesize its own Vitamin D, however, the average person does not receive enough daily sun light exposure to maintain adequate levels. Supplementing Vitamin D daily is often the most effective way of maintaining proper levels.
Epsom Salt Baths
Epsom salts are a naturally occurring mineral, magnesium sulfate, and has several beneficial uses. Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant and when there is a sufficient amount in the body, it helps to promote production of serotonin, a calming neurotransmitter. When the body is under stress, it is depleted of magnesium, resulting in a decrease in serotonin levels as well. When added to a bath, Epsom salts are absorbed through the porous openings in our skin, soothing our muscles and decreasing stress levels (D.O., 2014).
Creating a nightly routine with Epsom salt baths can aid in better and more rested sleep. It is important to use natural Epsom salts without any added perfumes or artificial coloring, as these can be irritants to sensitive skin. If you do not have a bathtub, that’s okay, a foot bath with Epsom salts will do just as much good when it comes to absorbing the magnesium and soothing your nervous system.
Aromatherapy has been shown to have many beneficial physical, mental, and emotional effects to those who utilize it. Difficulty in falling asleep and sleeping soundly can often be linked to a nervous system under stress. If the nervous system is not able to relax, then the body and mind will not be able to relax either.
Studies have shown that the scent of lavender oil before bedtime, calms the body’s nervous system and puts it in a parasympathetic state (Sayorwan et al., 2012). The parasympathetic nervous system is commonly referred to the “rest and digest” nervous system. When in this state the body’s heart rate slows, blood pressure decreases, and an environment of relaxation is created for the body.
Lee, J. H., MD, O’Keefe, J. H., MD, Bell, D., MD, Hensrud, D. D., MD, & Holick, M. F., MD, PhD. (2008 December 9). Vitamin D Deficiency : An Important, Common, and Easily Treatable Cardiovascular Risk Factor? Retrieved January 4, 2017, from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0735109708031756.
Blumberg, M. S., PhD, Karlsson, K. E., PhD, & Seelke, A. M., MS. (2007). SLEEP – Vitamin D and Actigraphic Sleep Outcomes in Older Community-Dwelling Men: The MrOS Sleep Study. Retrieved January 04, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC428860
O. (2014, October 14). How Epsom Salt may help you (and your kids) sleep better. Retrieved January 04, 2017, from https://sleepsense.net/epsom-salt-may-help-kids-sleep-better
Sayorwan, W., MPham, Siripornpanich, V., MD, Piriyapanyaporn, T., BSc, Kotchabhakdi, N., PhD, Hongratanaworakit, T., & Ruangrungsi, N., PhD. (2012). The Effects of Lavender Oil Inhalation on Emotional States, Autonomic Nervous System, and Brian Electrical Activity. Retrieved January 04, 2017, from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Tapanee_Hongratanworakit/publication/ 225051306_The_Effects_of_Lavender_Oil_Inhalation_on_Emotional_States_Autonomic_Nervous _System_and_Brain_Electrical_Activity/links/0fcfd51257861db827000000.pdf.
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences. (2013, July 17). Poor sleep in pregnancy can disrupt the immune system and cause birth-related complications. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 04, 2017, from www.sciencedaily.com/release/2013/07/130717164725.htm
If you are concerned about overdose, or a toxic level of Tylenol being consumed, contact poison control immediately. More information on the toxicity can be found here:
“Oxidation” is a normal process in the body that happens when we use oxygen to create energy for the cell. The byproduct of oxidation is the creation of “free radicals” which are unstable molecules. Free radicals are “bad” because they can damage cell DNA, potentially causing permanent mutations. The body uses anti-oxidants to “scavenge” free radicals, neutralizing them so they can’t damage the DNA or any other part of the cell.
Glutathione is a sulfur-containing molecule that can absorb the impact of many of these free radicals. Once it absorbs a free-radical it needs to be converted back to the active form. When the body takes a large oxidative “hit” it causes the depletion of active glutathione. The result is lots and lots and lots of oxidative damage. Glutathione is especially important because it is active in the brain, unlike most other antioxidants. Can you imagine what would happen if you deplete glutathione in the brain? You end up with oxidative damage, inflammation and brain injury.
So guess what medicine is known for depleting glutathione?
You guessed it, acetaminophen (Tylenol).
