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Natural Integration

The natural world offers countless examples of intelligence and order, and the developing nervous system is no exception. Just as we witness the transformation of a tiny seed into a majestic tree through the harmonious interplay of soil, water, air, and sunlight, the developing nervous system follows a similar path of orderly complexity. Primitive reflexes are an important part of this journey, each paving the way for the next and ultimately establishing a foundation for smooth processing, movements, learning, and emotional well-being throughout life.

The Moro reflex plays an important role before, during, and after birth. It contributes to the development of breathing in utero, provides energy and adrenaline to initiate the birth process, and assists the newborn in taking their first breath.

Understanding the Fear Paralysis Reflex

From the early stages of pregnancy, the Fear Paralysis reflex emerges as one of the initial responses to stress and stimulation. It triggers a withdrawal and freeze response, and the baby’s movements in the womb play a vital role in integrating this reflex around the start of the second trimester. At this point, the Fear Paralysis and Moro reflexes begin to engage in a unique relationship, essential for the development of a healthy nervous system. Successful integration of these reflexes will lay the foundation for all reflexes to follow.

In addition to its protective function, the Moro reflex plays an important role before, during, and after birth. It contributes to the development of breathing in utero, provides energy and adrenaline to initiate the birth process, and assists the newborn in taking their first breath. It also triggers the extension of the body after being in a curved position in the womb. Subsequently, the Moro reflex assumes its role as a response to sudden stimulation, eventually integrating between 4-6 months of age.

If the Fear Paralysis reflex remains active, the Moro reflex may also remain active. Similarly, if the Moro reflex is retained, the Fear Paralysis reflex may not fully complete its integration. The interplay between these reflexes highlights the importance of proper integration for the optimal functioning of the nervous system.

Factors Affecting Integration

Integration of the Fear Paralysis reflex can be hindered by several factors. Firstly, the ability for the baby to move in the womb is crucial for successful integration. Secondly, the stress level experienced by the mother during pregnancy can impact integration, as cortisol can pass through the placenta, leading to continued activation of the reflex. Additionally, a traumatic birth or extremely stressful conditions can cause the reflex to reemerge even after integration. Other causes that can hinder integration include smoking, alcohol consumption, and drug use during pregnancy, which can have detrimental effects on a baby’s developing nervous system.

The Impact of Global Stress

There has been a surge in global stress due to many factors surrounding public health. This has affected the health and well-being of mothers during pregnancy and the postpartum period, resulting in increased complications and postpartum mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs). Unfortunately, this stress has also hindered the integration of the Fear Paralysis reflex in many babies. Consequently, we are witnessing an increase in anxiety disorders and exaggerated fear responses among children. This heightened state of fear and anxiety creates a disconnection from the body, the higher self, and others, ultimately leading to a reduced capacity for handling stress.

Furthermore, the retention of the Fear Paralysis reflex often coincides with the persistence of the Moro reflex, compounding the challenges faced by these children. Alongside anxiety, changes in sensory perception, poor coordination, and learning challenges may manifest as the result of the retained Moro reflex. This can further contribute to difficulties with balance, spatial awareness, and attention, impacting multiple areas of the child’s development.

Retention of either or both reflexes places an increased demand on the developing brain as it expends precious energy and resources in self-protection from non-existent threats instead of utilizing that energy for learning and growth. This can result in slow neurodevelopment, potentially impacting various aspects of the child’s development.

Chiropractic care plays a pivotal role in this process by addressing stored stress and interference within the nervous system, thus promoting clear communication between the brain and body.

Approaches for Integration

Thankfully, there are effective methods to integrate retained reflexes and support the optimal functioning of the nervous system. Chiropractic care plays a pivotal role in this process by addressing stored stress and interference within the nervous system, thus promoting clear communication between the brain and body. It is of note that the Fear Paralysis reflex is connected to the peripheral nervous system, which is closely linked to the vagus nerve. The chiropractor recognizes the significance of this connection, as the vagus nerve can potentially become entrapped in the neck or torso. Through chiropractic adjustments, the interference affecting the vagus nerve can be released, facilitating the integration of the Fear Paralysis reflex.

Once the baby or child is under chiropractic care and gains more capacity, specific movements can also be introduced to further facilitate the integration of retained reflexes. For instance, exercises like the Starfish exercise can assist in integrating the Moro reflex, while various leg movements and rhythmic tapping in a 1-2 Cha-Cha-Cha pattern can be employed to help integrate the Fear Paralysis reflex. These movement-based approaches complement chiropractic care, providing additional support for the nervous system’s optimal functioning and reflex integration.

