Anne Nicholson Weber: 00:00 Welcome. This is episode 2. I’m so glad you’re here. My guest today is chiropractor, Dr. Stephanie Maj, who explains how chiropractic care during pregnancy can help prepare your body for a more effective labor and an easier childbirth.
This is the BirthGuide podcast — conversations about building your circle of support in the childbearing year. We connect you with experts in our community who can help you conceive, stay healthy in pregnancy, have a safe and satisfying birth and embrace the joys and challenges of becoming a new family. I’m your host, Anne Nicholson Weber, the founder of BirthGuideChicago.com, where every month thousands of Chicago area families find relationship-centered care, from preconception through the postpartum period.
Welcome to a new episode of the BirthGuide podcast. Today we’re talking about the benefits of chiropractic care in pregnancy. Joining me to talk about this is Dr. Stephanie Maj with Community Chiropractic. She has been practicing for 26 years and has specific expertise in the area of perinatal care, including Webster certification. So Dr. Maj, maybe you could talk first off about what kinds of issues can arise in childbirth that having had chiropractic in pregnancy could have helped to prevent.
Dr. Stephanie Maj: 01:42 Yeah. Well, first off, thank you so much for having me on your show and for what you do in the Chicagoland community. It’s such a resource and it’s so helpful.
Anne Nicholson Weber: 01:54 Well, thank you.
Dr. Stephanie Maj: 01:55 I love talking about this. I love talking to new families that want to have a more proactive, a more intentional birth. And I really feel like my job is to help prepare them, where most everyone that I know has either an OB or a midwife or somebody assisting them and their job is more of monitoring — it’s watching, it’s testing, it’s looking for trouble, you know. And what my job is really to do is to prepare your body for delivery. And, you know, if we look at what the troubles are, we would back up to the first, just the anatomy. The baby — the uterus and the baby — are sitting on your pelvis. That bony pelvis is what that baby has to get through there. And so a lot of our focus is the alignment of that pelvis. So when you have a balanced pelvis, the hole that the baby comes out of is wide and open and uniform.
Dr. Stephanie Maj: 03:02 So when the baby’s coming down the birth canal, there are bony landmarks that the baby has to hit and things happen when the baby hits them: the shoulders move, the baby twists. And this is how this dance of getting out of the uterus and getting born, this is the dance of that. There’s twists, there’s turns, it all relies on this pelvis being in the right alignment. So if your pelvis is twisted, it can interfere. It can actually make that hole distorted and interfere with the baby’s ability to get through your pelvis, the actual boniness of your pelvis. But it also can interfere with the baby, you know, when it’s supposed to hit this certain bone and trigger a reflex, and then the shoulders, you know, tilt and the head turns or whatever, if that bone isn’t there, then that doesn’t happen. And so that’s where the babies can get stuck in a certain portion of the birthing process.
Dr. Stephanie Maj: 04:01 You know, most everybody that comes to me is looking to have a vaginal delivery. Basic. The people that come to me tend to have more of that intentional idea of like, not being medicated, not having interventions. You know, I wanna make sure that I help their bodies make that happen. Instead of thinking of it like what problems there are, it’s like, how do we avoid them before they happen, you know? So, I mean, the easy thing is if somebody is having hip pain, back pain, you know, that is your body’s sign that there’s something going on. You know, a lot of people think those indicators as just like stress. “Oh, that’s just stress. Oh, that’s just stress.” Or “I’m pregnant. Of course I have back pain. I’m pregnant. Everybody’s that pregnant has back pain.” Not true, not true at all.
Dr. Stephanie Maj: 04:53 And I have a lot of people that don’t have any issues, you know, have no pain yet. Their pelvis is twisted. And I see them later in their pregnancy and they’re wanting to have this vaginal delivery and the baby isn’t cooperating. You know, the baby is not in a great position. And so a patient that comes to me, she’s pregnant right now. I have two patients, her and the baby. So I have the, maybe the problem that they came in for, you know . . . So say they came in because they’re having back pain or they’re having pubic bone pain, which is pain in the front kind of in your groin. And so we wanna make sure we heal that. But we also have a baby that we wanna help get into the proper position.
