Relaxin... From the Inside
By Dr. Angela Prissel
When you think about it, the changes that a woman’s body goes through during pregnancy are quite amazing. Various hormone levels fluctuate during conception, pregnancy and postpartum making the entire process possible. Relaxin is a hormone that plays an important role in influencing the changes in the body.
As the name implies, relaxin helps the body’s organs, ligaments and joints to “relax” or become looser. It reaches peak level in the first trimester, around 8-12 weeks of pregnancy. Early on, relaxin prevents the uterus from contracting or tightening, this helps to avoid preterm labor. Blood vessels also become more relaxed and dilated to help to circulate the increased blood volume within mom’s body more efficiently, keeping blood pressure levels within normal range. The digestive system can become more “sluggish” as relaxin will slow down the stomach and intestinal tract, which can cause heartburn, nausea and constipation or diarrhea.
During the second and third trimester, expectant moms will begin to feel the effects of relaxin with daily activities. Relaxin allows for increased mobility in the joints and ligaments throughout the body, but most importantly in the pelvis. Thankfully the pelvis is able to stretch and expand, providing the baby with space to grow and providing some ease to the mom during delivery. Unfortunately, expectant moms may experience some negative effects such as low back pain, sacroiliac joint irritation and pubic symphysis dysfunction as relaxin begins to loosen the joints, resulting in instability in those areas.
Most people don’t realize that relaxin stays present in the body for up to 5 months after delivery! Even a “normal delivery” can cause spinal misalignment and joint dysfunction for new moms making it difficult for them to lift, bend and care for their baby.
Since the joints and ligaments remain looser than normal, it makes the process of restoring the proper motion and alignment of the body easier. As time goes on, the ligaments and joints will become more rigid making it more difficult to correct any dysfunction that occurred during the pregnancy or postpartum.
Chiropractic care throughout pregnancy can help the body navigate all of these changes with more ease. Chiropractic adjustments early in pregnancy will help to reduce stress to the nervous system allowing the heart and digestive system to work more efficiently. Adjustments also help to correct the joint dysfunctions that often occur and can restore proper pelvic alignment, which in turn decreases some of the “aches and pains” that can be considered normal during pregnancy.
With relaxin helping to expand the pelvis during labor and delivery, chiropractic adjustments will better prepare the body for baby’s arrival.
As mom’s focus shifts to taking care of her baby, the importance of self care should not be forgotten. Getting the body back to where it was before pregnancy can be difficult and take time. It is important to take advantage of the few months that relaxin is still keeping the muscles, ligaments and joints a bit “looser”. Chiropractic adjustments can help correct spinal misalignments, restore joint motion and reduce strain on the ligaments and muscles. Along with proper posture, correct body mechanics and exercise, the body will gain strength and handle daily activities with more ease.