Tylenol has been called into question for decades now, but yet remains to be the last remaining member of the class of drugs known as “aniline analgesics” on the market. Acetaminophen only blocks the feelings of pain and reduces fever, it exerts no anti-inflammatory action. In reality, Tylenol can cross the blood-brain barrier and cause inflammation on the brain, all while masking the symptoms.
But Tylenol is Safe, Right? NO.
Acetaminophen (known as paracetamol in the UK) is linked to more deaths per year than any other over-the-counter pain reliever.
Acetaminophen (sold under the brand name Tylenol, among others) may be among the most dangerous medicines on the market. I’m sure this comes as a surprise to most of you, as virtually every single household keeps a bottle on hand for the occasional ache and pain, and doesn’t think twice about taking it.
Not thinking, it turns out, could cost you dearly… Acetaminophen overdose is actually the leading cause for calls to Poison Control Centers across the US—more than 100,000 instances per year—and, each year, is responsible for more than 56,000 emergency room visits, 2,600 hospitalizations, and an estimated 458 deaths due to liver failure.
The International Journal of Epidemiology said children born to mothers who took acetaminophen during pregnancy were more likely to have behavior problems and slow motor development at age 3. Another study cited an increased risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, at age 7.
Even scarier than this information is that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration rating system for drugs in pregnancy ranks Tylenol safer than ibuprofen, and much safer than aspirin. The truth: There are no “safe” pharmaceuticals to take while pregnant (or at all.) So much is unknown about fetal development, especially in relation to pharmaceutical drugs. Therefore, every mother should do her best to avoid taking any pharmaceuticals.
Brain Development while in utero: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24566677 Research data suggest that acetaminophen is a hormone disruptor, and abnormal hormonal exposures in pregnancy may influence fetal brain development.
Acetaminophen is the most commonly used pain and fever medication during pregnancy. Research shows a positive correlation between acetaminophen use and autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and the longer duration the use of the medication (i.e., use for >20 weeks in gestation), the further increased risk of ASD or infantile autism with hyperkinetic symptoms occurs (almost twofold.) Studies suggest acetaminophen exposure early in fetal life may specifically impact this hyperactive behavioral phenotype. (Autism Res 2015. © 2015 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.)
Infants and Children
The thing that makes Acetaminophen dangerous, especially for children, is that the difference between a “dose” and an “overdose” is fairly small. If twice the recommended daily dose is taken, liver damage can result. That does not give you much margin of error. It is very easy to improperly measure Tylenol drops and give your child too much.
There are four easy ways for your child to get an overdose of Tylenol/Acetaminophen:
- Giving your child the wrong dose of the medicine by mixing up infants’ and children’s Tylenol. If you have several children of different ages and one of them is an infant, this mistake can be extremely easy to make, especially at night.
- You can accidentally give your child a double dose. One parent gives the child a dose of tylenol, and then the other parent does the same thing 10 minutes later because of lack of communication.
- You give your child two medicines simultaneously, both of which contain Tylenol/Acetominophen.
- You drop a Tylenol pill on the floor, your toddler pops it in his/her mouth, and because Tylenol is “safe” you don’t even think about the ramifications.
Children Given Acetaminophen are at risk of:
*Note: These can be caused while in utero if the mother takes acetaminophen.
- Autoimmune Disorders
- Behavioral Disorders (ADHD)
- Learning Disabilities
- Prolonged Illness
- Liver Damage
- Hyperkinetic Disorders
- Leaky Gut
- Fatal Skin Reactions
Strong evidence proves that acetaminophen (sold as Tylenol or Paracetamol) increases in the rate of autism, asthma, and attention deficit with hyperactivity in genetically and/or metabolically susceptible children. http://healthimpactnews.com/2013/study-evidence-that-acetaminophen-especially-in-conjunction-with-vaccines-is-a-major-cause-of-autism-and-asthma/#sthash.bxNDiAiS.dpuf
Using Tylenol in lowering fevers actually prolongs illness: Studies show aspirin and acetaminophen suppress production of antibodies and increase cold symptoms, with a trend toward longer infectiousness.
- In a study of children with chickenpox, acetaminophen prolonged itching and the time to scabbing compared to placebo treatment.
- In test-tube studies, therapeutic levels of medicine suppressed the ability of human white blood cells to destroy bacteria.
- Another study found that a host of pain relievers, including aspirin, tylenol and ibuprofen, inhibited white-cell production of antibodies by up to 50 percent.
