How chiropractic adjustments are helping women to fall pregnant
Falling pregnant is not as easy as our mothers warned it would be. Millions of couples around the globe have great difficulty conceiving. Infertility has now become a major health issue, affecting one in every five couples in the US, one in every six in Australia and one in every seven in the UK.
Infertility can be defined as the “inability for a couple to conceive after one year of regular unprotected intercourse.” ‘Infertility’ implies the potential to conceive, as distinct and separate from ’sterility’. As such, there is much ongoing research being conducted into the ways which fertility can be improved.
Here, the field of chiropractic care is yielding some startling results.
In one review published in the Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics (2008), the case studies of eleven infertile women were examined. The women ranged in age from 22 to 42. Ten of the women were actively trying to become pregnant and had been unsuccessful. Their pregnancy histories included one natural childbirth, two miscarriages, two failed IVF treatments, and three failed artificial inseminations.
Within 1 to 20 months of receiving chiropractic care, all eleven women had fallen pregnant successfully. Nine of the eleven did not receive any other medical care during this time. They all had adjustments made to vertebral subluxations in their spine using a variety of chiropractic techniques.
This is simply one example in the growing body of research that validates chiropractic care as an effective treatment for infertility. Even though the women had sought treatment for ailments other than infertility (including ulcerative colitis, back pain, neck pain, menstrual cycle problems and diabetes), the spinal adjustments resulted in improved function and physiology of the reproductive system as well.
Nerve Dysfunction and Infertility
Hippocrates, credited with being the founder of modern medicine, was reputed to have said that it is important to care for the spine because it is the source of all illness.
One of the basic premises of chiropractic is that disruption to the flow of the body’s intelligence is always directly or indirectly due to vertebral subluxations of the spinal column of which if left unresolved results in ill-health and disease.
Think of your brain as a computer which coordinates, via your nervous system, the functions of your organs and cells. Nerve messages can be interrupted by spinal subluxations which occur when there are misalignments of one or more vertebrae. This results in impaired nerve and organ function, altered joint motion, weakened immunity and a decline in general health.
Subluxations are the result of all the physical knocks and bumps (and sometimes severe accidents) that occur over the course of a person’s lifetime. Imagine all the childhood tumbles you had; falling off your bike or skateboard, playing sport, riding horses, jumping out of trees. And the bad habits you acquired as an adult; sitting slouched at a computer, picking up heavy furniture, carrying heavy bags. All of these things have an accumulative affect on the spinal column, which gradually impacts on your health.
These vertebral subluxations create nerve dysfunction and may compromise your reproductive system and your capacity to successfully conceive. Regardless of the type of chiropractic technique used, when subluxations relating to reproductive function are adjusted and nerve dysfunction is corrected, improved reproductive and endocrine function is achieved. A body functioning at its full capacity can resist destructive forces more successfully, and the nervous system will effectively integrate the chemical, physical and emotional information between the brain and reproductive systems, improving the chance of conception.
The Holistic Body
While chiropractors adjust the spine to remove nerve interference, it is the individual body itself that recreates ‘order’ within itself. Chiropractors can take no credit for the magnificent design or intelligence of the human body, nor the efficacious health improvements that often result from improved nerve function.
As vastly complex as the body is, there can be whole range of reasons why a woman cannot conceive. Common causes include ovulatory dysfunction (10-20 percent), sperm disorders (35 percent), pelvic dysfunction such as endometriosis, adhesions or tubal disease (30-40 percent), abnormal cervical mucous (5 percent) and unidentified factors (10 percent). Hormones also play a key role in a woman’s ability to conceive and carry the pregnancy to full term.
Other factors that influence infertility are: poor diet, allergies to certain foods, insulin resistance, dysfunction of the thyroid, adrenal exhaustion, improper exercise and exposure to environmental toxins and chemicals. 51 synthetic chemicals are now identified as hormone disrupters, which could disrupt the chain of hormone release which must happen for ovulation, fertilization and implantation of the embryo.
But despite the seemingly endless list of harmful influences, the body has its own innate intelligence and will always strive to heal itself. Given this propensity, it is imperative that a collaborative wellness approach to strengthening health be taken. Chiropractors, Chinese medicine practitioners and naturopaths will often work together to support reproductive integrity. With time and the right support, the body has repeatedly shown that it is capable of transforming ‘dis-ease’ or ‘dysfunction’ into wellness.
When a woman tries to conceive later in life, there is an increased chance that the conception will be assisted. Allopathic treatments for infertility include medication, surgery and artificial reproductive technology, all of which can take a toll on her overall health.
Using fertility drugs such as Clomid can have several deleterious effects, such as cervical mucus changes (which can interfere with sperm’s mobility), ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (which can cause blood clots), kidney damage, and fluid build-up in the chest and abdomen.
Fertility medications increase the likelihood of a multiple gestation (for example twins or triplets), and they can also cause depression and ectopic pregnancies (where implantation of the foetus does not occur in the uterus itself, resulting in miscarriage).
While surgeries for fertility challenges can address the issues of fallopian tube abnormalities or blockages, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, intrauterine adhesions, remove scar tissue and repair septa uteri, they also have the risk factors of bleeding, infection and anesthesia complications.
In-Vitro Fertilization, or IVF treatment, is now a popular choice for couples who are infertile. But a couple’s journey with assisted reproductive technologies is often arduous and costly—both in a financial sense (IVF can cost in excess of US$10,000 per attempt.) and an emotional sense. Research indicates that 80% of IVF-assisted pregnancies in women 40 to 45 years end in miscarriage, and that the chance of a 40-year-old falling pregnant through IVF is a mere 15%.
Furthermore, there is growing evidence that children born as the result of IVF have a greater risk of health problems. One study found that a group of 4559 children born between 1996 and 1999 as a result of IVF had increased health problems, worse peri-natal outcomes and increased hospitalizations than the control group. The mothers also had an increased risk for caesarean births and required more hospital care.
For those couples who are successful with the treatment, IVF is no doubt an invaluable asset—indeed, a modern miracle. However, given the risks and expenses, these technologies can be used too prematurely, when there are safer, less invasive, holistic therapies which offer equally successful outcomes.
It is easy to become disillusioned if you cannot instantaneously fall pregnant. You may have spent many years consciously trying ‘not to get pregnant’, and then when you decide that you actually want to conceive, it can be disheartening to endure unexpected delays.
A couple’s emotional well-being prior to conception is just as important as any physiological aspect. Good health starts with our state of mind. When we allow ourselves time to be still, when we fast our busy minds, we create a space to ask pertinent questions about our own health.
We might ask questions like: How stressed am I? How much energy do I have? How am I damaging my health? What is my diet like?
Almost all of our behaviours are habitual; therefore our lifestyle habits to date will have greatly contributed to our current health status. If we want to create change, if want a new level of health and vitality, then we must choose to think differently and develop new habits.
Chiropractic care, as a proactive and holistic healthcare model, encourages us to ask these questions and to view our body and mind as one entity. Rather than feeling like biological ‘basket-cases’, we are reminded that health is constantly in flux and can always be enhanced.
While there may be no exclusive cure-all or single answer for every couple, chiropractic can fulfill a supportive role by helping to restore body function. Chiropractors offer a low cost and effective alternative or adjunct to expensive fertility treatments, and provide an excellent framework from which to assess and strengthen every aspect of your health, and in doing, your capacity to conceive.