By Dr. Elisa Petricca
A healthy mom translates into a healthy baby. So why not do everything you can to have a safe, healthy and natural pregnancy!?
This post focuses on educating pregnant mum’s on how to prepare for the birthing process and the value of chiropractic care during pregnancy. A pregnant woman who trusts her body to do what it is naturally designed to do is much more likely to experience a healthy, natural birth than someone who is stressed and fearful. The brain responds to fearful emotions negatively during pregnancy, releasing hormones that can slow labour and dilation.
How to Prepare for Birth
Scientific research strongly suggests the following principles for a natural and healthy pregnancy and birth:
- A fully functional nervous system: This is essential to assist the body in adapting to stressors associated with pregnancy and support development to the baby.
- Proper dietary intake: This is required for optimal fetal development.
- Movement and exercise: This will encourage optimal brain and cell function, hormonal balance, strength and mobility.
- Positive thoughts and emotions.
- A nurturing environment: It is important to be surrounded by loving and supportive relationships to help minimize stress and create an optimal environment fir a relaxed birth.
- A birth support team: Comprised of loved ones and health professionals to assist in a natural birth.
The Value of Chiropractic Care
Chiropractic care during pregnancy is vital in supporting normal and physiological function of mom and baby. Chiropractic care can help with pregnancy and birth by:
- Reducing interference to the mother’s nervous system, allowing for optimal function.
- Helping to create balance in the pelvis, allowing for an easier birth.
- Removing tension on the ligaments that support the uterus.
- Decreasing the potential for interventions and increasing the potential for a natural birth.
How does chiropractic care support the developing infant?
- Encourages optimal infant development by removing interference from the mother’s nervous system.
- Helps to create more room in the uterus, allowing baby to move and develop without restriction. This allows the baby to move into the best possible position for birth.
- Regular adjustments greatly reduce the possibility of dystocia (delayed birth) as well as birth trauma that can be caused by intervention.
What are the main things you should take away from this whole article?
- Chiropractic provides structural balance and stability (specifically in the pelvis) for the mother, resulting in a more comfortable pregnancy.
- Research has shown that pregnant mothers who receive regular chiropractic care throughout their pregnancy generally have a shorter labour with less medical intervention.
- Chiropractic care throughout pregnancy can help to create a healthier and more comfortable in-utero environment for the infant.
Recent news has made the disconcerting report that women often have misguided ideas about their caloric requirements during pregnancy.
The findings of numerous studies continue to prove that moms-to-be need to be careful about what they’re eating and avoid some dangerous behaviours like over-indulging their cravings. Why? Because what you eat can directly affect the development of your child, in both the fetal stage and infancy.
For example, research shows that women who eat a higher sugar diet may have bigger babies. The sugar consumption triggers the baby to produce more insulin, which in turn promotes growth.
The reason for this- and one of the key “takeaways” from this article- is the fact that everything in a mother’s diet has a collective impact on her child’s development. While medical science used to believe that the placenta could filter out unwanted or unneeded nutrients, we now know this isn’t the case. So when a pregnant woman chooses to eat things that are high in sugar and low in nutritional value, those decisions are also being made for her child. And when these decisions are made consistently, your baby’s body will react and develop accordingly. A poor prenatal diet can even affect the infant’s eventual likelihood of developing chronic disease.
The nutrients that babies feed on and physically process in the womb also help determine the types of cravings they’ll have in infancy, because the mother’s diet shapes her baby’s sensitivity and receptiveness to certain tastes. So skip the sugar and greasy, processed foods. Make it a strict habit to exercise dietary balance, high nutrient density, and moderation.
Yes, moderation. As the article points out, it’s important to understand what it means to be “eating for two.” This is a misleading expression because the volume of food you need to consume while pregnant is never going to double. In fact the view that pregnancy is a time to “let go” contributes to the problem of compromised fetal nutrition. When women eat empty calories, avoid exercise, and indulge repeatedly in high-sugar, high-sodium or high-fat food cravings, their pregnancy weight gain begins to exceed the targeted and healthy range of 25 to 35 pounds.
Of course pregnancies are subjective and body weight, nutritional needs, and gestational health concerns vary. However, understanding your personal needs is a good place to start. Consult Health Canada’s pregnancy weight gain guide, set up a diet plan based on your own cravings and aversions, and try to remind yourself that the right combination of nutrition knowledge and discipline could go a long way in keeping your child healthy.
Often when women think about labour prep they think about things like pain management, positions, and breathing techniques. One critical thing that can be easily overlooked is fuel! Giving birth is an enormous physical undertaking that will demand endurance and strength. As such, it requires that you prepare as you would for any other event: by fueling your body to succeed.
