In today’s episode, Dr Shannon takes the prenatal chiropractic conversation down a different avenue. A lot of times, she deals with patients who are seeking care for aches and pains related to pregnancy and fetal malposition issues (and we have tons of episodes about how adjustments impact those issues), but chiropractic care impacts how our nervous system functions - it’s not just a pain reliever. She uses her own birth stories to highlight how important nervous system regulation is for mom’s preparing for birth. Birth can bring about lots of feeling and emotions such as fears and issues with control which can impact the birthing process. Chiropractic adjustments can take us from sympathetic dominance into parasympathetic calmness and facilitate the normal birthing process.
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Music: "Freedom” by Roa
Disclaimer: The information shared, obtained, and discussed in this podcast is not intended as medical advice and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional consultation with a qualified healthcare provider familiar with your individual medical needs. By listening to this podcast you agree not to use this podcast as medical advice to treat any medical condition in either yourself or others. Consult your own physician for any medical issues that you may be having. This disclaimer includes all guests or contributors to the podcast.
Dr. Shannon (00:02.306)
Hello, hello, this is the Aligned Birth podcast. I am Dr. Shannon, I'm a prenatal chiropractor. I'm one of the hosts of the show. And there is another host, it's Dula Rachel. But today, you might think it's gonna be interview day because usually when it's just me on here and I start this way, it's usually like an interview that we're doing, but guess what? It's just me today, just me today. And I haven't done a solo episode in quite a bit. And...
I have been toying around with the idea of this for a hot minute and it's something that I've wanted to talk about. And honestly, I think I've talked about this, I have, I have my outline over here, four other episodes I know of where I have skirted around this issue, but maybe have not said the words I'm going to say in here like very explicitly. So that is the goal of the show today. It's kind of like a MythBuster show. So
The episode, this is more of like a hot take on like a topic that, like I said, has been on my mind and I wanted to discuss. And so it's that hot take of the fact that hearing maybe that chiropractic care is only good and helpful for neck pain, back pain, and breech babies. So I'm tying this into the pregnant population. Whenever I tell people that I'm a chiropractor.
They usually are like, oh, my neck hurts, my back hurts. Or they tell me some crazy traumatic story that they've had and all the aches and pains that they have. And always in the back of my mind, I'm like, I know that's what brings people to care a lot of times. And I've talked about that before too, but golly, chiropractic care is so much more than just some of those pain management things. And that's what I wanted to talk about today. Flipping it a bit is the aspect of talking about the prenatal care. So...
That's why I threw in the breach position as well too, because a lot of times you hear that, well, I'm only gonna see the chiropractor during pregnancy if baby's in a malposition or something like that. And so it can be so beneficial for so many other reasons outside of those aches and pains and fetal malpositions. And so that's what we're gonna chat about today on the episode. Now, Dula Rachel did...
Dr. Shannon (02:22.39)
her own hot take episode and it was that doulos are only for unmedicated births. So do you see kind of the theme here and how we're approaching these episodes? You know, if you've listened to the show before, then you know I've shared my birth stories. So just fast forward through this if you don't wanna hear it again too. But, and all the episodes that I'm gonna link that relate to this are all probably gonna share the birth story stuff, I don't know.
It is what it is. So if you haven't heard it, here we go. But the reason I wanted to mention it today is that I think it was, it was the postpartum of my second birth when I was going through not only that identity shift, but I think I started to go through like a career shift and like second guess, like what, you know, what am I doing with my life? I think I should switch careers and we'll get into that.
is when I started to maybe put the pieces together as far as what had happened in my first birth, what had happened in my second birth, what I did differently, and wow, the impact that I think chiropractic care had in all of that. So with my first, I did end up an emergency cesarean birth.
I know, I'm trying to figure out like where do I want to start with this? Because I don't want to go too terribly deep. But I had a really good healthy pregnancy, right? Like I didn't end up with a lot of complications or anything prenatally. I exercised, I ran through the whole thing. I'm a runner, I loved it. I loved being pregnant. I loved the feel of it. I mean, gained a pretty healthy sum of weight. Like everything was kind of textbook fine.
