By Dr. Siobhan Overberg.

2018 has always been earmarked as a bountiful year for me but little did I know this would also coincide with the opportunity to pursue a passion, combining travel, more connection with family and friends, and revisiting old turf. (Be careful what you wish for. Your thoughts can really manifest into your physical reality!) A scholarship opportunity provided the means to up skill in an area that I am incredibly passionate about – pregnancy and paediatric neurodevelopment. I recently made my first of 16 trips to Melbourne to complete a 2-yr Diploma in Chiropractic Paediatric Neurodevelopment. The course delivers a thorough understanding of the essential components of neurodevelopment in infants through adolescents with an emphasis on effective assessment, appropriate chiropractic care and collaborative work to assist healthy development.

Module 1 delved deeply into pregnancy, pre-natal development and birth. We looked at key factors that influence a child’s development, from the health and wellbeing of the mother pre-conception, throughout pregnancy and postnatally. Did you know that personality, health and lifestyle factors of your maternal grandmother directly inform the health of your mother’s reproductive eggs?

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We discussed the importance of a balanced pelvis in pregnancy in terms of providing optimum conditions for the baby’s development and position. We looked at research surrounding different birthing models and the potential outcomes for the newborn’s wellbeing. The role of a secure attachment in the development of right brain function (most prevalent in the last trimester and first 3 years of life) was highlighted. The right brain has deep connections into the limbic and autonomic nervous systems and is involved in processing emotion, modulating stress, assisting in self regulation and building a map of our body and self (5).This engagement in the critical period, in the forms of calm arousal to voice, eye contact and touch, provides the essential foundation for later left brain development (e.g. cognition, language development and decision making etc.) and is a major influence in the maturing adults ability to cope with stress, anxiety and depression (5).


Well, it appears to be another case of ‘as nature intended’! An accumulating body of evidence suggests that in a connected dyad of mother: infant, the infant’s right hemisphere is involved in attachment and the mother’s right hemisphere in comforting functions (5). When two right brain systems are mutually entrained they create resonance, which is thought to play a fundamental role in brain organisation, central nervous system regulatory processes, and the organisation of connectivity properties in the brain that are tuned by function (5). Evidence is now appearing that supports the idea that the organisation of the mother’s brain is also being influenced by these exchanges (5). Early animal studies report increased dendritic growth in the mother’s brain and suggest that events in late pregnancy and the early postpartum period may literally reshape the brain, fashioning a more complex organ that can accommodate an increasingly demanding environment (5). So, the relationship is one of reciprocal mutual influence and benefit and – good news – literally multiplies the capacity of your brain function!

Oxytocin (the hormone prevalent in birthing and lactation, suckling and skin stimulation) was discussed and its role in cognition and adaptive social functions.


Behavioural stress in expecting mothers is a form of prenatal cortisol exposure for the developing foetus (4). This exposure occurs via the amniotic fluid levels, thereby reducing plasma oxytocin and hyper-plasticising the amygdala in the foetus (part of the brain that processes fear and anxiety).

In these cases, offspring were able to remain calm during stressful situations and recover from stress more adeptly (1). This is due to a heightened sensitivity to cortisol within the Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal Axis (stress circuit), enabling the individual to better self-regulate Epigenetics and the persistent affects of early life experiences were discussed in the context of maternal and child health and we explored ways of creating greater resiliency and wellbeing in the family unit, including good food and sleep hygiene, social engagement, a positive outlook, meditation and mindfulness

Did you know that brain studies show that meditation calms the amygdala, improves the function of the prefrontal cortex, calms the sympathetic nervous system, reduces cortisol and increases oxytocin, which translates to a happier, more joyful and connected life (3).

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Similarly, the restorative function of sleep is rooted in the increased ability of cerebrospinal fluid to infiltrate the brain during sleep cycles to clean out neurotoxins, namely β-amyloid, prevalent in dementia (7). And finally, we looked at appropriate forms of chiropractic care and homecare to support the expectant mother and newborn, and the effects of gentle cranial and dural work on cerebrospinal fluid flow, vascular supply and calming of the sympathetic nervous system.

So, aside from eating, op shopping and connecting myself silly, I had a very brain nutrient dense long weekend of learning and returned to Margaret River full of enthusiasm for all things baby and bump! If you would like more information, please don’t hesitate to touch base!


1. Bergman, K., Sarkar, P., Glover, V. and O'Connor, T. (2010). Maternal Prenatal Cortisol and Infant Cognitive Development: Moderation by Infant–Mother Attachment. Biological Psychiatry, 67(11), pp.1026-1032.

2. (2018). Epigenetics & Inheritance. [online] Available at: ntent/epigenetics/inheritance/ [Accessed 7 Nov. 2018].

3. Goleman, D. and Davidson, R. (n.d.). Altered traits.

4. Kalin, N., Gibbs, D., Barksdale, C., Shelton, S. and Carnes, M. (1985). Behavioral stress decreases plasma oxytocin concentrations in primates. Life Sciences, 36(13), pp.1275-1280.

5. Schore, A. (2001). Effects of a secure attachment relationship on right brain development, affect regulation, and infant mental health. Infant Mental Health Journal, 22(1-2), pp.7-66.

6. Turecki, G. and Meaney, M. (2016). Effects of the Social Environment and Stress on Glucocorticoid Receptor Gene Methylation: A Systematic Review. Biological Psychiatry, 79(2), pp.87- 96.

7. Xie, L., Kang, H., Xu, Q., Chen, M., Liao, Y., Thiyagarajan, M., O'Donnell, J., Christensen, D., Nicholson, C., Iliff, J., Takano, T., Deane, R. and Nedergaard, M. (2013). Sleep Drives Metabolite Clearance from the Adult Brain. Science, 342(6156), pp.373-377.

Georgina DuncanComment