ADHD: Exposure to acetaminophen in utero and in infancy, increased both the likelihood of a diagnosis and prescription, and more exposure increased the chances even more. Based on the researchers’ estimates, any exposure to acetaminophen increases the risk of an ADHD prescription by 30 percent.
Asthma: A major study of over 20,000 children suggests that giving this popular medicine even as infrequently as once per year could have a permanent, life-threatening health effect – Asthma. Children who receive Tylenol (or other acetaminophen) only once per year are at 70% greater risk for asthma while those receiving Tylenol once a month or more were shockingly 540% more likely to have asthma. The study, published in the European Journal of Public Health, also found that children who had even a single dose of Tylenol before their first birthday had a 60% risk of developing asthma. http://eurpub.oxfordjournals.org/content/23/4/706
Liver Damage/Failure: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26706992 Acetaminophen is the cause of many poisonings, which lead to liver damage. (Acetaminophen poisoning is responsible for nearly HALF of ALL acute liver failure cases in the US.)
(The liver is the place where your body processes acetaminophen to remove it from the bloodstream. This natural removal process is the reason why you have to take Acetaminophen every four hours or so. When you take too much acetaminophen, it overloads the liver’s ability to handle the drug. In the process, it creates a toxin that kills your liver, eventually killing you.)
Fatal Skin Reactions: Acetaminophen has been linked to very serious skin reactions. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/03/26/acetaminophen-overdose.aspx
As of 2013, the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS) reports the following cases of skin reactions caused by acetaminophen:
- Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS):This reaction begins with flu-like symptoms that progress into a painful purple or red rash that blisters and causes the top layer of your skin to slough off. This can lead to serious infections, blindness, damage to internal organs, permanent skin damage, and even death.
- Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TENS):TENS also typically begins with flu-like symptoms (cough, headache, aches, and fever) and progresses into a blistering rash. Layers of the skin may peel away in sheets, and hair and nails may fall out. TENS is often fatal, typically as a result of infection.
- Acute Generalized Exanthematous Pustulosis (AGEP):This skin eruption causes numerous pustules to appear on the skin, often accompanied by fever. This condition typically resolves within two weeks once the acetaminophen is stopped.
Leaky Gut Syndrome: 50-70% of chronic Tylenol users (even children) have increased intestinal permeability, which is linked to autoimmune diseases. http://www.side-effects-site.com/tylenol-side-effects.html
Cancer: New research shows that acetaminophen can be linked to blood cancers. Chronic acetaminophen users (as young as childhood even) have nearly twice the risk of developing blood cancer. The definition of “high” use was using acetaminophen at least four times a week for at least four years — an amount that numerous Americans could easily exceed without even realizing it. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/05/25/this-common-otc-painkiller-found-linked-to-cancer.aspx
Hyperkinetic Disorders: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24566677 Maternal acetaminophen use during pregnancy is associated with a higher risk for HKDs and ADHD-like behaviors in children.
Autism: “In the early 1980’s about 42% of women used acetaminophen during the first trimester of pregnancy. The rate (of autism) climbed to over 65% in the early 1990’s, where it has essentially remained through 2004.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20030462 and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18445737
Tylenol and Vaccines: Research shows that acetaminophen use after measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccination is significantly associated with autistic disorder when considering children 5 years of age or less. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18445737
A large part of what makes acetaminophen so dangerous is that it’s found in so many products. Please read your labels and understand the possible outcomes of your choices.
Remember that adults are at risk for the above mentioned side effects (and others), but today, we are just focusing on the pregnant mother and child.
Shaw W. Evidence that increased acetaminophen use in genetically vulnerable children appears to be a major cause of the epidemics of autism, attention deficit with hyperactivity, and asthma. J Restorative Medicine 2013;2:1–16.
Deth R (PhD). Personal communication 2010.
Hong RW, Rounds JD, Helton SW, Robinson MK, Wilmore DW. Glutamine preserves liver glutathione after lethal hepatic injury. Ann Surg 1992;215:114–119.
Bauer AZ, Kriebel D. Prenatal and perinatal analgesic exposure and autism: an ecological link. Environmental Health 2013;12:41.
We have discussed the effects of stress on the human body as a whole, but what most people forget to consider are the women who are pregnant. Yes stress affects them just as it does the non-pregnant woman, but did you know that it can also have an effect on pregnancy and the unborn baby? It’s true, and it’s enlightening. This research has prompted many feelings for me, as my 4 year old has gut and speech issues that have “no medical reasoning.” His pregnancy was during a time of my life when I was battling stress more often than not. Let’s just say that the hours of research I’ve read through leads me to better understanding my son’s issues.
