Tonight Dr. Alterman was speaking at a Bradley class in the home of a Childbirth Educator named Cecilia Miller. Bradley classes are small (usually 6 or 8 couples) natural childbirth classes that educate couples on things like nutrition and exercise in pregnancy, how to be a labor coach, post partum care, etc. You can learn more about the Bradley method at http://www.bradleybirth.com/ .
I was a little nervous as I walked into Cecilia Miller's house and had a seat for the lecture. Cecilia welcomed me and gave me a place to sit. She is a very warm, friendly person with bright blue eyes. Not just a Certified Childbirth educator, Cecilia is also a Doula (which is a trained professional that assists a woman through all aspects of the process of childbirth, from pregnancy through the post partum period). You can find out more about her at http://www.birthyourwayjax.com/ .
As soon as I was seated, Dr. Alterman began her lecture. It was absolutely awesome. Even though I have a background in health care, I still learned so much. I just can't wait to share it. Dr. Alterman has been practicing chiropractic at the beach for over 20 years. Most recently, she has become more interested in chiropractic for pregnant women and children, so her practice now focuses primarily on pregnant women and children and their families. I was so surprised -- I didn't even know that children saw chiropractors.
To be perfectly honest, I wasn't even sure what chiropractors did before tonight. I thought they only cared for people with back pain. But Dr. Alterman was telling us that chiropractors can help with all kinds of problems from allergies to ear infections, to infertility! Dr. Alterman explained that contrary to popular belief, a chiropractor is not a back doctor, but a nervous system doctor. The nervous system is comprised of the brain, spinal cord and nerves. The spinal cord of course runs through the spine, and the nerves come out from the cord between spaces in the spinal column. Throughout life, the spinal column (and other bones and joints in the body) can become misaligned -- Dr. Alterman calls this a subluxation. When you have a misalignment somewhere in the spinal column, the spine can compress the nerve traveling from that part of the spine. Then the brain can't get messages to that part of the body properly, causing problems.
Dr. Alterman said that many misalignments (subluxations) occur during birth when the doctor uses forceps, vacuums or other tools to deliver the baby. Misalignments can also happen because of trauma, poor posture and body mechanics, and the stresses of everyday life. Those misalignments then cause problems based on where the misalignment is located. A chiropractor can check for and correct those misalignments, sometimes instantly, and sometimes over the course of several weeks or months.
While Dr. Alterman was talking, I started thinking about something my mother had told me when I was growing up. My mom said that her OBGYN told her when she had me and my twin sister that because I was born breech (with my feet facing down instead of my head), I would be more prone to allergies and asthma. I do actually have lots of problems with allergies, but I always thought my mom had heard wrong. How could the position I was in at birth have anything to do with my allergies? Dr. Alterman would say that part of the problem would be misalignments caused by some trauma during my delivery. It makes sense. My identical twin sister doesn't have any problems with allergies -- she was not breech.
In fact, Dr. Alteman said that babies born via c-section are 38% more likely to have asthma. If a vacuum is used during delivery they are 32% more likely to have asthma, and if forceps are used, they are 114% more likely to have asthma! When babies are born via c section, they have a very high risk for subluxations because the doctor has to reach in, find the baby's head, and pull the baby out. I thought back to my son's birth. My pregnancy went on past my due date, and I eventually had to be induced. My labor failed to progress, and he had to be delivered by c-section. They used both the vacuum and the forceps to get him out (he even had little bruises on his head where the forceps had been used). I wondered if he had any subluxations in his spine from all of that, and what problems he might have as a result.
The most interesting and compelling part of Dr. Alterman's lecture for me was when she talked about the need for pregnant women to see a chiropractor. Misalignments in the mother's spine and pelvis can often cause the baby to sit in the wrong position during pregnancy, causing problems with delivery. That might explain why some tiny women are able to deliver a 8 or 9 pound baby with no problem, and some average sized women (like me) are unable to do it. Dr. Alterman said that women who are treated by a chiropractor during pregnancy have 50% shorter labor and are 50% less likely to need medication during labor! The chiropractor can often correct the misalignments in the woman's spine and pelvis, allowing the baby to move into the proper position for birth. Dr. Alterman says she knows midwives who will refuse to accept women into their care unless they are seeing a chiropractor. I am wondering if seeing a chiropractor either before or during my pregnancy could have prevented or lessened many of the problems Christian and I experienced around his birth. I will definitely be seeing a chiropractor when/if I decide to have another child.