Dr. Stephanie Maj: 05:39 And we also have a delivery that needs to happen. And then you have a baby, you know, <laugh>. And so a lot of times it’s like the delivery isn’t the end point, it’s the beginning point. So the healthier you are through this process and through the delivery, the more able you are to show up to your new baby. And the better the birth, the better the ability the baby has to latch and to, you know, any of those head issues or any colic or poop — you know, all the things that can happen in a new baby. So I really feel like wellness care is seeing these moms really early in their pregnancy and helping them with those things.
Anne Nicholson Weber: 06:23 So about 20 questions occur to me. Let’s start with this one. Assuming you’re not having problems — so you don’t come in for your first chiropractic appointment that you’ve never done before because your back is hurting or your pubic bone is hurting — but talking about it, as you have, as preventive care, when’s the right time in a pregnancy to begin chiropractic care?
Dr. Stephanie Maj: 06:48 Anytime. But the earlier the better. I mean, again, in our society, we’re a problem-based society. So I go to the doctor when I have a problem. And so sometimes when that happens, it’s later in the pregnancy, which means correcting that problem becomes more of an issue. So for instance, you know, when you’re pregnant, the front of you gets really heavy with the baby and with your chest and with everything, all that gets very heavy, which puts a strain on the back of you, the back of you has to hold you up. And so the heavier the front of you, the harder it is to balance the back of you. You know, I consider pregnancy a moving target. Meaning Anne comes to me. She has a pain in her SI joint, which is the joint in her pelvis. And we do the treatments necessary and she gets better over time. Anne isn’t pregnant.
Dr. Stephanie Maj: 07:48 Okay. Sally comes to me, she’s pregnant. She’s two months pregnant. She has an SI pain. Well, even though, you know, the baby is very small, as that baby gets bigger, more stresses are on those areas. So it’s something that, once it’s healed, we need to just monitor it and keep it balanced. So if people come to me without symptoms, then it’s just, like I said, very boring, where they get adjusted and we make sure their pelvis is in line. There’s a way to do that very safely and naturally. You know, it’s kind of like whack-the-mole at the fair. You know, you go to the fair and you hit the whack-the-mole machine. And this is what, you know, prenatal care can be, is that, you know, as the baby gets bigger and the stress changes on the body and more relaxin and LA LA LA, then we just say, okay, how’s your body doing today? And we just help balance it wherever it needs to be balanced on that particular visit. Some people that’s every week, some people that’s two times a month, sometimes that’s once a month, just depends on the person.
Anne Nicholson Weber: 08:51 Yeah. Well, philosophically, I’m interested to ask — particularly women who are kind of naturally-oriented and maybe heading for a natural childbirth, a physiologic childbirth, in that world within the birth world, you’ll hear, well, our bodies are made to do this. And so my question is, if our bodies are made to do this, why do we need chiropractic care during pregnancy?
Dr. Stephanie Maj: 09:20 I love that question. That is an awesome question. Our bodies have this natural, innate ability to take egg and sperm and connect them and make a baby. And yes, our bodies don’t need any help, but they need no interference. So my job as a chiropractor is to remove the interference in either our nervous system or in our alignment, and just allow the body to, you know, just kind of manifest this pregnancy as it was supposed to be. You know, if you think about the world we live in now, this isn’t the way it’s been for very long, where we sit in front of computers, our level of stress with the pandemic and with the world as it is, is very high, you know. Laptops and screens and motor vehicle accidents and slips and all those things add into what’s going on in our bodies.
Dr. Stephanie Maj: 10:22 And yes, I think that in an ideal world, our bodies need no help. Yet, making sure the pelvis is in a proper alignment, making sure the nerves are not interfered with and making sure that the round ligaments — which are those ligaments in the front of the belly — are supple and not cramping or uneven or asymmetric, because those are the things that can create tightness in the uterus and not allow the baby’s head, when it’s dense enough, to head south. You know, gravity happens. And when that baby’s head is dense enough, that head will go south and go head down. And if it isn’t, something’s interfering with it. And that’s what for me, that’s where the Webster technique got its reputation. Dr. Webster noticed that when babies were breech, he noticed a twist in the pelvis, he noticed spasming in the round ligaments. And he said, “I wonder if I get rid of the twist and get rid of the spasming, if the babies will turn?” And they did. And in my office, 75% of the time, that’s what happens — if I have enough time and they’re candidates. Well, he also said, why wait until they’re breech?
Anne Nicholson Weber: 11:37 Mm-hmm <affirmative> Well, maybe you could talk a little bit, um, technically I guess, but in terms that someone like me can understand: What are you actually doing?
