It might have been a fall down a set of slippery, icy steps, or a skiing injury. Either incident could have influenced the alignment of the joints in your pelvis and the tone and tension of different ligaments that support your uterus…
Interestingly, accidents, misalignments of the pelvis, repetitive postural or occupational strain may all contribute to altering the position and ‘tone’ (where muscle fibres work effectively together) of the uterus.
Perhaps you didn’t realise the significance of these accidents and returned to a vigorous lifestyle — you were unaware of your poor postural alignment and perhaps have spent years in the gym and have ‘strengthened in’ these misalignments.
As practitioners we commonly see pregnant women who have this type of history, who have constraint of the abdomen and uterus. This challenge for mother-baby duos is known as in-utero constraint.
When the joints of a mother’s pelvis do not sit correctly, the layers of muscles, ligaments and other connective tissue that surround a growing baby are pulled out of shape, creating an uneven tightening of the uterus and limiting how a baby moves within the pelvis. As a baby grows bigger their movement may become significantly inhibited as the tissues become more restrictive.
What is the impact of restriction on an unborn baby?
Research tells us that movement within the womb is vitally important for developing babies as:
- Movement stimulates the development of the brain and nervous system. During the third trimester, there are more brain cells developing and neural connections during this time then any other time in our life.1 Foetus’s need to be able to move freely.
- Movement allows important neurological reflexes to also occur in the brainstem. This part of the brain co-ordinates primitive reflexes to be established,2 the regulation of the heart and breathing, good digestive control and sleep-wake cycles to be established.
- Movement helps proper development of the ear and inner ear — which is vitally important for hearing and for balance.3
- Restriction of the legs can cause long-term alterations in the development of motor functions for example leg posture, reflexes and posture while walking. This is most likely because the feedback loops between the brain and lower limbs are altered.4
If a baby is restricted in the womb what is the impact on birth?
There are a number of ligaments that hold the uterus in place and these ligaments attach to different sections of the pelvis and work to keep the uterus centred in the pelvis and to keep the uterus aligned with the cervix. The cervix is the top part of the vagina or birth canal. If the uterus and the cervix are not well aligned then this makes it extremely hard for a baby to move easily into the birth canal.
It makes sense that this poor positioning may also lead to longer births with more intervention being required.
So ideally pregnant women want:
- All sections of the pelvis and abdomen to be free of restrictions, where joints, musculature and ligaments have even tone
- The uterus and cervix to have good alignment.
How do pregnant women know if they have constraint?
Pregnant women whose baby is caught in an awkward position may experience pain up under their ribs or pain into the pubis joint at the front of their pelvis. Or she may feel increased tension or tightness in certain parts of her abdomen. The degree of constraint will vary considerably, mother to mother. Some are mild and some will be more severe presenting as breech or transverse.
I would encourage ALL pregnant women (whether they are in pain or whether they are symptom free) to have wellness checks by their chiropractor during their pregnancy. As chiropractors, our greatest focus is not your aches and pains but, more so, how well your spine and nervous system (the ‘master controller’ of the body) are functioning. Most chiropractors use specific techniques to check for constraint on all pregnant women, not just pregnant women with signs of constraint.
Good spinal alignment and even tone of the uterus help your unborn baby to be able to move freely within the uterus — allowing for optimal growth and development. A uterus with even tone that is aligned with the cervix and has clear nerve function encourages straightforward births with potentially less need for medical intervention.
In his textbook Neil Davies DC says, “The role of a chiropractor in preparing the expectant mother’s body for birth is to provide regular chiropractic care to help her maintain a healthy structural balance.”5
While more research is needed, studies show that chiropractic care for pregnant women is both safe and effective6 and that a regular chiropractic care may improve the probability of a natural birth.7
. . . . .
From the desks of…
Dr Jennifer Barham Floreani
Dr Kate Marshall
. . . . .
2) Davies NJ. Chiropractic Pediatrics 2nd Edition. p75-111
3) Lecanuet JP, Schaal B. Fetal Sensory Competencies. Europ Journal of Obst & Gyn & Reprod. Biology 1996; 68:1-23
4) Sival DA, Precht HF, Sonder GH, Touwen BC
5) Davies NJ. Chiropractic Pediatrics 2nd Edition. p75-111
6) Stuber K. The Safety OF Chiropractic During Pregnancy: Clinical Chiropractic (2007) 10, 24-35
Borggren Cl. Pregnancy and Chiropractic; a narrative review of the literature. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine (2007) 70-74
7) Vallone S. The Role of Chiropractic in Pregnancy. ICA Inter. Rev Chiropr 2002; 47-51