Pregnancy can be a magical time in a woman's life, but it can also bring with it some quite uncomfortable realities. In particular, many pregnant women experience back pain, especially lower back pain. In fact, 50% of women experience back pain during their pregnancy, and 50%-75% experience back pain during labor (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2647084/). Most pregnant women also want their labor to be as uncomplicated and pain-free as possible. Chiropractic care can be a good option for most pregnant women to ease their back pain and prepare their bodies for labor.
What causes back pain during pregnancy?
During pregnancy, a woman's body goes through dramatic changes and many of these can result in pain, especially in the lower back. Some of the causes of back pain during pregnancy include:
1) Weight gain
A growing fetus and a body that is creating fat stores cause weight gain and this increases the load on the spine (https://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/back-pain-in-pregnancy#1).
2) Pressure on nerves
The developing fetus and the uterus can both put pressure on the nerves in the back and pelvis, causing pain (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2647084/).
3) Postural changes
The changing weight distribution caused by carrying the fetus at the front of the body can cause postural changes that put a strain on the lumbar spine and the joints at the top of the pelvis (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2647084/).
4) Hormonal changes
During pregnancy, a hormone called relaxin is released. It relaxes the ligaments and joints in preparation for labor, but this relaxation can make the ligaments in the rest of the body (including the back) more prone to instability and stains (https://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/back-pain-in-pregnancy#1).
Is chiropractic care safe during pregnancy?
Chiropractic care during pregnancy is safe for all healthy pregnant women, with no adverse associations reported.
In some instances, however, chiropractic care during pregnancy may not be advised and it would be a good idea to approach a physician first:
• vaginal bleeding
• ruptured amniotic membranes
• sudden onset of pelvic pain
• premature labor
• placental abruption
• ectopic pregnancy
• toxemia (moderate to severe)
Chiropractic care and pregnancy-related back pain
Chiropractic care is an effective treatment for pregnancy-related back pain. Of pregnant women who sought chiropractic care, 75% found relief from back pain (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2647084/). All chiropractors have been trained to treat pregnant women, but some specialize in prenatal care. Many chiropractors also offer specialized tables that can accommodate a growing belly.
Spinal adjustments can help to strengthen the spine and correct postural problems, reducing back pain. Chiropractors will often also help create an exercise regime that can strengthen the muscles in the back, helping to stabilize it.
Chiropractic care and labor
Not only can chiropractic care help with pregnancy-related back pain, but it can also improve labor outcomes. Chiropractic care during pregnancy significantly reduces the incidence of back labor (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2647084/). This is when the baby is in a back-to-back position with their spine aligned with the mother's spine, and which causes intense and extreme pain during labor.
Chiropractic care during pregnancy can also reduce the risk of preterm delivery, the need for assisted birth interventions (such as forceps), and it can reduce the incidence of meconium-stained amniotic fluid (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2647084/). Chiropractic care can also reduce the length of labor, with 25% of first-time mums who had received chiropractic care during pregnancy experiencing a shorter than average labor.
Chiropractic care during pregnancy can help to support pregnant women, relieve their back pain, and help them to stay active and mobile. It can also help to make labor as easy as possible, reducing the risk of painful complications, and reducing the length. Chiropractic care during pregnancy is safe unless there are other health complications.