And so with that, I guess going into it, I just, I was in more of the hospital birthing world. And I'm gonna say this, that I did not know what I did not know. This was 13, almost 14 years ago. I did not know what I did not know. And that's huge. And so that's where I am able to give myself grace as far as how that birth unfolded, because I didn't know what I didn't know.
Dr. Shannon (04:43.438)
and we do the best we can with the circumstances and the knowledge that we have. And then hopefully when we know better, we can do better. So that first birth again, everything was going textbook. I did a hospital birth class, followed OBs orders on everything. Like I said, I was having a traditional hospital based birth and I don't think I really had like a, I mean I had a birth plan.
But I was so very much like, well, if this happens, this is okay, and I'd really like this. Some of those words and thoughts, feelings, and ways of expressing that. But when I look back on it, I had a lot of fear. And it was the fear of the unknown, the fear of the pain, the fear of what could happen in birth. I guess I'm not trying to bash
the medical management of birth. But I think I was in that mindset, right? Of just like the risk of things and not necessarily understand the benefits and not necessarily asking questions in a very informative way. And so I do know, looking back on that, I had a lot of fear in that birth. And I do think when we have a lot of fear in birth, fear in pregnancy, fear in labor,
that it can impact how our nervous system is functioning, how we are perceiving things and how birth unfolds. Now, again, that's not gonna be the only thing that happened, but I finally did go into labor on my own. I think I was, I always say I was two weeks overdue, but it wasn't quite. And so it was, you know, we're touching on 42 weeks. I remember sitting in the nursery, we'd already had it, you know, already.
People always checking, oh, you need the baby yet? I'm like, if one more person checks on me, I'm gonna lose my mind. I remember sitting there and just crying and thinking, when does this baby not wanna come out? And in my head I'm like, I probably had a lot of fear, but hindsight is 20-20 there, right? And I finally did go into labor on my own, and there's a few other things in the cascade of events that happened. So went to the hospital, labor wasn't progressing, got put on Pitocin, was there for 18 hours, had the epidural.
Dr. Shannon (07:05.954)
had the internal fetal monitoring, and two and a half hours of pushing, and then 27 hours later, I ended up with emergency cesarean. I was gonna bundle, there you go, that's the birth story. All of that bundled together. But I highlight that to just kind of go through, okay, this was this cascade of interventions, right? I think one issue too, is I went to the hospital way too early. I mean, right when I started.
having any sort of contractions. They weren't very close together. But again, I was nervous. I was fearful. This is what I was supposed to do. And another thing too, it was just me and my husband. I did not have a doula. I didn't have any outside childbirth education classes outside of the hospital. So it was just me, the OB and my husband. And my husband is not a doula. I love him to pieces and he's amazing. And he's an EMT, he's a firefighter. So it's like he deals well under pressure, but not under pressure with me, no.
God bless him, but he's not a doula. So in going to the hospital too early, they weren't gonna let me go home because I was so far past my estimated due date as well too. So there was that. And then in dealing with the postpartum aspects of things, postpartum wasn't amazing. I'm just gonna, I don't know, it wasn't amazing. It wasn't, I didn't feel like it was healing. Like I talk about postpartum healing a lot and it did not feel.
like I was healing at all. A story for another day, but I did end up going back to work fairly early, pretty soon, and just processed all of those things on my own. So now we're gonna fast forward three years, because there's three years between my two boys. And again, I was not adjusted during that first pregnancy. I knew nothing about chiropractic care. So second time around, I do remember my midwife.
I did have midwives at the practice I was at and I loved them dearly. And my cesarean, like honestly, when I looked back and it wasn't so traumatic, like it was, they did an amazing job. Like I loved every doctor. It was more of like, it wasn't, maybe it was the outside forces with me. It was like internal things though too that I was most upset with. It wasn't that like I felt bullied or pressured or pushed into things. It was a lot of like, this is happening to me. I am not an active participant because I don't think I had put things in place.
Dr. Shannon (09:24.11)
prenatally for that to support myself with that or to help my nervous system process it. So we're fast forwarding three years and we're... I remember like okay what I was gonna say that my midwife as soon as I had my son she was like, oh you're a perfect candidate for a VBAC and I was like, please don't talk to me about ever having children again. I was like, this is this is quite an ordeal.
