Mother Matters: Adjusting to Hormonal Shifts During Pregnancy
May 02, 2016 01:42AM
● By Risa M. Sloves
While pregnancy is a natural process, it does not mean it is an easy process for many women. There are often some unpleasant and even uncomfortable changes in the body that go along with it. The profound changes are governed by the body’s hormones, which produce the physical and psychological changes that perhaps you were not expecting: morning sickness, fatigue, constipation, low back pain, sciatica, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome and others. But having this wonderful new life evolving inside of you is making you think twice about taking any medication to help alleviate these discomforts.
So, what is one to do?
What causes these normal hormonal changes during pregnancy is the ability of the nervous system to properly communicate with all of the organs of the body—and the baby’s body—so it can produce the optimal balance of hormones to maintain a healthy pregnancy.
The first hormone to make its appearance after conception is human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which is picked up by a urine or blood test to determine pregnancy. hCG increases the blood supply to the pelvis, which then causes an increased sensitivity of the bladder; this results in frequent trips to the bathroom during the first trimester. It is also believed that nausea and vomiting—also known as morning sickness, which can actually occur during any part of the day—is also due to rising levels of hCG.
Many other hormones—such as follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH), luteinizing hormones (LH), human chorionic somatomammotropin (HSC), cortisol, aldosterone, prolactin and relaxin—are all important in pregnancy, but estrogen and progesterone play the major roles in maintaining the pregnancy.
Progesterone relaxes all smooth muscle in the body—including the muscles wall of the uterus—and it also relaxes the blood vessels throughout the body. This prompts lower than normal blood pressure and occasionally dizziness, as well as all the not-so-fun gastrointestinal symptoms of pregnancy. These include heartburn, reflux, belching, nausea, vomiting, gas and constipation.
Estrogen helps the uterus grow and maintains the uterine lining, increases blood circulation and breast tenderness/development, and later helps in milk production. Estrogen plays a key role in the development of the fetus, with several organs and other bodily systems in the fetus triggered into development by estrogen.
Together with relaxin, estrogen also produces significant alteration in connective tissue increasing the mobility of the joints of the spine and pelvis, which is necessary to prepare your body for delivery through the birth canal. Unfortunately, this laxity can also be the cause of neuromuscular pain, such as low back and neck pain, sciatica, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, pubic pain and more.
Both doctors of chiropractic and medical doctors agree that back pain during pregnancy occurs because of a condition called sacroiliac joint dysfunction—often referred to by chiropractors as SI subluxation. A subluxation is a misalignment or restriction of movement that occurs in a joint and creates irritation to the nerves and other pain sensitive structures in the surrounding areas.
For example, the sacroiliac (SI) joints are created by the joining of the sacrum (the triangular bone that sits above the tailbone, the coccyx) and the bones that are on either side of the sacrum, known as the inominate bones. There is a right SI joint and a left SI joint. Together with the joint in the front of the pelvis—known as the pubic symphysis—these three joints create what is referred to as the pelvic girdle. Laxity of the ligaments that hold these joints together, along with weight gain and compensatory postural changes, are responsible for the low back and pelvic pain.
Chiropractic physicians are the only doctors licensed to diagnose and correct subluxations to reduce and eliminate the low back pain and other neuromusculoskeletal symptoms associated with pregnancy. Chiropractic care offers pregnant women a drug-free approach to pain reduction. Obviously, it is not ideal for pregnant women to take unnecessary medication so chiropractic care provides relief without the worry that comes from taking medication. The indexed literature does not report any adverse incidents related to chiropractic adjustments on pregnant females. A chiropractic adjustment is a gentle procedure where the doctor of chiropractic applies light pressure to the joints of the spine (or other parts of the body) to restore normal motion and alignment. This, in turn, decreases stress on the nervous system and decreases pain and muscle spasms.
Not only has chiropractic care been proven effective in eliminating pregnancy-related back pain and other painful conditions, but expectant mothers who receive chiropractic care are less likely to suffer from “back labor” and have less of a chance of breech presentations or Cesarean sections. Adjustments have also been shown to lessen labor pain and shorten the duration of labor. There are only nine chiropractic physicians in Connecticut who have completed a three year post-doctorate degree to specialize in maternity and pediatric care. The degree is known as a Diplomate of the International Council on Chiropractic Pediatrics (DICCP).
Chiropractic physicians who specialize in maternity care will often have special adjusting tables for the pregnant mother so that she can lay on her stomach without any pressure so that her spine can be examined. There is even a special non-invasive and painless adjustment that can be performed by certified chiropractic physicians that has been very effective in helping breech babies turn into the correct position for a vaginal delivery so they could avoid a Cesarean section.
Remember, pregnancy should be a time of health and happiness, not a time of suffering from pain or discomfort during pregnancy.
Risa Sloves, DC, practices with her husband, Mark Joachim, DC, at Associates in Family Chiropractic and Natural Health Care, P.C., located at 156 East Ave, Norwalk. She has a DICCP degree and is certified in acupuncture and the Webster and Bagnell techniques. Connect with her at CTChiropractic.com or 203-838-1555. See ad, page 35.