Now, of course you can’t eat throughout the entire labour and birthing process for a number of reasons. In the event of emergency medical intervention for example, general anesthetic requires that you have an empty stomach to avoid the risk of regurgitating food.
Secondly, as labour progresses many women simply don’t feel like eating. And lastly, once you have an epidural you aren’t able to eat or drink. Even with any one of these scenarios in mind, it’s still very important to be mindful of your physical needs pre-labour and in early labour. Here are some general tips that will help you stay nutritionally equipped for birth.
1. Fuel up in the final days: Toward the end of your pregnancy, stay vigilant about your eating habits. Make sure you’re getting enough carbohydrates and proteins and rest as much as possible. This will allow your body to store glycogen to provide you with energy throughout labour and to prevent ketosis. Eat up to store up: Birth is a major event that will require plenty of strength!
2. Safe snacking during labour: In early labour, choose dry carbohydrates for the slow release of energy over the hours to come. If you can add some protein to the mix, do so. Snack suggestions include bananas, dates, yogurt and crackers. Avoid big meals in case of nausea and vomiting during labour.
3. Listen to your body: So much is happening during labour that you might find yourself solely tuned into the heart rate monitor and contractions, forgetting to properly address hunger and thirst. But remember that taking care of yourself is important so that you have the energy to push. Between contractions- especially in the early stages- stop and assess. Are you feeling nourished? Hydrated? Do you have supplies like water and sports drinks nearby?
4. Hydrate. Many women get thirsty during labour and you might find that your delivery room is extremely warm for the baby. Quench your thirst and cool yourself down with plenty of cold water or natural juice. Isotonic beverages are great too, as these will replace your electrolytes and absorb quickly. If you’re not able to eat during a long labour, these sports drinks can help keep your energy up.
5. Check with other moms. Ask around and see how far into labour other moms kept snacking, or how soon before contractions they had their last pre-birth meal. Check out registered dietician and blogger Kath Younger’s pre-labour breakfast here, and her full birth story here. She started labour with a full bowl of oatmeal, nuts and fruits, and later snacked on dates, banana slices with peanut butter, and coconut water. On her blog she notes at the start of labour “There’s no way I can do this hungry!”
As the arrival of your baby approaches, you’ll need to modify your diet according to many variables: the length of your labour, the wait time until you hit active labour, and the type of medication you use (if any). Whatever your birth plan, remember to have some fuel on-hand during the final weeks of your pregnancy!
One of the most overwhelmingly common first-trimester symptoms among pregnant women is –as we all know- morning sickness. The degree to which women experience nausea and vomiting will vary, not only woman to woman, but also from pregnancy to pregnancy. Some women will experience severe and intense morning sickness during their first pregnancy and milder, shorter-term nausea the second or third time around. This can make it hard to predict what your palate will and will not tolerate, at a time in your life when your health and nutrition are critical.
So what’s the deal with morning sickness?
When you get pregnant, your hormones peak. Estrogen and hCG begin to circulate in your bloodstream, and they’re at their highest concentration during the first three months. These hormones are believed to take the lion’s share of responsibility for triggering nausea, but evidence shows that other lifestyle factors can sometimes exacerbate pregnancy side effects as well, like stress, an empty stomach and fatigue.
While “morning sickness” is the term we often use for nausea and vomiting during early pregnancy, these symptoms can strike at any time of day, and certainly don’t encompass all symptoms (as anyone who has been through a pregnancy already knows). Heartburn, exhaustion, cravings and aversions can all affect nutrition and appetite as well.
What if I’m not eating enough (or keeping enough down?)
Naturally nutrition is a major worry for women who suffer from intense and prolonged nausea and vomiting. Sometimes women will even lose weight during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, which can be very alarming, especially for a first time mom. The good news is that in the initial weeks of pregnancy, your baby is getting most of his or her nourishment from nutrients already stored in your uterus.
Still, the full course of a pregnancy places completely new and important nutritional demands on the expectant mother. Here are some ways to ensure that your body is getting the nourishment it needs to take you and your baby through a healthy pregnancy.
Get plenty of sleep: If you have any opportunity to adjust your sleep patterns to cover your typical bouts of nausea, go for it! If you’re consistently nauseous at 7am, try going to bed later and sleeping until 8. If you get hit with morning sickness every day at 10am, plan for a snack and a nap at 9:30. For most women however, this isn’t an option- either because symptoms are too severe to sleep through, or because work and other commitments prevent so much rescheduling. In this case- sleep when you can. If you can take a 30 minute nap before dinner, do it. If you can get to bed earlier in the evenings, do it. Feeling overtired can sometimes make nausea feel even worse.