So I was definitely one of those moms that was like, I don't want to do this again. Other moms were like, yeah, let's have another baby. This was so great and euphoric and that was not my experience. So yeah, it took me three years to recover from all of that. But I think I am so eternally grateful that she planted that nugget of, I'm a perfect candidate for this. That's what she said. My body heard that, the words that were spoken to me, I heard that and I internalized it and I took it. However, I didn't do anything with it until I was 36 weeks pregnant with my second. And that's when I was like, holy crap.
If I want to have a different birth, if I do want to have this vaginal birth after a cesarean, I'm gonna have to do something different than first time around. And it's gotta be more than, you know, a midwife speaking words into me. So I believe my mother had told me for a while to go see a chiropractor, but of course I listened to my friend who told me to go see a prenatal chiropractor. Google search, found one, went in my big old belly and was like, help.
You know, what do you want me to do? What do I do? And I love when women come to me now with that, because I'm like, yes, let's do this. And I very vividly remember, and it was Dr. Pamela Stone McCoy, I've had her on the show. What episode did we talk about? We did episode 103 together. That's one of the ones I'm going to mention because she and I chat about these, processing the emotions of birth and using chiropractic care for that. So that's where this episode is also coming from. So I went to see her.
started under care, followed her care plan. And I was birthing at the same hospital. I did not have a dual again. I did not take extra childbirth education classes. I ran, I exercised, I did everything else the same. The only thing different I added in was chiropractic care. And I can think back on that and seeing Dr. Pam's face and her thinking, oh gosh, like, I wish this mom would put some other.
Dr. Shannon (11:47.726)
players in her birth support team, right? But that's what I had the capacity for. That's where my, if I know better, do better, like that's where I was headed. And so I followed her care plan and I went into labor on my own, probably about a week before my due date. And...
My water broke, I remember that, my first one it didn't break and my water broke and so ended up going to the hospital and then seven hours later, I was able to have my vaginal birth after cesarean. That was so healing. I remember after that I said, that's what it was supposed to be like for me. I don't mean that for anybody else, but for me, that was my thought, that was my feeling. I was like, god, that was what it was supposed to be like.
and it was so incredibly different than that first birth. And that translated into how my postpartum went. Now, I do wanna mention this. So yes, each birth is gonna be different. And so when we, after having been through that first one, a little bit of the fear of labor and birth is gone, right? A little bit, because you're like, okay, I've done this before, I can do this again.
However, there's also the aspect of birth is unpredictable. So who knows what can happen. And the aspect of, it's just, it's still processing things. It's still processing some of those emotions there with that first one. So it's, there's like a, I don't know, holding two truths with those, with those, that scenario as well too. So there was still fear.
with that second, but maybe it was a little bit different. And it wasn't until postpartum with my second, when I, that was a healing postpartum. I was able to actually take more time off of work, which was very healing. I rested, I didn't try to go and be and do and be seen, you know, I truly rested.
Dr. Shannon (14:09.73)
and bonded. I feel like I bonded better. So all of those things, I think a big part was how that labor and birth went translated into that postpartum time period. So why do I share those two birth stories? And then why do I want to talk about nervous system regulation today? Because for me and in my scientific mind and brain that yes, I know that a second birth should potentially go faster.
than the first birth, right? You usually don't go as long prenatally as well too, as you did with the first. So yes, there's some inherent differences that are going to happen. However, the only big variable that I also did change was that I added in chiropractic care. And so again, it helped with the fetal positioning, I believe it helped with my pelvis and sacral alignment. We're gonna get into the specifics of that in just a minute, but.
The big thing that I, and it took me a while to notice this. I think it took me part way through chiropractic school to notice this because my birth was so different that second time around that I changed career paths, right? I quit my job and I went back to school with two young children because the power of chiropractic care. I really do think it wasn't even until school understanding
how chiropractic care is bigger than just back pain, neck pain, fetal malposition. It is, we process our world through our nervous system. The lens of our nervous system is how we perceive health and wellness, how we perceive love, how we perceive trust, how we perceive dangers, fear. And...
seeing how care helped regulate that nervous system function made the difference. And so yeah, I always thought, oh, well I just had a better pelvis and sacral alignment. Cause here's the definition of Webster technique per the ICPA, which is the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association. They do the Webster technique hosting training. Dr. Pamela Stemakoy is one of the instructors for that as well too, my mentor, she's amazing.