Research shows that stress experienced by a woman during pregnancy may affect her unborn baby as early as 17 weeks after conception, with potentially harmful effects on brain, gut and overall development.
Pregnancy in itself is a stressful time on a woman’s body. The normal physical and hormonal changes can be quite daunting, but the reality is that excessive stress during pregnancy can have some severe consequences for the health of an unborn baby if it is not managed. It’s already known that extreme stress during pregnancy can lead to increased risk of miscarriage in early pregnancy. In the later stages of pregnancy, extreme stress can lead to premature labor, premature birth and low birth-weight babies. But more than that, the latest findings indicate that prenatal stress can also increase the risk of a baby being born with asthma or allergies, and so many other lifelong challenges.
Cortisol, the stress hormone, naturally increases 2 to 4 fold in pregnant women. Cortisol is passed through the placenta to baby, but the amount of maternal cortisol that crosses the placenta barrier is limited because its passage is regulated by the enzyme 11B-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase. Maternal cortisol does still account for 30-40% of fetal concentrations of cortisol. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11231985
Women under higher than normal stress levels, chronic stress, or stress that is not handled well are unknowingly exposing their babies to increased levels of cortisol. These maternal cortisol levels can affect birth and infant outcomes in multiple ways. For one, cortisol stimulates the synthesis and release of placental corticotrophin-releasing hormone (pCRH). In humans, elevated cortisol early in pregnancy predicts pCRH levels later in pregnancy, and pCRH predicts preterm birth. Maternal cortisol also acts directly on the fetus and its developing nervous system. For example, results of some studies have documented that relatively high levels of prenatal maternal cortisol predict:
- greater behavioral and physiological stress reactivity in fetuses, infants and children
- decreased cognitive ability in infants
- increased affective problems in young children
- altered amygdala volumes in young girls
Stress during the first trimester of pregnancy alters the population of microbes living in a mother’s vagina. Those changes are passed on to newborns during birth and are associated with differences in their gut microbiome as well as their brain development.
According to research presented in 2013 by the Society of Neuroscience, “features of the mother’s vaginal microbiome were altered by stress, and in turn, changes were transmitted to the offspring’s gut.”
During a vaginal birth, a newborn is exposed to its mother’s vaginal microbes, collectively known as the microbiota, which importantly colonizes the newborn’s gut, helping its immune system mature and influencing its metabolism. These effects take place during a critical window of brain development.
Tracy Bale, senior author on the study and a professor of neuroscience in Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Perelman School of Medicine states:
‘As the neonate’s gut is initially populated by the maternal vaginal microbiota, changes produced by maternal stress can alter this initial microbial population as well as determine many aspects of the host’s immune system that are also established during this early period.’
These findings not only highlight the important role that the mother’s vaginal microbiome has in populating her baby’s gut at birth, but also the profound effect of maternal stress experience on this microbial population and on early gut and brain development.
A study released in March 2015, utilized the information provided by baby’s first blood draw (heal prick) after birth shows that infants whose mother’s cortisol levels were consistently higher than normal early on in pregnancy, had higher than normal cortisol levels themselves. These infants displayed a much higher sensitivity to stress than other babies with lower cortisol levels. As these babies grew into toddlerhood, they exhibited heightened levels of anxiousness compared to other children, and by the time they were six years old, MRI scans revealed their amygdala (the section of the brain associated with the human response to frightening stimuli) were larger than normal. http://www.newsweek.com/how-calm-your-anxiety-during-pregnancy-315242
Increased stress in pregnancy also elevates the fetal heart rate. Research comparing stress to mood changes shows that a bad mood or bad day does not alter the fetus, but stressful situations and lifestyles do. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4549003/ and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12002098
The intelligence of more than 100 babies and toddlers whose mothers had suffered unusually high stress in pregnancy was studied, and in January 2015, results were released showing their IQ’s were generally about 10 points below average. Many of these small children also had higher than average levels of anxiety and attention deficit problems. http://www.theguardian.com/science/2007/may/31/childrensservices.medicineandhealth
Numerous studies have found that males appeared most affected and may have implications for the development of disorders such as autism and schizophrenia, both of which disproportionately affect males in our society.
