Adjusting to a New Life

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Adjusting to a New Life
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Parents often ask why a newborn baby should be checked by a chiropractor. Adjustments help alleviate spinal subluxations (misalignments of the vertebrae) caused by intrauterine constraint, abnormal positioning in the uterus, and spinal distress from the journey through the birth canal or during the delivery process itself. Ideally, babies should be checked and adjusted as soon as possible after birth.

Incidence of Need

M.S. Gottleib, a well-published researcher, reviewed the effects of the birth process and concluded, “The trauma from the birth process remains an under-publicized, and therefore significantly under-treated, problem.”

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“Survival of the newborn is governed mainly by the integrity and function of the vital centers in the brain stem,” writes Andrew Towbin, a prominent researcher on birth trauma. “Yet paradoxically, the importance of injury at birth to the brain stem and spinal cord are matters which have generally escaped lasting attention.”

Another published researcher, G. Gutmann, documented a study of more than one thousand infants. He found that approximately 80 percent of all newborns had some form of nerve dysfunction. Gutmann concluded that many health problems can arise from misalignment of the first vertebrae in the neck, resulting in a lowered resistance to infections in the ears, nose and throat. He also noted, however, that even an adjustment using the lightest pressure of the index finger could normalize an infant’s clinical picture.

His colleague, V. Fryman, examined 1,250 babies five days after birth and found that 95 percent of this group were not only misaligned, but also had cervical strain. She also noted that the infants responded to specific spinal and cranial care with immediate muscular relaxation and a greater ability to sleep. Another renowned researcher and practitioner, Heiner Biedermann, has done numerous clinical studies relating upper cervical misalignment in the newborn to prolonged labor and the use of extraction devices. He, too, has recorded significant improvements in the health of infants who receive specific adjustments after birth.

Nerve dysfunction associated with birth trauma may result in problems such as breathing weakness, mood irritability, digestive disorders, difficulty with feeding and attachment, sleeping problems, immunity deficits and neurological impairment. Left uncorrected, subluxations and their resulting nerve system dysfunction may develop into numerous health issues for the baby.

Proven Safe

Recently the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association published the preliminary results of its study in Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, in an article entitled, “The Safety and Effectiveness of Pediatric Chiropractic: A Survey of Chiropractors and Parents in a Practice- Based Research Network.” The preliminary data confirms what chiropractors have known for over 100 years: Chiropractic care for children is safe and effective.

On the issue of safety, out of 5,438 office visits, there were only three adverse events reported from the adjustments—a .00055 percent chance of negative reaction. Demonstrating a risk factor well below 1 percent, this study shows that children have a greater than 99 percent chance of suffering no problems when receiving chiropractic care. Furthermore, the three adverse events reported in the study were minor discomfort following the adjustment. Each was readily resolved with continued adjustments.

In the study, over 90 percent of the chiropractors and parents reported an adjustment-related improvement with respect to the children’s presenting complaints. Even more interesting is the discovery of benefits unrelated to the initial problems. Both parents and doctors reported better sleeping patterns, improved behavior and more robust immune system function while under chiropractic care.

Increasingly, scientific research is supporting the clinical experience of chiropractors. Chiropractic care is growing in acceptance as a viable necessity for newborns.

A Crucial Difference

The following pages present three viewpoints of a newborn life-saving collaboration, offering us a vitalistic perspective of chiropractic in practice. In this story of home birth, the attending midwife is not only present throughout the entire labor and birth, she is also the provider who offers the first follow-up well baby visit. Additionally, a homebirth midwife’s understanding of biomechanics in birth is generally superior to her obstetric peers; therefore, her assessment of birth and her recognition of potential trauma to the infant are more acute as well.

When a woman gives birth in a hospital, she and her baby are usually released as healthy, at which point the obstetrician’s role is generally complete. If a problem with the baby’s health arises several days later, the birth team is not a part of the newborn examination. Rather, the mother goes to a pediatrician or an emergency room, and there is an inherent disconnect between the baby’s birth and the baby’s condition. An added disadvantage is that the treating doctors are seldom qualified to consider a potential neuro-musculo-skeletal cause resulting from birth, which is often an integral part of the health status. Such problems are often easily remedied with a trip to the chiropractor, if only the obstetrician were informed enough to make that call.

