Welcome to part two of our ask the expert series on postpartum health! Today we’d like to re-introduce you to Dr. Ashley, a mama chiropractor in Katy who makes house calls and specializes in pregnancy and postpartum care for women. Pregnancy can put a lot of strain on the body and we’re big believers that chiropractic care, both during and after pregnancy, can help alleviate a lot of stress put on the body during this beautiful time.
Often after birth, whether vaginally or via c-section, the mother’s pelvic biomechanics change – these changes can bring discomfort with walking, nursing and sleeping. Chiropractic care can help restore the pelvic balance with similar manipulation, exercises and stretches that were used in the prenatal care. It can also be beneficial to mobilize the thoracic region due to positions during breastfeeding, bottle feeding or simply rocking children. There is a tendency for new mothers to flex forward for long periods of time which can aggravate the mid back area. Carrying car seats with infants in them also alters biomechanics.
We wanted to get some good information for you mamas from Dr. Ashley, who’s a wealth of knowledge and so passionate about what she does, on how chiropractic care can be a beneficial element to healing your body and bringing it back to what it was before baby.
Spinal Health during the Postpartum Phase
By: Dr. Ashley Cornelius, Chiropractor
Congrats mama! You spent 40 weeks ( more or less!) making a human. Now that your body has birthed this wonderful baby, it’s time for your body to heal. I don’t just mean the ice pack panties either, I mean it’s also time for your spine, ligaments and muscles to heal.
During pregnancy the body shifts it’s center of gravity forward, increasing the angle of your spinal curves and adding additional pressure to your sacroiliac(or SI) joints. This is why many women end up with a “waddle” late in pregnancy or have sciatic type pain and other symptoms along the way. Your muscles and ligaments are treated with relaxin hormone throughout pregnancy and especially immediately prior to labor to help the body stretch and open up the pelvis so that a baby can be born! Once baby is here, that relaxin hormone drops to zero. Your uterus will begin to shrink back to normal size (aided by oxytocin, the love hormone that is stimulated by all those baby snuggles and breastfeeding!) and your spine, pelvis and hips shift back your center of gravity to what it was pre-pregnancy.
However, what if your spine, pelvis and hips have a hard time making that shift back? What if your ligaments and muscles don’t like having the relaxin hormone taken away and begin spasming and stiffening when you try to walk? Do you mean that after nearly 10 months of your body adapting to growing a baby, you all of a sudden are supposed to go back to the same biomechanics you had before motherhood?? Hmmmm, if it takes nearly 6 weeks or more for just your uterus to return back to its normal size, what makes your think your spine is any different?
Many women often talk about how their bodies change postpartum, but usually it’s talk of the “ mummy tummy” or the added lbs. No one talks about how the essential biomechanics of how your body moves can change, that your rib cage expands, that your foot can grow a size up or that the angle of your tailbone can increase. But don’t worry mamas, I’ve got good news! Addressing your postpartum health and fitness doesn’t start with crunches( which you should never do after you have a baby…more on that later!), it starts with your spine! If you want to heal the correct way, get fit and gain strength or even just be able to feed and hold your baby without pain, then you have to make sure your biomechanics stabilize and settle back to your proper center of gravity state.
How do you know if your center of gravity has been properly restored? There are signs that your body will tell you that it is struggling. One obvious sign would be pain. This can include mid and lower back pain, soreness in the hips and knees and even headaches. Pain in the back and shoulders during breastfeeding or soreness in the neck when looking down at baby is very common. Another sign may be having a hard time lifting baby or yourself out of bed or shaking when standing or walking. Your body is trying to use your abdominal core muscles again and many times the body will struggle to do this if your spine is out of alignment. How do you know if you are out of alignment? You call a chiropractor who specializes in pregnancy that will also have advanced knowledge of postpartum care. We will do a full evaluation of your spine, pelvis and musculature checking for imbalances, weakness and subluxations( misalignments in the spine impeding nerve conduction from brain to body). We will usually recommend a care plan that may involve adjustments to the spine and pelvis, body work to the muscles and ligaments, and transition into a proper strengthening regimen(no crunches!) that can help with implementing the use of your abdominal core again. Some women may have what is called diastasis recti which is when your abdominus recti muscles fail to return back together leaving a gap in the abdominal wall. A properly aligned spine and pelvis along with specific exercises can help improve this and prevent it from advancing. Chiropractic care can help your body adapt to proper movement patterns so that your body will begin to heal and heal correctly. If left untreated, your body can heal but will do so in a way that establishes poor movement patterns and uneven posture which may lead to more symptoms and pain down the line that may make breastfeeding and even make subsequent pregnancies harder. Chiropractic is a gentle and effective way to help you heal. I myself make house calls and can come to you soon after you give birth to help you feel better without having to leave your house! I have specialized pillows and take specific precautions in the postpartum phase so you can lay down comfortably for treatment. I can work with your birth provider to ensure proper precautions are taken if needed and we will work together to make sure that this beautiful time during your life is a joyous one. While most moms go through struggles during the postpartum phase, it doesn’t have to be severe. There are those of us who want to and can help you heal and feel better. Mama Strong for Katy, TX!
About the Doctor:
DR. ASHLEY CORNELIUS D.C.
I was born and raised in El Paso, TX and have been a resident of the Houston area for almost 10 years. I received my bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin and my doctorate from Texas Chiropractic College. All of my postgraduate education has been in the focus of pregnancy, postpartum and pediatric care. I have been in practice for over 6 years and have advanced certification in Webster Technique, a specific technique related to treating the pregnant spine. I also have extensive experience in Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization.
I decided to become a chiropractor because of my father. He is one of the only baby boomers I know that was adjusted as a child. He first experienced chiropractic as a 10 year old when he got what was called back then as a “wry neck”. Dr. McKinley of El Paso, TX adjusted him over several visits and he was good as new. Dr. McKinley also used to make HOUSE CALLS to my grandmother when she “threw her back out” and couldn’t make it to his office. So life has come full circle for me in that I am now giving other children their first experience in chiropractic and now coming to patient’s homes to give them the care they need.