Shown below: Maternal stress also impacts normal fetal tissues and organs’ development and increases the risk of development of cardiovascular, metabolic syndrome, stroke and various neurobehavioral, neuropsychological, neuropsychiatric diseases later in life. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3404248/
The brain development is strongly compromised by maternal stress. Expression patterns of key functional mediators that contribute to the heightened susceptibility of neonatal HIE (Neonatal hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy is a devastating disease that primarily causes neuronal and white matter injury and is among the leading cause of death among infants.) The response of these mediators may be stress-specific.
Prenatal stress changes normal brain developmental trajectory, alters brain cellular behavior, remodels cerebral structure and morphology, disturbs neurotransmission, and reprograms the vulnerability or resiliency to neurological diseases in later life.
Other Possible Effects of Stress: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3404248/
Asthma and Allergies: Babies born to mothers who are experiencing extreme stress levels had more immunoglobulin E (IgE) in their blood at birth than babies who are born to mothers with normal stress levels. IgE is an immune system compound (antibody) that indicates an immune system response. This suggests that these babies would be more likely to have asthma or allergies because IgE is an antibody involved in allergic and asthmatic reactions. Obviously this is not conclusive as there are many other factors that determine whether a child will be asthmatic or allergy prone but certainly elevated IgE is suggestive of an increased risk.
Enhanced vulnerability of neonatal hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy: Studies indicate a close link between prenatal stress and enhanced risk of development of cardio-metabolic syndrome, stroke, neuro-behavioral, neuropsychological and neuropsychiatric pathogenesis in adolescence and/or adulthood. However, little research shows the potential harmful effects of fetal stress on the susceptibility of neonatal HIE. Given the impact of prenatal stress on programming of brain structures and functions as discussed above, it is possible that fetal stress may induce the sensitive phenotype of HIE in the neonatal brain through reprogramming expression patterns of some key functional genes and/or proteins involved in the pathophysiology of HIE. More research needs done in this area.
The most common forms of stress that pregnant women noted:
- Relationship Problems
It is vital that pregnant women are given adequate support and reassurance from their family, friends and employers, to ensure they have a happy and healthy pregnancy.
Stress is going to happen. It is inevitable. But how one handles the stress is what seems to be of importance. Working through it before it becomes ongoing and overwhelming will help lower the chances of any maternal stress-related complications.
‘Tis the season that we see pregnant women in the office asking for ways to naturally induce labor.
Around the holidays it seems that pregnant women are put on the clock before they are even in labor. Those who are due within a week of a holiday are typically given the option to induce labor as to avoid giving birth on the holiday itself. In the past year, full-term pregnancies have been relabeled to 39 weeks instead of 37 weeks due to the highest (and at that point, still rising) c-section rates of all time. Women were being electively induced as early as they could be (37 weeks), with the doctors leading the induction discussions.
It is so tempting to have the opportunity to not give birth on an actual holiday. Sharing a birthday on such a momentous day is challenging. It’s also inviting to have an exact end-date to the uncomfortableness that is pregnancy, but medically inducing pregnancy does not have to be your first choice.
Being induced generally includes the use of the drug Pitocin, a synthetic oxytocin. In 2012, a study was conducted by Australian and New Zealand Journal of Gynaecology that showed the use of Pitocin leads to “great pain and suffering, including serious unintended and adverse health effects to both mother and infant.” The study witnessed:
- Increased use of regional analgesia (65 vs. 22% control group*)
- Increased use of instruments for delivery (21 to 18% control group*)
- Increased use of Cesarean section (29 to 14% control group*)
*control group did not receive oxytocin
The researchers concluded that synthetic oxytocin use increased “severe” maternal and neonatal morbidity and increased the doubled the risk of c-section. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19821304
Pitocin Side Effects (directly from the manufacturer’s drug insert):
- Anaphylactic reaction
- Postpartum hemorrhage
- Cardiac arrhythmia
- Fatal afibrinogenemia
- Premature ventricular contractions
- Pelvic hematoma
- Subarachnoid hemorrhage
- Hypertensive episodes
- Rupture of the uterus
According to the same drug insert, the infant may suffer from the intensification of uterine contractions or “motility” in the following ways:
- Premature ventricular contractions
- and other arrhythmias
- Permanent CNS or brain damage
- Fetal death
- Neonatal seizures have been reported
Inducing your labor can potentially lead to issues with baby:
- Problems breathing and keeping warm
- Feeding problems because they may have more trouble sucking and swallowing
- Newborn jaundice, which causes their skin and the white part of their eyes to look yellow
- A longer hospital stay after they are born or be in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
- Are more often readmitted to the hospital with problems
- A smaller and less developed brain when they are born.