Dr. Shannon (16:27.234)
But the Webster technique is a specific chiropractic analysis and diversified adjustment, which is a type of adjustment. The goal of the adjustment is to reduce the effects of subluxation and or sacroiliac joint dysfunction. And so doing neurobiomechanical function in the sacral pelvic region is improved. Neurobiomechanical function. So yes, that balance and alignment in the pelvis and sacrum, but all motor sensation, everything to the uterus is coming from the nervous system.
and uterus is a smooth muscle so it's not like you can sit there and say contract uterus like it's all internally controlled which is so freaking cool but you are not in control right that's the big thing with prenatal and pregnancy and labor and birth is that you've got to surrender and there's that aspect of hello i have a control problem my name is shannon and i have a control problem
That is also that fear aspect of things. I am out of control. This is things happening to me instead of me being an active participant. But what if that could be shifted? What if nervous system can function better and that we can alleviate that fear because we're out of that fight or flight mode. Fight or flight in the nervous system is there to protect us and get us from danger. It needs to be there. We need fight or flight.
But what happens, and I think society in general, I'm just gonna lump us all together, is that we all got stuck in fight or flight and in the rat race of life, right? And the go, go. And we lost the ability to come back into parasympathetic mode. Parasympathetic mode is the rest and digest. That's where oxytocin works best. That's the love hormone. That's what the uterus uses for contractions.
It's the brain communicating with the uterus and the uterus communicating back to the brain. We are safe here. Why do animals go into like a dark room to go give birth? And yet we're expected here to go to a hospital with all of these sites, with all these sounds, with all these smells that bombard our nervous system. And then we cannot process what's going on. Now, I think chiropractic care is a beautiful way to process what's going on because it can help us regulate. You cannot.
Dr. Shannon (18:47.99)
Be in fear. You cannot be running from a bear and trying to heal your body at the same time. And I think that's what it felt like with that first birth. It felt like I was trying to bring forth this amazing life. However, I feel like I'm like barely holding on, I'm losing control, and I have no idea what the hell is going on, and I'm scared, right? So I had that hard time surrendering.
And maybe that's what I'm trying to get out of this episode, is that in the nervous system regulation of things, in that surrendering of the control and allowing that balance of the nervous system to come back, allowing your body to function normally. Maybe that's what it was. But like I said, I don't think it was till I was part way through chiropractic school when I really realized that's what chiropractic care did for me during.
pregnancy. Yes, it helps alleviate aches and pains. So here's some of the other episodes I've done because there's the five benefits of prenatal chiropractic care. I very briefly touched on this but didn't like specifically say that care is helping regulate your nervous system from sympathetic mode to parasympathetic mode to releasing fear and control to allowing the pelvis and sacral areas to function better to allow the nerves from that area to communicate to the brain of
But in that, I've hinted around it because when we alleviate those aches and pains, I have moms, yes, when you're not in pain, you can walk, you can run, you can move, you can feel better in pregnancy, you can go back and do yoga, you can take care of your other children easier and better. All of those things are amazing and good. And then it's not only the fetal positioning. Hello, that can be the difference in some areas and practices that don't.
allow, I don't like that word, but you know, don't recommend or will not do a breach vaginal birth, that fetal malposition, that can be the difference between a vaginal birth and a cesarean birth. And so all of those benefits of prenatal care, like alleviation of aches and pains and helping with fetal positioning are huge. But what I wanted to address is that it really is so much more than that. And
Dr. Shannon (21:11.766)
I think it was my birth stories when I realized that, because that's what I've often said, that chiropractic care was the only thing that I did differently, and it impacted it greatly, greatly. And I think it was that nervous system tone. So nervous system regulation.
I'm not going to go. I already have plans in mind for another episode with this. And I'm going to have a guest on. I've already put out the feeler. She said she's going to be on. She's an amazing chiropractor. She does so much training for chiropractors and talking about nervous system regulation. So we're going to go into, that's when I want to go into the hows, the whys, the who's, the what's, the ins and outs of how the nervous system, how adjustments are impacting the nervous system.