Dr. Stephanie Maj: 11:48 So as a chiropractor, my job is so focused on the spine that people I don’t think really understand that it’s really about the nerves. So the nerves that run our whole body come from our brain through our spinal cord that is inside the bones of our spine. And then the nerves that run us, like the wires that run your house, come out in-between each one of those vertebrae. And so for us, we wanna make sure that those nerves are as free flowing as possible, that there is the least amount of interference. So if we say that the body is naturally able to do this, well, how is it naturally able to do this? Well, the nervous system is the driving force of that. It’s what triggers the hormonal system. It triggers the whole thing. So if the nerves aren’t working as well as they should . . . I always use the analogy of like the dominoes.
Dr. Stephanie Maj: 12:45 You set a million dominoes up, it only takes one domino to go. And then it’s like, like over the bridge and around the windmill. So for me, I wanna make sure all the dominoes are in place in this delivery. So I wanna make sure the nerves are flowing. In the Webster technique, I wanna make sure that the pelvis is balanced. So there’s this technique called the pelvic drop technique. It’s very gentle. I have a special table where you can lay face down and you can put your belly in the table, a hundred percent safe for you and the baby. And the table just rises up about a half an inch and helps rock the pelvis back into neutral. And so how do I know if it’s not balanced? I don’t x-ray, obviously, pregnant women. But you know, 26 years of doing this and I can see it when you lay down.
Dr. Stephanie Maj: 13:32 I mean, a lot of times when their partner is in the room, I say, see, I’ll show them, see how this, you know . . . they’ll lay down and the seam of their leggings or their pants will be shifted to one side or you can see one butt cheek is higher than the other, or one leg is shorter than the other. You know, that is a sign that there’s a twist in the pelvis. So the dropping helps rock that back to neutral. And after we check, they’re equal. And then we roll them over and on usually the opposite side, there’s a spasm in the round ligament. And just like very gently massaging, we help massage that. And what the two of those do is they help get rid of . . . almost like a balloon animal. If you have a balloon and you twist it in opposite directions, it will get tight in the middle. And that’s how they make balloon animals.
Dr. Stephanie Maj: 14:19 Well, if you have a uterus and you twist it in opposite directions, it will get tight in the middle. And then that baby’s head won’t be able to get head-down. So what, what I really feel strongly about is regardless of how somebody wants to birth, the wild card is that baby has a birth story and you don’t always get to choose. Right? So, you know, what I do know is the more you’re able to keep your baby in a proper in utero position, the less likely that that positioning is gonna cause a later problem. Like, I don’t know what this month is about, but this month has been a month of babies for me, and I’m talking about one month or younger babies having trouble latching, having head tilt — torticollis is what it’s called, you know, their head will only turn one way, not the other –, colic, you know, digestive issues, all these things, they all lead back to the fact that they were in a funky position in utero. All of them were vaginally delivered, yet they, you know — even in the most pristine situation, it’s dicey business coming through that birth canal. And so our job, you know, is a little bit of cleanup.
Anne Nicholson Weber: 15:32 So you’re optimizing the way you go into both the childbirth and the postpartum period,
Dr. Stephanie Maj: 15:40 Right. It’s just, for me, it’s just an honor to help these humans get born in this way.
Anne Nicholson Weber: 15:47 Well, I think that should cover it. I’m so glad that you joined me to talk about this. I think that many women going through pregnancy are just not aware of all the resources there are available to them. And it’s helpful when you don’t have to just take it. You said early on, you know, people just assume, “well, of course my back hurts, I’m pregnant.” Once you’ve identified it and called it a problem, it turns out there are lots of ways to address it. Um, but it’s that first step of saying, this is something that could be better and there are steps I can take to make it better.
Dr. Stephanie Maj: 16:24 Right. And that pain is your body telling you something. Yeah. So it’s not just telling you you’re pregnant, <laugh>, it’s telling you there’s something going on. And so if you’re having these . . . you know, use it like a warning light on your dashboard, right? And if we can help you with that, it’s only gonna help all the other things along the way. Because again, once you have a baby, then you have a baby. And if you’re, you know, if you’re still having issues, you know, now you have a baby to care for. And so we wanna help with all of that. And, um, I mean, that’s why I do what I do. It’s beautiful.
Anne Nicholson Weber: 17:01 Wonderful. Thank you so much. It was great to talk to you, Stephanie.
Dr. Stephanie Maj: 17:05 Thank you.