The problem is that many women are quickly approaching their due date, or already have surpassed it, and the doctor is presenting them with an induction date.
If this is you, and you are begging for ways to help get labor started before a doctor does, then read on.
You need to know that no induction method will bring a baby earthside who is not ready to be born. Medically, this is known as a failed induction and ends in c-section. But if baby is ready, natural induction methods can trigger labor. Also, make sure that you are at least 39 weeks (or more) before trying to induce labor.
What is developing and changing within baby at 39 weeks gestation:
- Advanced muscle development: Aiding with the suck swallow motion of nursing
- Body temperature control
- Further brain development
- Higher body fat
- Advanced body system development: lung development, digestive system, nervous system, etc
Natural Labor Induction Methods
Sex: Sex is a commonly suggested method of natural induction due to semen containing prostaglandins, which help to ripen the cervix. Consider a relaxing bath first; making sure the body is not tensed. Please note, that sex is safe throughout the entire pregnancy and is not linked to premature rupture of membranes or early labor.
Chiropractor: Not only can chiropractic care ease symptoms during pregnancy, there is research that show it can ease delivery time and pain as well. Research found that women who receive chiropractic care during pregnancy have approximately 6 fewer hours of labor than women who did not receive care. Chiropractors who specialize in pregnancy (Webster Technique) can not only ease pain, but they can manipulate baby’s position, turning him into the best place to begin labor. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2647084/ and http://www.prlog.org/10119754-decreased-labor-time-with-chiropractic-care.html
Nipple Stimulation: Stimulating the nipples (including your areola, as a baby would when sucking) triggers the production of natural oxytocin. Oxytocin contracts the uterus. Massage the first nipple for 5 minutes (when there are no contractions), then wait to see what happens (around 15 mins or so) before doing more. It’s a good idea to take your mind off things by getting on with your usual duties than sitting and waiting for something to happen – so try and keep busy! Once labor is well established again, stop the stimulation. http://www.bellybelly.com.au/birth/nipple-stimulation-how-to-do-nipple-stimulation-for-labour
Acupuncture: Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to induce women who are post dates in their pregnancy. Most of the time one treatment is all that is needed to get the process going. Sometimes a second treatment may be needed. Through continual research, it’s been found that induction using acupuncture generally works within 6-48 hours of having your treatment http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19922252
Acupressure/Trigger Points: You can find a wonderful reference of acupressure for pregnancy and birth here: http://acupuncture.rhizome.net.nz/download-booklet/
- The first area on the body used for stimulating labor is located between the thumb and index finger. This point is actually the “webbing” between these two areas. Techniques vary, but this pressure point can be pressed and rubbed for several seconds or simply pressed firmly for approximately one minute and then released. This technique can also be used during active labor to relieve pain.
- The next area of the body used for stimulating labor is the ankle. This area actually has two different pressure points. The first pressure point is located on the outside of the ankle, just behind where the bony prominence is. Just like the first mentioned location, techniques vary but the pressure point can be rubbed or pressed for several seconds or one minute. The other ankle pressure point is inside the leg, above the ankle. This area may be difficult to find but it is more sensitive to touch than the rest of the leg.
- Another area is located on the back, above the buttocks and lower back. This area can also be pressed or massaged as tolerated.
Homeopathy— Homeopathic remedies use highly diluted versions of more potent substances to treat the body. Pulsatilla and Caulophyllum are two commonly used homeopathic remedies used to stimulate labor.
Evening Primrose Oil: EPO may not induce labor, but it can prime and soften your cervix. You may take the oil orally or insert it vaginally for the best results.
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea: Keeping you hydrated, as well as simulating contractions, RRL Tea has been used to tone the uterus and possibly bring labor on if the baby is ready.
Cinnamon stick tea: Take cinnamon sticks and boil them into a tea and drink. It actually tastes good so even if it doesn’t bring on labor it may help you to relax.
Clary Sage Oil: One of the numerous health beneﬁts of clary sage essential oil is to promote relaxation and pain relief during labor. It is specifically useful where muscular tension arises from mental or emotional stress. Mix CSO with a carrier oil (Like Coconut Oil) and rub on before using acupressure for best labor-educing results.
