Pregnancy is definitely an amazing time of connection, growth and development. In Chiropractic terms we understand that these things depend on optimal health of mother and baby and that achieving this involves doing a few important things as well as you can, rather than doing any one thing perfectly.
There can be a few common challenges, and helpful options to think about. A quick and smooth post-natal recovery is also important and the things that help ensure a healthy pregnancy, birth and baby, also make for a healthy post-natal experience both physically and emotionally.
One of the most important physical issues during pregnancy is maintaining pelvic and spinal joint stability. At about 4 months, the hormone relaxin kicks in, inducing increased flexibility in the ligaments to help prepare the pelvic outlet for birth. This is natural and essential. However if the pelvis and spine are misaligned this inevitably leads to unstable joints that can’t support a constantly changing structure. Unfortunately, this is an extremely common situation we see in practice due to stresses like poor posture, excess sitting, poor core stability, falls and accidents
etc. This commonly leads to increasing pelvic, pubic and low back pain, limited mobility and also problems such as breach presentations and difficult, protracted labours. It can be also associated with increased emotional stress due to the connection between the physical and emotional centres in the brain. Second or third pregnancies can be worse if the problem was never addressed in the first place and exacerbated by the need to chase after one, two or three other little ones as many of you will know!
Our 5 top tips for looking after your spine and keeping healthy through your pregnancy and beyond are:
- Have a Chiropractic check. The focus of Chiropractic is to restore normal alignment and movement to the joints so that the nervous system can function in a balanced way. As well as reducing inflammation and pain and improving emotional health in mum. This is turn facilitates normal growth, development and birth of bub. It is recommended to have a check-up before conceiving (and before any pain starts!) when correction is easier and function can be more easily maintained through pregnancy. Research shows that Chiropractic care helps to relieve back pain for up to 85% of pregnant women, reduces labour time by 24% and by 33% in mothers that have given birth before.
- 2. Do Pilates. This is a fantastic way to strengthen the nerve-muscle connections re-established with chiropractic Regular Pilates, before, during and after pregnancy, develops and restores pelvic floor tone, core activation and stable movement. Many Pilates studios offer special pregnancy and post-natal classes and these would be recommended over regular classes.
- Avoid high heels! As bub grows the pelvis tips forwards. This can put a lot of pressure on the low back. Heels definitely exacerbate this posture. But I know…. they look good! You might not with a grimace on your face though!
- Consume lots of healthy fats. These are vital for a developing nervous system – they are called “essential” fatty acids (or capitalise E F A) for a reason. They need to be consumed from our food. The brain is 60% structural fat and 90% of these fats are found in fish oils. During pregnancy and especially breast feeding, babies will literally suck our stores of these fats which need constant replenishment. A common factor in post-natal depression is omega-3 deficiency. (Another one is lack of movement) remove parentheses. Other very healthy sources of fats are coconut oil, avocado and macadamia oil. Cook with these and put them on salads.
- Avoid toxins. This seems obvious but they are everywhere! Besides alcohol (no safe level during pregnancy or breast feeding) and smoking, try and minimise caffeine, artificial sweeteners, additives, hydrogenated (bad) fats, and try and stick to organic or chemical free personal hygiene products. The much publicised “Paleo” diet is ultimately the way to go as much as possible. (Grass fed meats, fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds). All these things are healthy practice for everyone but especially important for a successful conception, healthy pregnancy, birth
Lastly, never ever feel guilty about a lifestyle choice! Guilt never serves us and can cause more stress than the thing we are guilty about! Remember no-one is perfect and we can’t always control our environment but each day is another opportunity to make the best choices possible.
Dr Gina Martins is a Maroubra chiropractor, mum of two and writer and speaker. She brings with her 19 years of Chiropractic experience and a passion for living consciously. She is known for her honest and thought provoking approach to educating families on the principles of wellness. Gina believes that through structural, nutritional and emotional adjustments, we become more balanced and connected. Her aim is to encourage and empower others to make better lifestyle choices, especially through ethical and nutrient dense food choices. Gina has further interests in preconception care and paediatrics.