5-Minute Guide: The Safety of Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy

Drs. Jeff Langmaid and Jason Deitch

Founder DCs, The Smart Chiropractor

The Probable Value of Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is one of the most joyful and beautiful experiences that one can go through in life.

But, with pregnancy also comes significant changes to an expecting woman’s body.

A Young African American Couple Admire the Expecting Mother's New Baby Bump as They Discuss Whether or Not Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy is Right for Them
Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy: Preparation

So, if you have ever been pregnant before, we’re sure you can attest to the potentially long list of changes, aches, and pains you might experience throughout your pregnancy.

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Chiropractic care could help your body prepare for pregnancy and help reduce the amount of pain you could experience.

It’s considered a safe and effective way to manage aches, pains, and body changes throughout pregnancy.

What’s more, chiropractic care is a conservative method that does not employ over-the-counter drugs to help you feel your best before, during, and after your pregnancy.

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The body undergoes massive physiological and anatomical changes to support a growing child.

The most visible changes are usually weight gain and the presence of a “bump” in the abdomen.

Along with visual changes, the body goes through several unseen physiological changes to prepare for pregnancy.

A Young Expecting Mother Interested in Receiving Chiropractic Care During PregnancyRests Her Upper Body on a Large Balance Ball From a Seated Position as Her Female Chiropractor Examines Her Lower Back
Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy: Physiological Changes

One of the most significant physiological changes is when a hormone called relaxin is released into the body.

Relaxin works to loosen ligaments in your pelvis and hips.

It also decreases premature contractions so that you can grow throughout pregnancy.

Relaxin does a lot of good for pregnancy but can also cause aches and pain.

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Many joints in the lumbar spine show increased laxity due to changes such as the release of relaxin.

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This increase in laxity often causes the common lower back, pelvic, and hip pain experienced throughout pregnancy.

Your body also takes on many musculoskeletal changes during pregnancy, such as increased lordosis in the lower back or the appearance of an increased concave curve in the lower back, forward flexion of the neck, and downward movement of the shoulders.

When a person is pregnant, you can also see widening and increased mobility in their sacroiliac joints and pubic symphysis, aka changes to their hips and pelvis.

A Young Female Patient Receiving Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy Lies on Her Side with a Pillow Under Her Head as Her Chiropractor Adjusts Her Low Back
Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy: Low Back Pain

So what does all this mean?

Well, in short, it means your body is adapting to pregnancy.

These changes often cause the common increased lower back, hip, sacroiliac joint, mid-back, and neck pain throughout pregnancy.

And this is where chiropractic care can enter the chat.

Specialized Care for Pregnancy: The Webster Technique

Chiropractic care during pregnancy differs slightly from chiropractic care in general.

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A typical chiropractic prenatal visit will go as follows:

  • Complete medical history and chief complaint symptoms taken
  • History of previous pregnancies and any complications associated with other pregnancies will be addressed and assessed.
  • Physical examination and orthopedic testing are done to determine a specific diagnosis
  • Treatment and treatment plan implemented and established for the patient

In the chiropractic profession, a specific technique is often used for women throughout pregnancy, referred to as the Webster Technique.

An Experienced Female Chiropractor Certified in the Webster Technique Provides Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy for a Long Time Female Patient
Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy: The Webster Technique

This technique uses a combination of gentle mobilization, drop table, activator, and manual adjusting to help reduce pain, discomfort, and muscle tension while providing safe and effective treatment throughout and after pregnancy.

So now you might ask what a typical chiropractic treatment plan for a pregnant patient looks like.

A typical chiropractic treatment plan for pregnancy often follows along with your prenatal visits with your OB/GYN.

Example

For example, a normal treatment plan for pregnancy would look something like this:

  • Treatment frequency: 1x every three weeks until the patient is 28 weeks gestation, then 1x every two weeks until the patient is 37 weeks gestation, then 1x/week until labor and delivery.
  • The patient has been instructed to return sooner if they experience any exacerbations or have any new concerns.

You can see that treatment increases as the pregnant individual moves further along in their pregnancy.

The frequency can also change if the patient’s pain becomes worse or better.

Along with this plan, many pregnant individuals also choose to add massage therapy and acupuncture to help with pain and discomfort.

A Very Pregnant Young Woman Receiving Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy Lies on Her Side While Receiving a Massage to Soothe Her Low Back Pain
Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy: Holistic Care

Chiropractic, massage therapy, and acupuncture are all completely safe during, before, or after pregnancy unless the individual patient has an underlying condition contradicting these alternative medicine practices that are present before they became pregnant or if the patient has developed a contradicting condition during their pregnancy.

All alternative medicine therapies can be discussed with your OB/GYN or current chiropractic physician to determine if you are a good candidate for these therapies.

Chiropractors Who Specialize in Pregnancy Care

Any chiropractor can choose to specialize in prenatal and postnatal care.

Many chiropractors have undergone multiple years of training post-chiropractic school to serve this specialized population.

Most chiropractors take the path during or after school.

They work with the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) Pediatric Council or take extra courses to get a certification through the International Chiropractic Pediatric Chiropractic Association (ICPCA).

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The ICPCA and ACA have many courses that focus on pregnancy and pediatric care that prepare a chiropractor to treat the prenatal and postnatal populations.

The two organizations also have programs that offer subsequent certifications and courses that allow a doctor of chiropractic medicine to specialize in pediatric, prenatal, and postnatal care.

A Portrait of a Diverse Group of Healthcare Professionals Studying to be Certified to Administer Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy
Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy: DC Specialists

Considerations for Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy

Just like any chiropractic adjustment or medical treatment, treatments always have risks.