Pineapple: Most tropical fruits such as pineapples, mango, papaya, and kiwi contain proteolytic enzymes, enzymes which break down protein and are thought to have certain medicinal properties. Pineapples have been used as an anti-inflammatory, digestive aid, diuretic, and also to induce labor. Bromelain, a type of proteolytic enzyme found in pineapples, may help to soften the cervix which could explain how it helps to bring on labor. Since it is also used as a digestive aid, it may stimulate the bowels to move, which could bring on contractions as well.
Wide Squats, Stair lunges, and Curb Walking: Walking on an uneven surface such as a curb or lunging up the stairs can help drop baby into a lower and engaged position for labor to begin. Squatting reduces the birth canal by 10% and helps to get baby into the lowest position for birth.
Exercise/Walking: The pressure of your baby’s head pressing down on the cervix stimulates the release of oxytocin, hopefully bringing on labor, also just being upright gets the forces of gravity working for you, encouraging the baby to move down into the pelvis.
Castor Oil: Rubbing two tablespoons of castor oil on the belly (around the uterus) can possibly cause contractions, leading to labor.
Enemas or other bowel preparations (drinking castor oil): This causes the bowels to contract and could cause the uterus to contract. Use with caution as castor oil can cause vicious diarrhea.
How many of you soon to be moms are having a hard time with your pregnancy? Back pain? Sciatica? Swelling? Carpal tunnel? Headaches? Great News…Chiropractic care and other simple steps you can do will help with all of these symptoms and many more. Yoga, stretching, chiropractic care and massage are all non-invasive and drug free ways to help you get through pregnancy. After all, you are bringing in an amazing little one in to the new world and you should enjoy every step of the way and not have to suffer with pain or be uncomfortable. I’m sure when you talk to others about your back pain you hear, “that’s normal for pregnancy,” or “the headaches are hormonal. It will go away after you have the baby.” Well, it isn’t normal and it’s as simple and aligning your spine and pelvis as well as getting up and moving and staying hydrated.
Adjusting women in pregnancy is quite different than if they were not. During pregnancy, a lot of the focus of the adjustment is on the pelvis to restore the neuro-biomechanics. Women who are symptom free of pain seek out a prenatal chiropractor who is specialized to help balance the pelvis and allow them to have an easier and shorter labor. There is a specific technique for pregnant women called The Webster Technique. It was developed by Dr. Larry Webster, a chiropractor who is also the founder of the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA); he discovered an adjustment of the pelvis and sacrum, the triangular bone between the hips at the base of the spine, helped reduce intrauterine constraint in the pelvis which can lead to dystocia (difficult childbirth) as well and low back pain, sciatica, or SI dysfunction. By aligning the pelvis, this will give the baby optimal fetal positioning to prepare for birth and allow them to develop their spine and nervous system. The baby should be moving often, and when they are stuck in the same position in a span of months, development of the fetus can be hindered, especially the brain and spine. The nervous system is the first to develop in an embryo, making the nervous system the most important system of the body. That is why regular adjustments to both mom and baby are important not only throughout pregnancy in utero, but throughout lifetime. Many chiropractors are now specialized in prenatal and pediatric care and are trained through the ICPA or the International Chiropractic Association (ICA). It is important for you to find a chiropractor who is trained or is comfortable with adjusting a mom to be.
Not only are regular spinal alignments imperative during pregnancy, get up and move. Walking is so important to pelvic health during pregnancy. Walking will help keep the muscles and ligaments loose and limber which will help you during labor. The pace should be at your comfort level. You should walk between 30 to 60 minutes a day if you can. During your lunch, take a stroll around the office or parking lot. Take the dogs or a walk. Go to the mall and window shop. Find some girlfriends that have already had babies and talk about their experiences and what they enjoyed about being pregnant. If you are experiencing a lot of back pain when walking, you can use and ice pack while you are moving. Tuck an ice pack in your pants and cover it up with your shirt. No one will notice. The ice will help to penetrate into the SI joints deeper when walking to help remove the inflammation. Your body will thank you. Make sure when you are finished that you stretch you hamstrings. The muscles are attached to you pelvis and need to be stretched on a regular basis. So, after walking and after sitting for a while. At the office, get up several times to stretch your legs, get the blood flow going. Stretching the hamstrings several times in the day will give the baby more room to move.
Don’t forget about prenatal massages. Prenatal massages are a wonderful compliment to chiropractic care. While the chiropractor will help to align your body, the masseuse will help to massage and loosen the muscles and put the muscles back in to place as well. Not only will you feel amazing from the muscles aches and soreness, it will help with circulation of the blood to the pelvis and baby. You will notice with getting regular chiropractic adjustments and massages how much better you will feel and keep the pain ay bay much longer. Full body massages are not usually recommended until week 20 in pregnancy for safety reasons.
