Written by Dr. Michelle Coats
During pregnancy, a lot of time and energy is focused on taking care of mom to make sure baby safely makes their entrance into the world. When baby finally arrives, that focus and attention quickly shifts away from mom and onto the baby’s needs. Both mom and baby experienced birth – whether that was after 2 hours of labor or 48 hours of labor, at home or in a hospital, without interventions or as a cesarean section. Therefore, both mom and baby need care and attention after birth.
The postpartum period has also been referred to as the “fourth trimester”. This a very accurate term, because although the pregnancy portion is complete, mom’s body is in recovery from all the changes that happened during pregnancy. Moms that take care of themselves during this period of time are more able to take care of their babies.
The postpartum period is divided into three stages.1 The first stage is called the acute stage which includes the 6-12 hours following birth. This stage is usually monitored by the hospital or midwife to ensure there is no immediate threat to mom’s health. The second stage is called subacute, which includes the 2-6 weeks following birth.1 The subacute stage is where major changes happen in the circulatory system, metabolism, genitourinary system, as well as with emotional balance. The final phase is called delayed postpartum and it can last 6 months or more. Muscle tone and connective tissue are the main areas that heal during the delayed postpartum stage.
Mothers of infants experience significant amounts of stress and sleepless nights, which can interfere with regaining hormone balance in the subacute stage of postpartum. One of the main concerns during the subacute stage is postpartum depression. Chiropractic care has been shown to decrease the amount of cortisol present in the body. Cortisol is our body’s primary stress hormone. This can allow mom to deal with stress better and function better on a day to day basis.2 Chiropractic adjustments can also help in reducing anxiety and improving the function of the immune system.3 Additionally, moms that had their infants adjusted scored significantly better on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale.4
Chiropractic care optimizes the function of the nervous system, as well as aligning the body. The delayed postpartum stage provides an amazing opportunity to allow the muscles, connective tissue, and bones to heal in proper alignment. The 6-month time period is also important to note. Healing happens slowly and gradually during the delayed postpartum stage, which is why staying under regular chiropractic care is recommended.
The subacute and the delayed stages of postpartum are vital for mom’s body to return to normal non-pregnant physiology. Proper alignment of the muscles, bones, and connective tissue, as well as proper nervous system function during this time is key. The nervous system controls every cell, tissue, and organ in the body. With a properly functioning nervous system, the body is far better off adapting to the hormonal and muscular changes that happen after giving birth.
If you are interested in optimizing your health during pregnancy or during the fourth trimester, then make chiropractic care a part of your healthy lifestyle! Click the “Request an Appointment” button at the top of this page to get started.
- Romano, M., Cacciatore, A., Giordano, R., & La Rosa, B. (2010). Postpartum period: three distinct but continuous phases. Journal of prenatal medicine, 4(2), 22–25.
- Whelan, T.L., Dishman, J., Burke, J., Levine, S., & Sciotti, V. (2002). The effect of chiropractic manipulation on salivary cortisol levels.Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 25(2), 149-153.
- Chestnut, J. L. The 14 Foundational Premises for The Scientific and Philosophical Validation of The Chiropractic Wellness Paradigm.
- Marillier, K. E., Lima, A. M., Donovan, L. Y., Taylor, C., & Miller, J. (2014). Mama, please stop crying: lowered postnatal depression scores in mothers after a course of chiropractic care for their infants. Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics, 14(3), 1179–1182.