Chiropractic Advice for Moms-to-Be
As many new mothers can attest, the muscle strains of pregnancy are very real and can be more than just a nuisance. The average weight gain of 25 to 35 pounds, combined with the increased stress placed on the body by the baby, may result in severe discomfort. Studies have found that about half of all expectant mothers will develop low-back pain at some point during their pregnancies. This is especially true during late pregnancy, when the baby’s head presses down on a woman’s back, legs and buttocks, which can irritate her sciatic nerve. And for those who already suffer from low-back pain, the problem can become even worse.
During pregnancy, a woman’s center of gravity almost immediately begins to shift forward to the front of her pelvis. Although a woman’s sacrum has enough depth to enable her to carry a baby, the displaced weight still increases the stress on her joints. As the baby grows, the woman’s weight is projected even farther forward, and the curvature of her lower back is increased, placing extra stress on the spinal discs.
Pregnancy hormones help loosen the ligaments attached to the pelvic bones to make labor and delivery easier, but this loosening of the joints can also cause pain and instability. Not to mention the increase in breast tissue as the pregnancy progresses can place pressure eon the neck and upper back, resulting in headaches, neck and shoulder pain, and even carpel tunnel symptoms. These natural changes designed to accommodate the growing baby can result in postural imbalances, most especially increased lordosis in the lower back and rounded shoulders, both of which can cause pain.
The American Chiropractic Association recommends the following tips for pregnant women:
- Safe exercise during pregnancy can help strengthen your muscles and prevent injury. Try exercising at least three times a week, gently stretching before and after exercise. If you weren’t active before your pregnancy, check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.
- Walking, swimming, and stationary cycling are relatively safe cardiovascular exercises for pregnant women because they do not require jerking or bouncing. Jogging can be safe for women who were avid runners before becoming pregnant if done carefully and under a doctor’s supervision.
- Be sure to exercise in an area with secure footing to minimize the likelihood of slipping and falling. Your heart rate should not exceed 140 beats per minute during exercise. Strenuous activity should last no more than 15 minutes at a time.
- Stop your exercise immediately if you notice any unusual symptoms, such as vaginal bleeding, dizziness, nausea, weakness, blurred vision, increased swelling, or heart palpitations.
- Sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees to take pressure off your lower back. Full-length “body pillows” or “pregnancy wedges” may be helpful. Lying on your left side allows unobstructed blood flow and helps your kidneys flush waste from your body.
- If you must sit at a computer for long hours, make your workstation ergonomically correct. Position the computer monitor so the top of the screen is at or below your eye level and place your feet on a small footrest to take pressure off your legs and feet. Take periodic breaks every 30 minutes with a quick walk around the office.
- Eat small meals or snacks every four to five hours rather than the usual three large meals to help keep nausea or extreme hunger at bay. Snack on crackers, yogurt or bland foods high in carbohydrates and protein. Keep saltines in your desk drawer or purse to help stave off waves of “morning sickness.” Supplementing with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid a day before and during pregnancy has been shown to decrease the risk of neural tube birth defects, such as spina bifida.
Check with your doctor before taking any vitamin or herbal supplement to make sure it’s safe for you and the baby.
Health and Safety
- Wear flat or sensible heeled shoes; high-heeled shoes can exacerbate postural imbalances and make you less steady on your feet, especially as your pregnancy progresses.
- When picking up children, bend from the knees, not the back, and never turn your head when you lift. Avoid picking up heavy objects, if possible.
Get plenty of rest. Pamper yourself and ask for help if you need it. Take a nap if you’re tired or lie down and elevate your feet for a few moments when you need a break.