Avoid triggers: Since pregnancy nausea is often triggered by foods and smells, over time you may be able to identify the foods that consistently make you recoil. This can be difficult if you’re experiencing many different cravings and aversions. If it feels like a different food is setting you off each day, try keeping a “trigger” log. Monitor these foods for patterns or a common thread that you may have overlooked –are the turn-off foods primarily from one food group? Are they all breakfast foods? Do they have a similar texture? These might clue you in to some useful and consistent aversion factors.
Check with a health practitioner about herbal solutions. Always consult before taking a herbal course of action, but many remedies have proven effective at combating negative pregnancy side effects. These include ginger, elm bark and mint.
Supplement your diet with shakes, vitamins, or nutritional supplements. Again, make sure you consult with a health practitioner if you plan to take supplements. However, if you know you’re short on protein or vitamins from your diet, toss some ingredients into the blender or juicer.
Keep snacks on hand- Choose something dry and bland like crackers or dry cereal. Sometimes when women wake up they find that eating something immediately can help to offset nausea. Avoid any snacks that are heavy or flavourful. Keep it boring until the hormone-storm settles!
Hydrate. To make up for lost fluids, make sure that you drink plenty of water. Hydration is critical when you’re pregnant, and it helps to facilitate the absorption of nutrients to the fetus. Drinking lots of fresh water can also help to reduce swelling and retention.
Part of the challenge of meeting your nutritional needs and effectively managing morning sickness is the sheer unpredictability of it. After a few weeks of getting more familiar with your symptoms, you’ll be equipped to work out a plan of action. Occasionally women will suffer debilitating nausea for a sustained portion of their pregnancy. If you’re suffering this severely, we urge you to talk to a natural health practitioner! With the right assistance, you can regain activity and productivity while finding the right strategies to stick to a nutritious diet.
When you find out you’re pregnant, you begin a mental checklist immediately. The list of things you could benefit from purchasing, eating and reading is endless. In spite of all of the advice and “to-do’s” available, there are a few smart investments and purchases that may be easier to overlook.
1. Orthotics: many pregnant women experience some common foot problems that may increase in severity over the course of their pregnancy. These include over-pronation, swelling and pain in the arch and heel. Weight gain puts a great deal of added stress on feet and orthotics are a smart investment to increase your comfort and health. As this awesome article “Pregnancy and Your Feet” from Mount Joy reminds us, hormonal surges cause ligaments in the feet to relax, which can flatten arches. New shifts in how you bear weight can also result in over-pronation, a condition we’ve mentioned before with respect to orthotics. This can make walking painful, and increase strain on the legs and lower back. Since many of these discomforts are already a concern for pregnant women, minimizing additional stress from foot problems is an important move for avoiding unnecessary and potentially serious discomfort and injury.
2. Pre-natal massage: While some pregnant women might see this as a luxury, having a pre-natal massage can be a highly effective treatment to lessen symptoms of pregnancy and its toll on your body. Massage reduces strain on muscles, nerve pain and swelling, while improving circulation, which is particularly important during pregnancy due to the elevated risk of blood clots.
3. A therapeutic outlet: whether it’s a psychotherapist, a support group, or a pre-natal yoga class, it’s important to have a space to relax and work through some of the more emotionally complicated aspects of pregnancy. The fact that you are undergoing a major (and exciting!) life change, in addition to onslaughts of hormones can produce any mixture of feelings including tension, stress, guilt, and anxiety. The proper form of therapy can help to foster a healthy and calm state of being, which will better prepare any expectant mom for labour, delivery and motherhood.
So don’t just be good to yourself during your pregnancy- be great! Tackle unaddressed discomforts- whether physical or emotional- with these natural, body-friendly treatments.
We’ve discussed a few of the ways that chiropractic care can benefit an expectant mother. Many women intuitively think of back pain relief when they hear the words “pre-natal” and “chiropractic,” but we know chiropractic adjustments to have other benefits for pregnant women than soothing a sore back.
One of these beneficial treatments is called the Webster Technique, an adjustment specifically designed and developed to help remove intra-uterine constraint. If your baby is not properly positioned to be birthed head-first, delivery can be longer, more taxing, and require additional invasive medical intervention. This technique is designed to remove constraint in the pelvis to free up space for the baby to move into a better position. Often, the result of removing this tension is that a baby that is improperly positioned will turn to make delivery less difficult.
…So Who’s Webster?