I want to do that with her. I want to bring a guest on because there's other people that talk about it better than I do. And so, and that's going to be nervous system regulation for the pregnant population. Oh my God, I'm so excited about that episode. I mean, I don't even know when it's going to happen, but it's going to happen. But some of the other episodes where we touch on this, in case you want to hear other avenues, is episode 51, Finding Your Breath. This is five breathing exercises for pregnancy and postpartum. This, I definitely go more in depth with.
we're gonna talk about right now real quick is the vagus nerve. I do think that's a big part in how our nervous system goes from that parasympathetic to sympathetic mode. A lot of it is that vagus nerve. It's a cranial nerve, it's the longest cranial nerve, so it doesn't exit the spinal cord, it exits the cranium, the skull, kind of like near the ear, comes around and goes, travels along the side of the spine under the ear, under that kind of cervical lymph chain.
and then goes around, it innervates the throat, the larynx, it goes to the lungs, it goes to the heart, and it goes all the way down to the digestive tract. This is how the gut talks to the brain, the brain talks to the gut. It's a big part in the gut-brain axis. Goes to the left splenic fixture, and that's where it attaches. Vagus nerve is my absolute favorite nerve, but it really is that parasympathetic-sympathetic tone. It's like the on-off switch for those things. And so...
Dr. Shannon (23:21.354)
when we do cervical adjustments, cervical spine, neck adjustments, we can impact that vagus tone, the vagal tone. So that's what I want to go more in depth with in another episode with people that can explain it better than I can, who are way smarter than I am. So, but I talk about that in that breathing episode because at the very end of this, I want to go through some of the, there's other ways to impact vagus nerve. So I think that
besides chiropractic care. But also there's episode 103, I talked about this with Dr. Pamela Stone McCoy, processing the emotions of pregnancy and birth through chiropractic care. So using chiropractic care to process the emotions of pregnancy and birth. That is exactly what happened between my first and second pregnancy. That's exactly what happened. And that was, I really had a fun conversation with her because that's what we talked about, that it's not just the adjustments to
the spine, but it's like what's going on between the ears. That's really where we're impacting and making a change as well too. There's episode 73, I'd mentioned that five benefits of prenatal chiropractic care. That I'm talking about a lot of musculoskeletal things and kind of what I mentioned here. However, I do try to touch on the side effects, the benefits. I had said something earlier when I was prepping for this episode and I really liked it.
because it wasn't side effects. You know, like I always say the good side effects of chiropractic care, you know, like sleep regulation and that type of thing with my prenatal people. But now I can't remember what I was gonna say, but it sounded a lot better than side effects. It was just like the happy, other little happy things that happen. And then episode 45, top reasons to seek chiropractic care during pregnancy. Again, I have to speak to the pain points because that...
Dr. Shannon (25:20.502)
That's what people know. That's how we tell you anything right now. Any social media marketing that you hear for chiropractors. It's like speak to the pain points because that is what people want to hear. That's what's going to get them in your office, yada yada.
I get it because when people are in pain, like, okay, I've got to do something about it now, but did you know that less than 10% of your nervous system is devoted to the sensation of pain? So you can have those issues going on, this nervous system irritation going on without there being pain. And that's what I try to educate people in the office about is that it's so much more than pain. I want you to feel better, yes, but I want your body to function better. And what does it look like when we function better? So those are some of the other episodes.
that I wanted to mention here. There's also some objective measures that we, not every office does, again too, every office, every chiropractic office is completely different and there's over 200 different adjusting techniques. There's different measures that people do. I have some people that love the objective measures. I do have some people that hate it. It is what it is. I'm here for the people that need me and want me.
I say some of the things here to say, not every office is going to do these objective measures. So they'll have their own exam procedures. But in my office, I use the CLA, it's an insight technology. So it's thermography, and then I do surface electromyography. So assessing parts of the nervous system and seeing how it is functioning, and then I can track that. So it's...
I can see it's like objective measures and you can do heart rate variability. A lot of offices do heart rate variability and that's a beautiful measure of how well the body is functioning. How, what is your sympathetic tone and what is your parasympathetic tone? And how is your body functioning? Are you resting well? Like that's, it's just beautiful ways to assess that. So there are objective measures. It's not just me saying.
