If you’ve been around the natural birth community, hopefully you’re familiar with chiropractic care often being recommended for expecting moms. Not just because chiropractic is highly effective at alleviating the back pain that so frequently comes with a growing belly, but because chiropractic can actually help mom’s have quicker, easier labors and deliveries. Actually, on average, first time moms have a ~25% shorter labor and experienced moms have a ~40% shorter time. Chiropractic contributes to 25 Percent Shorter Labor What may not have been clear is exactly why that happens. New research by chiropractor Dr Heidi Haavik and midwife Dr Jenny Kruger PhD demonstrated that the reason this happens is because chiropractic adjustments help pregnant women be better able to relax their pelvic floor. That’s pretty amazing, but what would an OBGYN think about it? Harvard-trained OBGYN, Dr.Adrienne Lara, former clinical staff at Harvard Medical School and an OBGYN with over 20 years of experience from Boston to Southern California had this to say: This is super important so that the baby is better able to exit the birth canal. When a pelvic floor does not relax appropriately, not only is labor slowed, but interventions are used to get the baby out. That may be an episiotomy, or pulling on the baby with hands, forceps and vacuum. This pulling places massive strain on the cervical spine of the baby! It’s estimated the 80% of infants experience this trauma to their upper cervical spine and this damage can have lasting implications, especially since it generally goes unnoticed for so long. Ultimately, the easier the descent and exit, the less stress on the baby’s spine and nervous system, the better! Also, what’s exciting is this is a relatively passive process for mom. Showing up at your chiropractor and get adjusted results in this ability without additional effort (but imagine if you combine adjustments and lifestyle!) A second interesting findings from the study: Given the hormonal and physiological changes involved in pregnancy, the researchers decided to add a comparison group to the mix made up of non-pregnant women. They were even more surprised by what they found in this group… “Our [participants] were capable of contracting their pelvic floor muscles to a degree that has only previously been seen in top, elite athletes. I was quite blown away. Jenny was quite blown away because this is very, very unusual,” said Haavik. Again, chiropractic care only. No squats and elite level workouts! This may mean that for non-pregnant women who get checked and adjusted regularly, we may potentially be looking at a completely different set of benefits that go much further than neck and back pain. It’s possible that adjustments improve the condition of the pelvic floor muscles, by enabling greater sensory-moto control, and potentially decreases the risk of future stress urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence and vaginal prolapse. I haven’t experienced these things myself thankfully, but this is an extremely exciting possibility and I think those of you who do or have dealt with these issues are wishing you would have known this sooner. Haavik concedes these are big “ifs” but says “Why I’m even bothering with this line of research is because 1) we could potentially increase the rate of healthy, uncomplicated vaginal births and deliveries. As soon as you add interventions, their problems just skyrocket. Increasing the chances for women to have a natural, vaginal delivery is where I’m headed with this work. 2) Also preventing pelvic floor muscle problems for women, preventing stress urinary incontinence for example. There’s actually very like research on female pelvic floor problems. It’s surprising! If we can have uncomplicated, natural vaginal delivery without drugs and intervention, the baby is better off and the woman is better off. I’m quite convinced that chiropractic care can actually help with this, but this needs to be systematically explored with properly conducted scientific studies.” You can be sure, that the results of those studies will be shared here. References: Pelvic floor functional changes with spinal manipulation in pregnant and non-pregnant women: A pilot study. JMPT 2016. In Press. Heidi Haavik, interview with Spinal Research.