There are other reasons to see a chiropractor during pregnancy besides making the birth easier and less problematic. As a woman progresses in her pregnancy, the heaviness of the uterus and the baby start to change her center of gravity and pull on her lower spine. This can create misalignments and make any existing ones even worse. This can lead to common pregnancy complaints like constipation, sciatica, and leg cramps. I had trouble with sciatica when I was pregnant, and I still struggle with it. Sciatica is a nerve pain that is very common in pregnancy. It is named for the sciatic nerve, and often causes pain in the buttocks area or the back of the leg. A chiropractor can often help with or cure some of those common complaints by making adjustments in the spine. However, Dr. Alterman cautioned that any pregnant woman choosing to see a chiropractor should make sure that her practitioner has had special training in the care of a pregnant woman. This goes for massage therapists, too.
Dr. Alterman also told us that women who come to see her (often for problems that have nothing to do with the reproductive system) get pregnant shortly after beginning chiropractic treatment! I was fascinated. "How is that possible?" I asked her. She answered me by explaining that often a woman will have misalignments in the spine pressing on a nerve that travels to the reproductive organs. This will cause hormone imbalances and problems with ovulation. When a chiropractor corrects those misalignments, the woman's hormones start working, and she starts ovulating again. Dr. Alterman said every chiropractor she knows has handfuls of stories about women who were able to conceive within months of starting chiropractic therapy, even if they were previously diagnosed as infertile. Just then, Cecilia piped up and said she had a friend who was never able to have children and hadn't used birth control for 20 years. She saw a chiropractor for allergies and within months she was pregnant! She had her first baby at 41 years old!
Dr. Alterman also went over other ways to make sure you have a healthy pregnancy, like proper nutrition, getting exercise, and using good body mechanics and posture. She taught us several exercises pregnant women (and anyone else for that matter) can do to lessen cramping and lower back pain. She went over the risks of taking medications, and offered some alternatives to medications for common problems. For example, for indigestion, take papaya enzyme instead of Tums or Maalox. For stuffy nose, use a saline wash. Inhaling essential oils of clove, cinnamon and thyme in a facial steamer helps treat sinus infections and other sinus problems.
Dr. Alterman made sure to address some common misconceptions about chiropractors. Chiropractors are highly educated professionals. Some people think chiropractors have very little training, but actually they go through four years of undergraduate school and four years of chiropractic school (much like medical doctors). They have to pass state and national licensing boards, and are regulated by those boards. Adjustments done by a chiropractor are relatively painless and safe.
Overall, I found the lecture very informative and Dr. Alterman was a very good speaker. The entire lecture lasted about an hour and a half, and we all learned so much. Dr. Alterman spoke passionately about how much she loves her work, especially working with kids. She seemed to glow as she relayed how kids respond so quickly to her adjustments, and how much the kids seem to love coming to see her. She told us that she also loves speaking to groups about chiropractic and other natural methods of healing, especially as it pertains to pregnancy and pediatrics. So if you have a group that would like to hear her speak, check out her website and give her a call -- she'd love to hear from you.
On June 1st Dr. Alterman is giving a lecture (similar to the one I saw today) called "Relieving Common Pregnancy Complaints Naturally" at the Pablo Creek Library. If you are expecting, or if you know anyone that is, you should definitely go. Call Dr. Alterman at 247-3933 to reserve your seat. The more I learn about modern medicine, the more I realize that there are some limits to what medical doctors and pills can do. I think alternative therapies are gaining more and more widespread acclaim and acceptance because people are discovering that they really do work. I'm so glad I saw this lecture today and I would recommend one of her lectures to anyone.