Dr. Shannon (27:26.446)
I felt better and I didn't have as much fear. Like there are objective measures, but quality of life surveys are huge as well too in the aspect of if my perception and my quality of life and I am happier and I'm feeling better, then that is, that's a plus for me and that's a plus for society. We need people that are happier and healthier and feeling better in this world to spread that to others. So quality of life surveys are really big as well too as far as really good.
objective measures. Now I did a women's wellness retreat two years ago, I think and I did the I talked about breathing exercises and then really went a little bit more into like the vagal tone and like parts of the nervous system turned into like a little science thing I don't know not that anybody really wanted that but that's what I did and
With that, I had a lot of different leaks. And those, the links that I'm gonna put here in the show notes too, it was also, that's where I wanna dive a little bit deeper when we have our guest on the show talking about nervous system regulation. But it's like the polyvagal theory, vagus nerve is a modulator of the brain-gut axis. And then the big one that I definitely wanna mention here is that heart rate variability to assess the changes in autonomic nervous system function associated with vertebral sufflexation. So that one is specific to how chiropractic care
is helping that rest and digest, that fight or flight, parts of the nervous system function better. So, I mean, that's really freaking cool. I love it. So I'm gonna put those there. Now, other ways outside of, and I mentioned these things to, gosh, to everybody that comes in office, not even just pregnant people. I've got, I mean, every patient that comes in needs some sort of, we all need help in our...
and our nervous system tone and our ability to handle stressors and things better. But other ways is like I had mentioned too, the breathing exercises. When you can exhale longer than you inhale, that definitely activates vagus nerve and helps promote calming and rest. And so if you can just take those few moments and focus on your breath, that can impact your vagal tone as well too.
Dr. Shannon (29:46.59)
Meditation, so kind of the same thing. You're almost like slowing down the breathing, but then also can we slow down the mind a little bit too. So meditation is another way, like sitting in that silence and things and sitting there with your thoughts and then cataloging them and then letting them go away. There's lots of different meditations that you can do to help promote vagal tone. Movement, rhythm, dance is huge. And not everybody likes the same movement.
For me, I know, I know personally that running, I'm a big runner, I've been running for 34 years now. Running, it's like that movement and that motion literally resets my nervous system. I know it does. To the point too where my husband's like, do you need to go for a run? I'm like, yes. If you would like me to be a better all around person, I must go for a run. That movement, movement is medicine.
So, and there's lots of different movement. There is dance. I have some people that just that movement, that flow, that rhythm with dance helps. And sometimes it's like that methodical type of thing. Walking, like getting movement helps your vagal tone. Okay, and can help digestion, can help your feelings. Right? Like it's all connected there. Gargling. So remember I said that vagus nerve does innervate throat larynx area. And so,
gargling and then like even singing loudly. Go in your backyard and like scream really loud though. That can activate vagus nerve and impact tone as well too. These are just easy things to do at home. And then massage, massage therapy as well too in promoting that relaxation feeling and not necessarily like massaging at the sides of the neck like where vagus nerve is, but just like.
bodily massage. So those are just, you know, quick, easy, little ways to impact vagus nerve since we ended up going down that rabbit hole for a little bit of how the chiropractic adjustments are not only impacting the aches and pains and pelvis and sacral alignment for mom to impact fetal positioning, but it's also impacting your perception.
Dr. Shannon (32:08.458)
of your surroundings, your perception of is this safe? Am I safe and am I in fight or flight or am I in rest and digest and how can I balance between the both? Because it's not the goal isn't an alleviation of all stressors. That's not going to happen. We're going to have stressors and in fact you stress is good stress. You know, that's when you exercise and you lift weights, you're stressing your muscles and they grow bigger and stronger.
So stress is okay, but it's when we get stuck in that stress state, that chronic stress state that we can't get out of, that's when it becomes detrimental to our health. And that is where I think a beautiful way that chiropractic adjustments can impact. So hopefully you've learned a little bit about nervous system regulation for the pregnant population. I'm really excited about that episode. Thanks for.
joining me today on this little journey. Be sure to check out the show notes for everything that I mentioned as well. And as always, we're so happy you're here. Stay tuned every Wednesday for a brand new episode.