Embracing a Holistic Approach

It is imperative to recognize the deep connection between maternal stress levels and the health and well-being of both mother and baby, rather than solely responding to the consequences of stress such as retained reflexes and PMADs. Chronic stress negatively impacts various stages, including pregnancy, birth, and postpartum outcomes, as well as the neurodevelopment of the baby and their future health. By adopting a salutogenic perspective, we can replace suffering with well-being and connection through conscious choices that promote health and enhance stress resilience throughout preconception, pregnancy, and postpartum phases. As we begin to view health through this lens, one healthy choice can cascade into another, expanding the window of stress tolerance.

Salutogenic examples that support the well-being of mothers and, in turn, their babies in this transformational season of life include:

1. Choosing a Nutritious Whole Food, Anti-Inflammatory Diet:

Nourishing oneself with a diet rich in whole foods, including gut-healthy options, and anti-inflammatory ingredients provides essential nutrients for both mother and baby. A balanced and vibrant diet, which includes foods that promote a healthy gut microbiome, contributes to optimal brain development and health.

2. Engaging in a Regular Movement Practice:

Regular physical activity during pregnancy and postpartum promotes circulation, strengthens the body, and supports a healthy nervous system. Exercises such as yoga, walking, lifting weights, or swimming can be beneficial for both mother and baby.

3. Connection with Nature and with Others:

Spending time in nature has a calming and grounding effect on the nervous system, fostering a sense of well-being. Additionally, maintaining social connections with loved ones and joining supportive communities can provide emotional support and reduce stress.

4. Increasing Stress Resilience, Nervous System Adaptability, and Neurobiomechanical Function through Chiropractic Care:

Chiropractic care supports the nervous system, removes interference, and promotes optimal function. By enhancing stress resilience and nervous system adaptability, chiropractic care can positively impact the well-being of both mother and baby.

5. Engaging in Practices such as Meditation, Breathwork, and Mindfulness:

Meditation and mindfulness practices help cultivate a state of inner calm, reduce stress levels, and promote emotional balance. Incorporating breathwork techniques, such as alternate nostril breathing, can further enhance relaxation, regulate the nervous system, and promote overall well-being. These practices increase heart coherence, fostering a deeper connection with one’s inner wisdom and promote overall well-being.

6. Intentionally Slowing Down to Tap into Presence and Flow States:

Amid the business of life, intentionally slowing down in this season allows mothers to tap into a state of presence and flow. By embracing the spaciousness of stillness and mindfulness, one can cultivate a deeper connection with oneself, their baby, and the natural rhythms of life.

7. Learning Skills and Planning for Birth:

Create a birth plan that includes professionals who align with your goals and values, such as doulas who provide holistic support. Embrace uplifting books about birth to expand your knowledge and mindset. Additionally, explore birth skills programs that offer practical techniques and knowledge to navigate the physical and emotional aspects of birth.

8. Making a Postpartum Plan and Asking for Support:

Preparing a postpartum plan and seeking support from loved ones or professional resources can greatly assist in the transition into motherhood. Having a support system in place ensures that the mother can focus on her healing, connection with baby, and well-being.

9. Being Intentional About Consuming Media:

It is important to be mindful and conscious about media consumption. Exposure to news, social media, or movies that create fear and anxiety can significantly impact stress levels. Choosing uplifting, positive, and inspiring content or taking a break from the media can contribute to cultivating a more relaxed and peaceful state of mind, benefiting both mother and baby.

10. Harnessing the Power of Breath:

Becoming aware of breathing patterns is helpful. Shallow breathing can contribute to stress and anxiety, while adopting smooth, deep, diaphragmatic breaths with expansion in the front, back, and sides, promotes a sense of well-being.

11. Cultivating a Sense of Self-Love and Self-Compassion:

Nurturing oneself with love and compassion is essential during the transformative journey of motherhood. Prioritizing self-care, practicing self-compassion, and embracing self-love create a nurturing environment for both mother and baby.

In conclusion, as Jeanne Ohm, DC, beautifully stated, “Life expresses intelligence.” The development of the nervous system, much like the growth of an oak tree, exemplifies this intelligence. To optimize how this intelligence unfolds and adapts in both mother and baby, we must remove interference and be intentional about the “ingredients” we include in our environment. By embracing holistic practices and nurturing ourselves with love, compassion, and supportive choices, we can create an environment that fosters the optimal development of the nervous system and nurtures the well-being of both mother and baby.