The Webster Technique is named for its founder Dr. Larry Webster who witnessed his daughter experience a very difficult delivery as the result of her baby presenting breech. The International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA) provides a detailed history of Dr. Webster’s experience and the events that led him to develop this technique. During the early stages of his daughter’s labour, Dr. Webster was able to keep performing chiropractic adjustments for her, but eventually hospital staff put a stop to this as the labour intensified and progressed. His birth of his grandchild was long and arduous. After this experience, Dr. Webster was eager to develop an adjustment specifically for pregnant women to help facilitate easier births by reducing the complications and difficulty involved when the baby presents as breech.
So the Webster Technique came into creation as Dr. Webster began caring for another pregnant mother whose baby needed help positioning for birth. After practicing his chiropractic adjustment on her for several weeks, the baby turned vertex and was delivered successfully.
Dr. Webster’s technique was formally implemented by the ICPA in 2000. Today, this technique, which is formally called the “Webster In-Utero Constraint Technique,” is widely used by chiropractors on pregnant patients. Its goal is to improve misalignments of the sacrum, the triangular bone at the very base of your back (kind of behind your pelvis).
But how will it help to re-position my baby?
Sacral subluxations are thought to be an underlying cause of difficult labours. In fact the Webster Technique’s effectiveness is based on the connection between sacral subluxations and factors contributing to “dystocia,” or difficult childbirths: things like ineffective pelvic contractions, poor uterine health, and the improper positioning of the baby. When your pelvic bones are misaligned, it can result in the twisting and tightening of your entire pelvic region. This is what prevents your baby from transitioning into the optimal position for birth, and those unyielding muscles also make labour and delivery more difficult.
The way to open your body for birth is to align it properly. Regular adjustments and use of the Webster’s Technique can help to optimize your pelvic position and supporting ligaments and muscles for giving birth vaginally, and allows baby to find the best position possible.
The first step is of course a personalized assessment with a chiropractor, who can tell you more about your body’s alignment, and how it might be better adjusted to optimize childbirth. Depending on the presence of any other pregnancy symptoms you might be experiencing , your chiropractor can also recommend other treatments to combine with the Webster Technique to further reduce nerve pressure and muscle pain.
If you’re a soon-to-be mom, your delivery is a momentous and exciting event! While childbirth is never predictable, the entire process can feel more stressful if your baby is presenting breech. If you’d like to chat about The Webster Technique or any other pregnancy-related adjustments, don’t forget that Dr. Wise has ICPA training to care for women during pregnancy with gentle, targeted techniques. Plus she loves to meet new moms! Make an appointment to meet her today.
Sore back? Aching knees? Pelvic pain? Chiropractic can help!
We recently came across a fantastic article from Birth Without Fear about why chiropractic is so helpful to women for enjoying an optimal pregnancy and birth. This post makes the important suggestion that women should never feel like they are out of options when suffering from intense pregnancy symptoms. Although certain physical effects of pregnancy are to be expected and tolerated, their severity and frequency can certainly be soothed and managed with the aid of chiropractic.
We appreciated the detail with which Birth Without Fear explained how specific muscle tensions and subluxations can produce negative outcomes and hindrances during pregnancy and birth. Some of the targeted problems for adjustment that were mentioned include:
1. Body imbalances that can produce a misaligned pelvis. Certain subluxations can cause your thoracic spine and lumbar spine to bend in opposite directions. As a result, one side of the pelvis can be raised, which can cause problems when your baby tries to re-position for birth. And, as with many imbalances, an uneven pelvis will cause a pregnant woman to unevenly distribute her weight to different joints and muscles. This can make those pregnancy aches and pains much more aggravated than they would be otherwise.
2. Nerve tension that causes inflammation and stress. When the muscles surrounding your spine get tighter, more stress is put on the nerves along the spinal column. These are important nerves; they exit the spine and lead to many critical organs and glands. If these nerves experience sustained tension and pressure, the stress could potentially lead to degeneration of these other vital body parts.
3. Thoracic, lumbar and sacral nerve pressure that decreases blood flow. When there is excess pressure exerted on your nerves, it can limit blood flow to the kidneys, liver and other vital organs. The article stresses the dangers of compromising the functioning of these organs. One possible result is the leaking of protein into the urine, which is a sign of preeclampsia. Undue pressure can also tighten your uterus, making it difficult to effectively labour and dilate.
Thanks to Birth Without Fear, for this enlightening article that does the important work of detailing why it’s so important to have a chiropractic assessment during pregnancy. Many pregnant women want to do all they can to ensure they have a healthy pregnancy and a delivery that doesn’t stray too far from their birth plan. While some elements of childbirth are certainly unpredictable, one component you can control is the care you give yourself leading up to your due date.
