By Kacie Flegal D.C.
The female human body is beautifully designed to grow, nourish, and birth babies. There is an innate intelligence within that has shaped the structure, organized the function, and allows for the divine gift of bringing life into the world.
Babies also have an innate intelligence that begins in utero, which intimately communicates with the mother’s body and allows for neurological development and the initiation of pre-programmed instincts to prepare for birth and life outside of the womb.
During the late stages of pregnancy, it is these instincts that encourage baby to turn head-down, or vertex, in what is considered an optimal position, in order to prepare for the journey of birth.
Why is having the baby in a vertex position considered optimal? There are a few reasons:
During pregnancy, when baby is head down with the back of his head (the occiput) facing towards the front of mothers body, there is decreased stress on his spine and developing nervous system. During the labor process itself, the pressure of baby’s round head is what encourages cervical dilation and effacement (thinning). If the presenting part of the baby is a foot, a knee, or the buttocks (known as breech presentation), it can be challenging for the cervix to open efficiently and can increase the risk of dystocia (a longer and potentially difficult birth). It is possible for babies to be born if breech or transverse, but there is increased risk of complications to both mother and baby, and this is one of the most common reasons for cesarean section.
So why is it that some babies assume a breech or transverse (side-lying) presentation?
Is it because the baby did not receive the innate programming to know what do? Surely not: rather, something is interfering with the natural rhythm and progression. In some cases, a less-than optimal presentation of the baby is due to structural and neuromuscular misalignments, torque, and tension (chiropractors use the term Subluxation) in the mother’s body, specifically her pelvis and sacrum.
How does subluxation happen?
Subluxations typically arise from a combination of past trauma and injury or from accumulated life stresses over time. Before and during pregnancy, the mother may experience physical, chemical and mental/emotional stress that creates tension patterns within her body. Muscles, ligaments and fascia respond to this stress, and as a result, pull and misalign the bones of the spine, pelvis and sacrum.
The spine and pelvis are home to the central nervous system which is the orchestrator of the innate intelligence within. Subluxations can decrease overall nervous system function, thus affecting the messages being received by the body from the brain, and by the brain from the body.
Subluxations specific to the pelvis and sacrum can have a direct affect on the uterus and its position within the mother’s pelvic bowl. The position of the uterus can therefore be a determining factor as to what position the baby assumes, as he will have to accommodate for the space that is available to him.
The uterus is an exquisite organ suspended within the mother’s pelvic bowl by a number of strong, muscular-containing ligaments. The broad ligaments attach to the front of the sacrum, wrap around the sides of the uterus, and encapsulate the round ligaments at the front, offering stability and support. The two round ligaments are vertically oriented and attach to the front of the pubic bone, and are the foundation of uterine orientation, constant balancing, and dynamic equilibrium. The utero-sacral and posterior ligaments attach to the front of the sacrum and tailbone to the back of the uterus and cervix, creating a stable anchor.
When the mother’s pelvis is subluxated, these ligaments respond to the tension and create distortion within the uterus itself. This is known as intrauterine constraint, and in some cases is the cause of breech or transverse positioning of the baby. Although the baby will continue to receive the innate messages to move himself into a vertex position during late pregnancy, he simply may not have enough space, or doing so may be uncomfortable for him.
However, there is hope, including options that work with the mother’s body in a gentle and holistic way to help encourage a more favorable position for baby. Dr. Larry Webster, a Chiropractic pioneer who founded the International Chiropractic Pediatrics Association (ICPA) noticed the relationship to pelvic and sacral subluxations and the position of the baby in utero. In the late 1970′ s he developed a gentle and effective method of restoring balance and freeing subluxations to the sacrum and pelvis known as the Webster Technique. This technique allowed babies to turn vertex on their own. Unlike an external cephalic version which is a procedure that OBGYN’s use to externally rotate babies from a breech to a vertex position, the Webster Technique is less invasive, and instead works with the mother’s body, rather than manually moving the baby which can be uncomfortable and has about a 58% success rate.
The theory and technique are simple; adjust subluxations within the structure of the mother’s pelvis, sacrum and surrounding ligaments, bringing freedom to the uterus so that it will suspend itself in a more balanced way within the pelvic bowl. The adjustment is typically done on comfortable pregnancy support pillows in which the mother can lie face down and the sacral ligaments and structure is gently and non-forcefully adjusted. The mother is then placed for a short time on her back if it is comfortable, and uterine ligaments and anterior pelvic structures are released by the chiropractor based on her individual pelvic presentation. Increased space is created for the baby, and he will have the opportunity to be innately guided to assume a comfortable vertex position.
The Webster Technique is not a baby-turning technique, and uses no direct external forces on the baby. It is extremely gentle, safe, and effective.
According to the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (2002), an 82% success rate is seen by Webster Technique Certified Chiropractors who work with mothers with babies presenting breech or transverse.
The Webster Technique works best if administered as early as possible, as it typically takes several sessions to free subluxations and allow the mother’s nervous system to adapt to its new way of being. Having at least 4 weeks before baby is due will increase the success of baby turning. Starting the process in the 38th week of pregnancy and later is not the best approach. However, if mother is in the final weeks it is still a good idea to see a Chiropractor certified in the Webster Technique for more frequent visits to at least try and create as much space as possible to allow for an easier labor and birth process.
The Webster Technique, and chiropractic care in general, is an important option to maintain freedom of movement and optimal nervous system function during pregnancy. Subluxations corrected before and during early pregnancy can prevent uterine constraint and less-than optimal positioning of the baby, and keep the mother’s nervous system and innate intelligence free to flow. Baby will likewise receive clear messages from mother and within his own being to help promote optimal nervous system development. If the mother has a balanced body and clear nervous system, stress load for both her and baby is decreased, which typically allows for an easier and more comfortable pregnancy and birth process.
In support of the continuum of life,
Kacie Flegal D.C.
Elements of Being Chiropractic Center
5545 Claremont Ave. Oakland, CA 94618
Dr. Kacie is a professional member of the International Chiropractic Pediatrics Association and Certified in the Webster Technique. She specializes in pre/post natal care and pediatrics and is a Certified Doula with the Natural Birth Institute. As a Vitalistic Family Chiropractor, she is dedicated to optimal development, health and well living from the very beginning of life!
Please visit www.elementsofbeing.com to learn more about Dr. Kacie and her practice in the Oakland/Rockridge area.
For more information about the Webster Technique and chiropractic care for pregnancy and children, or to find a Certified Chiropractor in your area, visitwww.icpa4kids.org