The Potential Risks of Prenatal Chiropractic Care and Postnatal Chiropractic Care

Here are some of the most prevalent risks associated with chiropractic adjustments and pregnancy.

For pregnancy, there are a few additional risks that we take into consideration when adjusting.

Adjustments during pregnancy should be low amplitude and take precautions with prone lying or stomaching lying positions.

Potential Risks / Side Effects of Receiving Care
  • Soreness of muscles or ligaments post-treatment
  • Placental abruption
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Exacerbation of symptoms

Though this risk sounds scary, most are self-limiting and can be avoided with a skilled chiropractor.

The biggest thing we worry about is placental abruption caused by a forceful side posture adjustment.

This condition is very rare.

It can also be avoided completely by eliminating side posture adjusting during pregnancy using a pregnancy pillow and the Webster Technique.

It is often recommended that side posture adjusting be avoided during pregnancy and completely avoided if the patient is suffering from a Placenta Previa or another health condition already directly affecting the placenta.

Regarding nausea and dizziness, this complication during adjustments is often seen if the patient is left lying on their back for an extended period or if the pregnant patient is suffering from iron deficiency.

These are easily avoidable risks by using pillows to prop the patient up or taking precautions, ensuring the patient’s head is always higher than their body, and avoiding keeping the patient in a supine or back lying position for long periods.

A Young Female Patient Who Just Started Receiving Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy Rests Her Upper Body on a Balance Ball and Smiles as Her Female Chiropractor Treats Her Low Back Pain
Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy: Adaptive, Personalized Care

If the patient is already diagnosed with iron deficiency due to pregnancy, it is good to be aware of it and adjust treatment accordingly.

Post-treatment, the biggest and most common risk with any chiropractic adjustment during pregnancy is soreness in muscles and ligaments.

This is usually a very self-limiting condition that often diminishes after 2-3 days or sooner.

If soreness or muscle discomfort worsens or progresses, the best thing to do is revisit your chiropractor and see if additional treatment is needed.

We must also remember that any medical treatment will always involve risks.

Although it can be scary to read about the risks associated with chiropractic treatments, these risks are often rare.

But, in the case of chiropractic care and pregnancy, the benefits usually outweigh the risks.

The Benefits of Pre and Postnatal Chiropractic Care

So let’s talk about the benefits you will get from an adjustment during pregnancy.

Some benefits associated with chiropractic treatments during pregnancy are:

Possible Benefits of Receiving Care
  • Decrease muscle soreness and tightness during pregnancy
  • Increased range of motion
  • Decrease pelvic, lower back, and pubic pain
  • Decrease upper back and neck pain
  • Improved gait and biomechanics
  • Maintaining proper alignment of hips, pelvis, and pubis during pregnancy
  • It can help ease the birthing process
  • Decrease nerve pain down legs often associated with pregnancy
  • Decrease round ligament pain

As you can see, there are many more benefits than risks associated with chiropractic treatment/adjustments and pregnancy.

These benefits often make pregnancy easier for the patient and allow them to do everything they want during their pregnancy.

The Safety of Pre and Postnatal Chiropractic Care

So the big question becomes, is chiropractic care during pregnancy worth it?

Yes, 100%.

Overall, chiropractic care has many benefits and provides pain relief for many patients during pregnancy.

It is considered safe and effective and is often covered by insurance.

But on top of that, chiropractic care is necessary during pregnancy.

It provides another healthcare professional that can help monitor and provide care to the patient during this often challenging time.

A Female Chiropractic Associate Reviews the Progress Made with a Pregnant Patient Receiving Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy in Her Team's Practice
Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy: Collaborative Care

Therefore adding chiropractic care to your pregnancy plan is a way to have another medical provider watch over you and help you during your pregnancy in areas where general western medicine can fall short due to your current medical system.

Chiropractic care during pregnancy can help improve your pregnancy and help you decrease everyday aches and pains that often occur during pregnancy.

The best part is that there are so many excellent chiropractors out there that are so excited, knowledgeable, and willing to help you get the care needed during your pregnancy.

Finding a Chiropractor Who Specializes in Pregnancy Care

The best place to find chiropractors specializing in prenatal and postnatal care is to check the ICPCA website, which has a directory of Webster Certified chiropractors.

The website is easy to use, and you can search by state and city.

The chiropractors listed on the website are all certified in the Webster Technique, which is used for pregnant patients.

A Pregnant Woman in Her Third Trimester Searches for Chiropractors Certified to Provide Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy Near Her
Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy: Finding a Webster Technique Certified DC

These chiropractors also often have other certifications that add additional qualifications that help them treat prenatal patients.

The other way to find chiropractors specializing in prenatal care is to Google chiropractors in your area and check if they specifically treat the prenatal population on their website.

Often reaching out to other prenatal providers could be another way to find a prenatal chiropractor, such as checking with your OB/GYN, PT, or lactation consultants.

These other providers often work closely with chiropractors to help provide comprehensive-integrative health care to prenatal patients.

A Word About Patient Pilot by The Smart Chiropractor

Are you a chiropractor or chiropractic para professional?

Thanks for reading!

We hope this article has given you some great notes to share with your patients regarding the power of conservative care throughout pregnancy.

We also hope exploring this application of chiropractic practice has motivated you to spread the word about your unique practice and everything you have to offer!

Our team at The Smart Chiropractor is dedicated to making patient communication easier for DCs and their staff through free resources like our blog and our subscription-based patient-education-focused marketing materials and services.

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Chiropractic Email Marketing Best Practices: Patient Pilot

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