Chiropractic and the 4th Trimester
If you’ve been through a pregnancy, then you are familiar with the physical and emotional changes your body experiences in 9 months, during and especially after delivery. If you were going to your chiropractor during your pregnancy then you surely experienced some of the benefits, but what about during the postpartum period. This is a crucial time for a new mom to be under chiropractic care as her body is going through changes very rapidly. When baby is no longer in the womb, weight changes quickly, emotions are unpredictable, and many more physical obstacles begin to arise. This process tests the body’s ability to adapt to yet again a new environment to sustain both herself and child.
So what can Chiropractic Care do to make this transition easier?
As the baby gets bigger, the mother’s body must physically adapt to create more room. If you visualize how this occurs, as the mothers abdomen grows larger, an increased amount of stress is placed on the mothers spine allowing for it to adapt to the increasing stressor. Once that weight of the baby is no longer there, the spine has to re-adapt very quickly back to its original curve and form. During pregnancy chiropractic plays the important role of keeping the spine well aligned while the other muscles and ligaments are working overtime to keep the spine from being harmed. After delivery adjustments can allow those muscles and ligaments return to their normal shape and tone. Keep in mind that there are very important nerves exiting the lumbar spine that must remain protected while the spine is changing. These nerves are responsible for muscle movement, and organ function such as the bowel, bladder, ovary and uterus. If the function of these nerves becomes compromised due to a spinal dysfunction a wide array of symptoms including pain, headaches, nausea, and even post-partum depression may develop.
Over the course of several days following delivery, an adaptive hormone known as relaxin is slowing in production. Relaxin is the specific adaptive hormone which gives your joints, muscles, and ligaments the ability to soften, open, and remodel. When this is happening, it is very common for women to experience back pain, neck pain and headaches because the tissues are starting to tighten up. Chiropractic care during this period of time will allow a smooth transition into the post-relaxin, post-partum stage of remodeling while ensuring the body is returning to a balanced state.
Now let’s talk about energy. New baby means less sleep, more worries, and less energy. Receiving regular chiropractic checkups will help you to maintain your neurologic health which communicates balance in hormone production, metabolism, and brain chemicals. This means you will be better able to adapt to the new lifestyle changes that are occurring both physically and emotionally.
Adaption is a huge part of life as a new parent. It is important to keep your nerve system free of interference so that when changes come, you can recognize them and make the necessary changes within your body to create a healthy response. During pregnancy, immune function is depressed while the body is focusing all its energy on creating the new child. It is crucial for the mothers’ physiology to be able to quickly react to and respond to any possible threat including allergens, chemicals, bacteria, viruses, and physical injury. Adaptability can only occur if the body’s neurologic system if functioning correctly. If compromised, adaptation does not occur and eventually will lead to symptoms such as decreased milk supply, low energy, poor sleep, persistent bleeding and even depression.
What else can you do to take care of yourself postpartum?
A healthy diet will do wonders for keeping you happy, healthy, and nourished. You are going to be hungry….I mean even more so than when you were pregnant. Breastfeeding burns up to 600 calories a day! This is not the time to worry about losing the extra baby weight you gained. This is the time to pay attention to what is going into your body, because it is fueling you and your baby. A well rounded diet full of high-protein foods, healthy fats, and fresh fruits and veggies will get you through. I recommend having lots of snack options available because all those nursing sessions will leave you grabbing for some grub! Some quick ideas are trail mix, veggies and hummus, and fresh fruit.
It is oh so important to stay hydrated as well. Drinking plenty of water (at least half your body weight in ounces) throughout the day will not only help with milk making, but also help with you sustain overall metabolic rate and energy levels. Keep a water bottle wherever you nurse for when the overwhelming thirst sets in! If you feel you have a dry mouth, dry skin, sleepy, have a headache, constipation, dizziness, dark urine, or muscle cramps then these are early stages of dehydration.
The post-partum period can sometimes be the hardest time for new moms. The much anticipated time suddenly turns into interrupted sleep and arm cramps from constant holding and feedings. Chiropractic care prides itself on its ability to help the body working correctly. Naturally during these are times when you are being tested, ensuring that your responses are not damaging to your own health should be the goal of your doctor. Stay positive, seek support from family and friends, and remember that you can and will be back to yourself if you strive to take care of your wellbeing.
It is important to reach out during this time if you aren't feeling quite like yourself. If you are in the St. Louis area, I encourage you to visit a Postpartum Support Group such as PSI Missouri. Find more information at www.facebook.com/PSImissouri.