Prenatal yoga is another way to help keep your body and pelvis aligned. By doing yoga, you will feel more centered and balanced. It helps to increase circulation as well to the body just like massage. You will learn to breathe on more of a regular pattern which will help you during your labor. It can help you reduce your stress levels, which is important during pregnancy. It is important as well to look for a prenatal yoga class verses a regular class because the instructors are more aware of the body in pregnancy. They can help you modify positions as you become farther along in your pregnancy. Also, it is nice to have other women around who are going through pregnancy as well. It is a great bond you all will share.
Ladies, you MUST drink water. Just water. Not tea, soda, or packets of things, or drops to make water taste good. Just water. You may add some lemon if you like, that will help to alkalize your body. Water is needed for the baby to grow. Our bodies are made of 50-75% water. Your muscles and organs need the water to keep you your body moving and growing. You will notice your headaches will start to disappear. Headaches are a sign of dehydration, not always “hormonal.” So, how much water do you need to drink? The rule of thumb is body weight divided by 2. So, if you weigh 150 pounds, you need to drink a minimum of 75 ounces. Since you are pregnant, and drinking for two, drink extra. Yes, it is a lot of water, but it is what your body needs to deliver a healthy and happy baby and it will help with the aches and pains of pregnancy.
What you eat is important to keep your body healthy and strong. Pregnancy is a marathon. So take care of your body for the long term, not a sprint. Make sure you are eating your fruit and veggies. The best diet to be on is one that is high in protein. You should have over 100 grams of protein a day. Many utilize The Dr. Brewer’s Pregnancy Diet founded by Tom Brewer, MD. He recommends eating every meal and snack. Do not skip any. He recommends foods to eat every day such as eggs, milk, dark green vegetables, salt, vitamin rich foods of A and C and liver. A complete list can be found at www.drbrewerpregnancydiet.com.
Salt. Yes, salt. Why do we need salt during pregnancy? Salt for the body is good for many reasons. The swelling you have… can be caused from a low salt diet. Salt is used as a transport system to rid the body of excess water. So, it helps to reduce swelling of the hands and feet. Salt is also wonderful for your organs such as your kidneys, heart and of course your thyroid. Many women experience hypothyroid during pregnancy and low salt can be a contributing factor to poor thyroid health and can help reduce the need for medication. Now, there is such a thing as too much salt. According to the World Health Organization, that amount is five grams per day. So, just sprinkle some on each meal to help with balancing the water during pregnancy especially in the summer months when swelling is very common.
These are just a few ways to help you embrace your pregnancy pain and stress free. Pregnancy should be joy and moments and memories you should have last forever.
Dr. Brenda Fairchild, the owner of Pea and the Pod Chiropractic spa dedicated to women and children, has helped hundreds of women get through pregnancy who didn’t think they could because of the pain. She is Specialized in the Webster technique and has her post degree in pediatric chiropractic to help your children when they are born and throughout life. To schedule and appointment call 302.368.0800
Newark, DE. – Pea and the Pod Chiropractic is a chiropractic spa dedicated to women and children in all stages of life. More and more women are turning to chiropractic for natural option to help them during pregnancy. Some moms to be are seeking help with their back pain, some looking for help to get their baby in the best position for birth; others are looking for wellness or preventative care for them and their child. Chiropractic care during pregnancy is safe not only for mom, but the baby as well.
At Pea and the Pod Chiropractic, we are trained and specialized in pregnancy care through the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association. Dr. Brenda Fairchild is one of the few chiropractors in Delaware who is Webster Technique Certified to help pregnant women and their babies. This technique balances the pelvis to allow the baby to have the maximum amount of room and moms notice easier and faster births and less back pain. Her own pregnancy with daughter Madelyn Jaymes allowed her to fully understand the unique needs and concerns of her patients. We also have a one of a kind custom pregnancy table designed by the owner, Dr. Brenda Fairchild which has a cutout for a growing belly to allow a mom-to-be to lay face down.
Benefits of chiropractic care during pregnancy:
- Less back pain and neck pain
- Shorter labor times and more efficient contractions
- Baby in optimal position for birth
- Helps with getting labor started
- Decreases birth trauma
- Helps with reduction of C-Section
- Helps with heartburn and reflux