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