Bringing a child into the world is one of the most special and exciting experiences any person will get to experience. A feeling of love and joy that can’t be compared with anything else. But we also know it’s not easy. And a lot of parents – especially mums will experience a lot of stress and anxiety throughout the journey, which is only natural considering how important this little human is to you, but this is also compounded by the lack of support and complete disempowerment new or recurring mums experience in our current healthcare system.
You’re told in many different forms of all the negative aspects of pregnancy, all the complications and concerns to be aware of and the extensive list of checkups and tests along the way. While these things are certainly important to be aware of and have their place, it’s also important to remember that women are inherently designed to do this process and should be encouraged and empowered to bring their child into the world confidently and calmly.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Mums are routinely told things like “you have a big baby”, “you don’t have birthing hips” and many similar things. Which completely strips mums of their confidence and autonomy through their pregnancy – especially if it’s their first time.
There has been a major shift in the way babies are brought into the world and the birthing process has been completely medicalized. Being pregnant is often seen as a “condition” that needs to be managed rather than a natural and beautiful part of life to be enjoyed and to savor.
On top of this, the rate of birth interventions and traumatic births only continues to rise. As of 2017 at least 37.4% of births in New Zealand were “assisted” with the use of forceps, vacuum, cesarians or a combination of the above. 27.9% of these ending in a cesarian delivery – which has a place, don’t get me wrong. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that the birth process is moving further away from a natural, empowering experience for mums and towards a medical condition to be managed.
What’s even more important is that all this added stress & anxiety isn’t only experienced by mum. Maternal stress & birth trauma can have a significant and lasting impact on a child’s early development and long-term health outcomes. There is even a growing body of evidence showing clear links between maternal stress, birth trauma and the incidence of neurodevelopmental disorders such as Autism.
Why is this?
It all comes down to mums’ connection to bubs through the umbilical cord. We pretty much all understand that we should avoid toxins during pregnancy such as smoking, alcohol, certain foods etc. as those things can affect bubs via the transfer of blood & nutrients through the umbilical cord. But what’s missing is the understanding that the umbilical cord is also the ‘power cable’ between mums’ central nervous system and babies’ central nervous system.
The brain and central nervous system run the show within the human body. Controlling everything from sleep, digestion and immune function to our social skills, emotional regulation, and cognitive/learning capabilities.
The central nervous system is largely on autopilot and split into our Sympathetic (Gas pedal) i.e., fight or flight, stress, survival, protective mode and our Parasympathetic (Brake pedal) i.e. rest & digest, calm, relax, growth & development. What’s important to understand about these two modes is that they both serve a purpose at different times, but we can’t be in both modes at the same time. So, if the Gas pedal is active, the Brake pedal is suppressed and vice versa. The brain and nervous system are also the very first organ system to form during pregnancy.
As we understand during the early stages of life, the brain is in its most impressionable state. We’re constantly reminded of how important those first 1000 days are for a child’s brain development. But what is also important is that period before a child is born. Even during pregnancy, a child’s brain and nervous system are taking in information and forming an impression of the world and building neural circuits to reflect that environment.
So, what this means is that if mums’ central nervous system is constantly in a state of survival and protection, being run by that Sympathetic branch of the nervous system, that is directly telling the baby that the outside world is stressful and dangerous and to be prepared. Which is a great adaptive mechanism, but what this does is it prewires and hardwires a child’s nervous system into a state of stress and survival. Which as we discussed above, will mean a child starts life with an underactive or completely shut down Parasympathetic system.
The result is often colicky, constipated, irritable & fussy babies who can sleep or be soothed. Kids don’t grow out of stress either. It just gathers momentum and follows them through their developmental stages of life, and they grow into chronic ear/respiratory infections, developmental delays, sensory processing disorders, excessive outbursts & meltdowns, focus & learning difficulties, anxiety, ADHD & Autism spectrum disorders later in life.
It’s a confronting reality to face, but there is good news! Just like stress affects both mum & bubs nervous system throughout pregnancy it works the other way too. We know that neurologically focused chiropractic care has a potent impact on calming and balancing the central nervous system. During pregnancy this effect is essentially a 2 for 1 deal! When mums are under consistent care throughout their pregnancy not only do they have more comfortable and less complicated pregnancies, they also have less complicated births and a lower likelihood of interventions, as well as the confidence that their babies nervous system is starting life on the right track! Calm, balanced and at ease, allowing for optimal growth, development, and long-term health!
If you’d like to ensure your pregnancy is empowering, supported and optimal, we’d love to help! Simply click HERE to request a consult and we’ll be in touch! Plus if you know someone else who needs to read this please share it with them too!
See you soon!
Dr Ben Edwards
Pediatric Chiropractor & Hope Dealer