Although Amy Sullivan, a New Hampshire mother of twins, first started seeing a chiropractor for a car accident neck injury, she continued after she became pregnant. "My back muscles get really stiff and after seeing my chiropractor, I feel so much better," she explains.
Sullivan isn't alone. Many women experience back pain during pregnancy. For some, it is merely an ache that comes and goes, but for others it can be debilitating. Chiropractic care, although sometimes considered a controversial medical practice, may be of help to some expectant moms.
This is the case for Sullivan, who is already feeling the aches and pains of pregnancy as she enters her second trimester. She says that seeing a chiropractor has helped her feel much more comfortable. "Recently, I had trouble walking and after my chiropractic appointment, I was much more loose, could stand up straighter, and wasn't hurting. He straightens out my pelvis also since my weight is now being redistributed," says Sullivan, who adds that her obstetrician approves of her chiropractic visits.
The Question of Chiropractics
Opinions vary on the usefulness and appropriateness of chiropractics during pregnancy. Dr. Brad Imler, PhD, President of the American Pregnancy Association (APA), notes that while some obstetricians are against chiropractics for pregnant women, others incorporate the collaboration into their care. "I have not seen any documented studies reflecting harm or concerns. The studies that indicate that chiropractic care is helpful have primarily been conducted by chiropractors," he says.
"There are suggested implications that chiropractic care during the eighth and ninth months can enhance the ability for a breech baby to rotate appropriately. However, there is question about whether the chiropractic care made the difference or did the baby just drop normally," he adds.
Dr. Imler says that chiropractic care is probably beneficial for helping to reduce or alleviate back pain associated with pregnancy. He reminds women to inform their chiropractors when they become pregnant and to inquire whether the chiropractor has been trained on working with pregnant women.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) does not address the issue of chiropractics; however, some physicians remain firmly against chiropractic care for pregnant women.
According to Dr. Wallace Sampson, MD, editor of The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine, chiropractic care is of no benefit to pregnant women or to the fetus. "Chiropractors should not be giving advice to pregnant women," Dr. Sampson states.
"The pregnant mom should not be looking for a chiropractor in the first place. Chiropractors can do no good and might do harm—especially if sciatica is present," he says.
Dr. Stephen Barrett, MD, Board Chairman of Quackwatch, Inc., in Allentown, Pennsylvania, notes that most women have no reason to even consider seeing a chiropractor. He suggests that those pregnant moms who want to see a chiropractor first visit Chirobase to evaluate chiropractic claims.