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The study, by post doctoral research fellow at the New Zealand College of Chiropractic Dr Jenny Kruger and research director Dr Heidi Haavik-Taylor, will look at how chiropractic care may influence pelvic floor muscle function in healthy women before and after childbirth, and in women suffering from pelvic floor dysfunction.
"We are working with a number of pregnant women here in New Zealand and the University of Australia in Sydney, which is also involved in the study, is testing hundreds of women" Dr Kruger said.
"We are using state of the art 4D ultrasound to visualise the pelvic floor of women, pre and post chiropractic adjustments. We want to see whether spinal adjustments can alter the way the pelvic floor works."
Their aim is to reduce the number of women suffering from prolapse after giving birth, which is when the ligaments and tendons that hold the uterus in place within the pelvic cavity become weak, Dr Kruger said.
"We would like to be able to identify those that are at a greater risk before they even go into labour.
"That way, their health professionals can work with them before birth and take special precautions once they are in hospital, to give them the best chance of having a safe, trouble-free birth."
New Zealand Chiropractors' Association spokesman Dr Simon Kelly hoped the results would mean health professionals were able to offer pregnant women, especially those at risk of prolapse, a greater level of preventive care and support.
"At the moment, we are still restricted in what we can offer pregnant women, as far as identifying certain risk areas goes," he said.
"There have been a number of theories about chiropractic care strengthening the core muscles and pelvic floor, helping women prepare for the physical exertion of labour and recovery afterwards, but limited research due to funding.
"I'm looking forward to seeing the results and hopefully using them to help New Zealand women prepare for birth and avoid any potential problems," Dr Kelly said.
Results of the research are expected to be published next year.