It was the blue stripe on our second home pregnancy test that convinced my husband we might soon be parents. Call it intuition, but I knew the instant we conceived – a mere several months after I had put my birth control pills on hiatus. Overnight, my body had transitioned from a common temple into the "Taj Mahal" that would be home to our baby girl for nine months.
All the typical emotions followed – surprise, joy, anticipation and apprehension. Sure, we'd planned to have children. Yet, as a woman in my mid-30s, my mind swirled with more than a few concerns. When will morning sickness start? How long will I be able to work? Will I make it through delivery with little pain and swearing?
On September 18, 1895, in Davenport, Iowa, Daniel David Palmer, through a simple encounter with a deaf janitor, named Harvey Lillard, made a profound discovery. After correcting a misalignment in the janitor's spine his hearing was restored. Unknown to him at the time, he discovered a major source of interference to the nervous system -- the vertebral subluxation. He discovered that loss of normal vertebral alignment interfered with the body's regulatory mechanism, causing what he termed dis-ease or loss of ease, setting the stage for abnormal function and disease. The basic principles of chiropractic, as discovered in 1895, have not changed and continue to be the basis for chiropractic education today.
The Best Intentions
I was already eating well and certainly never skimped on sleep, but my exercise regimen consisted of occasionally accompanying my husband to the gym and plopping on a LifeCycle while he pumped and pressed. Oh, I had great intentions. Upon learning we were expecting, I purchased a pregnancy aerobics tape and zealously used it for a solid two weeks before losing interest. I just couldn't find the willpower to stick to any routine.
"The healthier the mother and her immune system, the healthier the baby."
What ultimately saved me from suffering undue tiredness, aches and stress from my ballooning body shape and shifting hormones was chiropractic care. I already made regular visits to my chiropractor prior to pregnancy, so it seemed natural to continue. My chiropractor recommended I continue with weekly visits, adding that I should come in more often if I felt I needed it. It helped that his wife had recently had their first child, so she cheered me on, as did he, stressing that now more than ever I should get adjustments.
When the day arrived, I was determined to have a natural childbirth, even though I'd never had more than a sprained ankle to test my pain tolerance level. I was somewhat disappointed when, at 8 centimeters of dilation, I succumbed to an epidural. However, minutes after I gave birth and admired our new baby girl, I announced to my husband, "I would definitely do this again."
A Positive Difference
Jeffrey Ptak, a chiropractor in Santa Monica, Calif., explains why chiropractic care can make such a positive difference, especially during pregnancy. "Chiropractic care addresses the functioning nervous system," he says. "When the nervous system is not unduly stressed from environmental factors – physical, emotional or chemical stress – the body will work according to its unique genetic plan," he says. "A stressful birth will stress all parties involved and remain until the nervous system stress is cleared. Chiropractic, by allowing the body to handle stress, helps expecting mothers, new mothers and their newborn children handle life with greater ease."
Once home from the hospital, I naturally swapped stories with friends and relatives who had already experienced the wonders of childbirth, and because of the seeming baby boom around me, I was able to share with the many who delivered only weeks after I did.
What I learned was shocking. More than a few women I spoke with, my age and younger, were bedridden as early as their first term. Several had delivered preemies or shared tales of excruciating labor. One friend experienced 30 hours of back labor. None of these women had chiropractic care during pregnancy.
An Easier Labor
"Chiropractic care can actually help with labor," says Leslie Stewart, who is a certified nurse-midwife. "Some women who run past their due date have used treatment to help start labor, rather than having a hospital induce them." She adds that chiropractic treatment for infants can even help them nurse better.
Having experienced such an uneventful pregnancy and problem-free breastfeeding, I wondered if maybe I was just a product of good genetics or if the chiropractic treatments really made a difference, which led me to another mother who shared her experiences after having had three children.
Charlotte decided to become pregnant her first time, knowing she had two damaged spinal discs since she was 13 and had never had treatment. Doctors warned that if she became pregnant, she could end up on bed rest. She remained undaunted.
"Carrying all that extra weight, my pain had reached a whole new level, and it was unbearable," she says. "And I couldn't take pain medication while pregnant. So I wore a back brace, which helped a little."
Charlotte also had a desk job. Not too far into her pregnancy, she quit her job to stay home and spent the majority of her remaining term in bed just to get through the severe lower backaches. An epidural helped her manage pain during delivery. She began chiropractic care shortly after the baby's 2-month birthday.
Charlotte's second pregnancy was vastly different from the first. She received regular chiropractic adjustments, starting with her first trimester. Her back pain was minimal this time, and she stayed at work until a week before delivering. Intending to have a natural childbirth this time, she gave birth to her second child two hours after entering the hospital without drugs and with a significant amount less stress than the first. And Charlotte experienced a faster recovery this time around.
Having been an expectant mother with and without, Charlotte can attest to the benefits of chiropractic care as part of a healthy pregnancy. "Not only is chiropractic care a blessing for expecting mothers, but it benefits the baby as well," she says. "The healthier the mother and her immune system, the healthier the baby."
Her statement reminded me of my own daughter. Madeline received regular adjustments her second week after entering the world. She never had colic, ear infections, colds or any symptoms of sickness throughout her first 12 months of life when children are often most susceptible. Some people cringe when I tell them she sees a chiropractor, yet everyone agrees that she is one of the most alert, active babies they have ever seen. Some say I'm lucky, but I tell them it's really very simple – just stay well adjusted!