Finally, within the usual obstetric paradigm of birth, a mother’s intuition is not often considered. This story, therefore, demonstrates the power of a holistic, integrative team of providers who recognize each other’s specialty and acknowledge the mother’s intuition, as well.

Chiropractic Adjustments for Babies

Chiropractic adjustments for newborns differ significantly from those performed on adults. Often the chiropractor will use light fingertip pressure on the baby’s back or neck, while other times they may choose to use a hand held instrument to adjust the baby’s spine. Chiropractors sometimes also lightly massage the muscles on either side of the baby’s spine and other relevant areas of the body. Infant adjustments are very gentle, and typically a baby will be soothed by an adjustment, or even sleep through the process!

It is important to note that 65 percent of neurological development (i.e. development of the brain and nervous system) occurs in your child’s first year. It is therefore imperative to ensure your baby has every opportunity to maximize his or her nerve function during this critical period. —Jeanne Ohm, D.C.

Article contributions from a lay midwife, mother, attending chiropractor and a chiropractic author.

A Chiropractor's Expertise

There is a remarkable story I’d like to share about one of my experiences as a chiropractor. I’m not seeking personal credit, nor do I believe this is a miracle above other miracles. It’s simply a demonstration of what is supposed to happen when neural interference is removed and connectivity is restored. This is a story about healing, and a reminder that miracles should be the natural state.

On June 4th I received a call from Ellen, the midwife who assisted me during both of my home births. She was calling from the house of another client, whom I had referred to her. The mother, Shakira, had birthed a son, Abdullah, 36 hours prior. According to Ellen, Abdullah had a very slow and irregular heart rate of about 76 beats per minute—well below the normal newborn range of 120 to 140 bpm. He was also yellow, which raised added concern, given that jaundice typically doesn’t set in so quickly after birth. He had nursed a few times, but was otherwise listless and unresponsive.

Ellen told me that during the birth, she had seen Abdullah’s head clear in one direction and his shoulders clear more than 90 degrees in the other. She had not held the head or restricted the baby’s movement in any way. During the post-partum visit, she felt intuitively that something was wrong, and that it was the odd presentation and potential neck trauma causing the problem. She asked if I could come to the home immediately, and I agreed.

When I arrived, I checked the baby’s spine and cranium. My exam indicated that his occiput and atlas (the lower cranial bone in front of the upper neck vertebrae) were significantly out of alignment. I adjusted the baby and let him lie there for about 15 minutes, periodically checking his heart rate. I then checked him again.

The occiput was holding, so I slightly adjusted the atlas one more time, having found no other cranial or spinal misalignments. We waited another 15 minutes. Suddenly, some red splotching began to appear over his previously yellow body. As we listened to his heart rate, we witnessed the activation of his body’s innate intelligence to re-regulate itself. Within minutes, his red splotching turned into an even, pink skin tone in front of our eyes. The yellow hue was gone! His rooting instinct kicked in and he nursed with a strong and healthy latch for ten minutes. I checked him once more to ensure the adjustments were holding. At this point, his reflexes seemed to come alive; he was alert and active. By the end of the hour, his heart rate had completely normalized to 120 to 130 bpm. Interestingly, his testicles had also descended within that hour. That may have been a coincidence, but it seems noteworthy given all the other healthy indicators we witnessed as a result of the adjustments.

Ellen and I left together. Once we were alone, she told me she believed Abdullah’s adjustment saved his life. In her experience, his failure to thrive had made him a likely candidate for SIDS. It was staggering to process the magnitude of what had happened. Being a part of Abdullah’s remarkable transformation has been one of the blessings and wonders of my life. And yet, what we had witnessed was no miracle; it was simply a reminder of how flawlessly the body responds when all its circuits are connected.

Abdullah continued to thrive and engage in all normal newborn activities. When I examined him during a follow-up visit, his heart rate remained in normal range, as did his skin tone and reflexes.

In retrospect, I realize none of this could have taken place had my midwife not recognized the need for chiropractic adjustments in the first place. How many other babies would benefit from having practitioners who understood the importance of chiropractic care?

Dr. Kathy, Chiropractor