Expectant mothers consider chiropractic and massage as ways to relieve their immediate physical distress such as back pain and poor circulation. They may not know about the many other important benefits of undergoing an adjustment, and the link between chiropractic and an effective, healthy delivery. This connection is very important to us at Thrive Health, as we specialize in young family care. Our resident chiropractor Dr. Jennifer Wise is experienced and uniquely trained through the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association to care for women during pregnancy with gentle and specifically tailored chiropractic care.
If you’re expecting, drop in and see what we can do to improve your pre-natal health and comfort. We’d love to meet you!
It’s no secret that we encourage safe, strengthening and relaxing forms of exercise for expectant moms. We recently spoke to several moms at Baby and Me Fitness’ Aqua Bellies and Yoga Bellies classes. Pre-natal exercise is an important part of a healthy pregnancy journey.
Yoga is an ideal form of exercise for expectant women because classes are tailored for pregnant bellies, and you’re under constant supervision. In an extremely pro-yoga blog post, pre-natal yoga guru Lori Lucas goes so far to declare that “Yoga is superior to all other forms of exercise during pregnancy (hands down).”
She cites an interesting study done by the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine that found women who practiced yoga during their pregnancy had an increased chance of a healthy delivery.
The women who attended yoga classes during their second trimester reported higher birth weights for their newborns, as well as lower rates of hypertension compared to the women who didn’t practice yoga.
Study stats aside, prenatal yoga is a wonderful way to relieve the stresses and tensions of pregnancy. Practicing yoga can help you get to sleep at night and ease lower back pain and morning nausea. Not to mention the fact that you’ll get the chance to meet other women preparing for the joys (and stresses) of motherhood.
Yoga is a great training ground to prepare you for the adventure of childbirth. It prepares you for labour with exercises that calm your breathing and improve flexibility.
Many women like yoga because it provides a wonderful opportunity to take a break from the pressures of your day and restore mindfulness. Things can get very hectic during (and after!) pregnancy. Spending an hour focused entirely on yourself, your mood, your breathing, balance and rhythm can help to restore a sense of peace and order. Plus it’s nice to get in some “you” time before the baby comes.
You only spend a short time in your life being pregnant. While the joys of motherhood are inexpressible, yoga gives you an opportunity to slow down and enjoy the experience of pregnancy too.
Conceiving and giving birth are natural processes, but we all know that unpredictable challenges can make them feel stressful and difficult rather than intuitive. That’s why added support in the form of naturopathic or chiropractic therapy can help you on the path to starting your family.
Being in tune with your body is one of the most important elements in a successful conception. This goes beyond knowing where you’re at in your menstrual cycle though. Everything from your diet to your stress levels to the function of your central nervous system can have an effect on your reproductive system.
Adjust Yourself Properly
Stress is inevitable. When it becomes overwhelming however, it can delay pregnancy and affect your reproductive cycle. Chiropractic adjustments help to optimize your central nervous system, which is a key player in regulating stress responses in your body.
Patients don’t just benefit physically from natural health treatments; they also benefit emotionally from being able to bring questions and concerns to a trusted and informed environment. Conception and pregnancy are critical times for forging new relationships with mentors, trusted friends, family, and health practitioners. From the moment you start trying to conceive, you should be building your support network.
The Fertility Formula
Although conceiving has much to do with planning, preparation and timing, there is no exact formula to determine when you’ll be successful. For some couples, this is frustrating and a little scary if you’re anxious to get pregnant. Knowing that you’re taking every measure available to you to optimize your chances can help to lessen your worries. So what exactly can a naturopath do for you? She’ll start with an analysis of your hormone levels and immune function, and do an evaluation of your current diet and lifestyle. These factors will be useful for creating a personalized plan for your health during conception.
Many natural approaches to fertility have facilitated successful conception. Botanical medicine, acupuncture and dietary strategies can all help to regulate your hormone cycles. If you’re already involved in a medically assisted fertility treatment, these factors are still extremely important.
Bottom line: Baby-making should be fun! It’s our goal to help you feel confident and healthy as you embark on what is an exciting time in your relationship. And the support doesn’t end when you’re pregnant- That’s when you’ll want to optimize your diet, immune system and chiropractic health more than ever. There’s lots that we can do to facilitate a healthy pregnancy. We’ll continue to tailor your diet to address morning sickness, deficiencies and your new nutritional needs.
We love to follow families through different stages: from conception to pregnancy to new family-hood. It’s our goal to help keep your health optimized as a woman, an expectant mom, and as a young family!