Q & A: Forceps Birth

Question: My baby was delivered vaginally with the help of forceps. His head looks normal, save for a small red mark on his temple, does he need to see a chiropractor? Will he have problems in the future directly related to being born with the help of forceps?

As new parents, you do everything in your power to make sure your baby is healthy. You went through 9 months of pregnancy taking in good nutrients and supplements and avoided the “baddies” (cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine, medications, etc). You may have taken some childbirth classes to prepare yourself for a great delivery, perhaps even a natural, drug-free delivery at that. You’ve read all the books and seen a million YouTube videos, but nothing really prepares you for childbirth. Sometimes, even when you have done everything right, things can go “wrong”.

–NOTE: I use quotations around the word “wrong” as I believe there is no such thing as a “wrong” birth or delivery. Every child makes their way into this world in their own way – some calm and quick, some arduous and dramatic.

Sadly, some newborns have unhealthy spines as a result of a constrained or stressful pregnancy or the labor and delivery itself.

One of my first discussions with any new patient, adult or child, is, “Tell me about your birth.” This is often met with wrinkled brows and followed by the question, “Why?” Especially with newborns, it is impossible to gain an understanding of their challenges without taking it back all the way to the beginning – including a thorough understanding of mom’s pregnancy (another topic for another day!).

The birth process can have lasting physical consequences for your baby.

How would you feel if your head had been tilted and crooked in a small space for several months, then your head was crammed into an even smaller space for hours to days? And if that wasn’t enough, imagine your head then being squeezed by contractions and then pulled and twisted out into the world. You might have some neck pain. Maybe even a headache.

The birth process, even in its most natural form, can be a source of spinal stress for an infant. If the birth history includes a caesarean section, ventouse or forcep intervention, my ears always perk up. The average amount of force used by the doctor during forcep delivery is between 30-45 pounds. Your average infant is around 7 pounds at birth. That’s up to 5 times their body weight! It should come as no surprise that it has been estimated that around 80% of infants examined shortly after birth were suffering from injury to the neck.

If your baby is not in obvious distress at birth, they often are given a clean bill of health and you are discharged from the hospital. However, slight damage to your baby’s spine may cause several problems that can creep up over their first days to months. These include:

  • Colic
  • Poor feeding
  • Inability to settle/fussiness/easily startled
  • Poor sleeping patterns
  • Preference of feeding on one side only/tendency to face to one side
  • Irritable lying on their back or stomach
  • Flat head (plagiocephaly)
  • Acid reflux/indigestion/unsettled bowel movements

Where does Chiropractic fit in?

Chiropractic uses gentle pressure to relieve irritation in your nervous system (brain, spinal cord and nerves). The spinal cord carries information throughout the body and is responsible for all bodily functions. This means that if bones in the spine are not moving properly, this can affect the rest of the body. Most chiropractors, including myself, believe that a baby’s spine should be checked for any possible nerve dysfunction or trauma shortly after birth.

I have the pleasure of witnessing the benefits of chiropractic on children daily in my office. The children under my care are calmer, catch fewer colds, sleep more soundly and thrive in their education. There is no substitute for a properly balanced and optimal functioning nervous system.

“With the birth process becoming more and more an intervening procedure…the chiropractic adjustment becomes even more important to the child’s future.” – Dr. Larry Webster of the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association






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