“Massages during childbearing experience were and continue to be a prominent part of many cultures’ health care.Indian Ayurvedic medical manuals detail therapists’ instructions for rubbing specially formulated oils into pregnant patients’ abdomens. Traditional sculptures depict Eskimo fathers stroking their labouring wives’ backs. The traditional Japanese word for midwife is ‘Samba’ which means ‘the elderly woman who massages’. A midwifery textbook published in the 19th Century tells the midwife to anoint her hands with the oil of white lilies and then gently stroke the mother’s belly about the navel, and an important part of the work of the Mexican midwife or Partera is holding and touching.”
Pregnancy massage is a combination of remedial massage, shiatsu and acupressure massage. The treatment takes place in a side position with your bump, knees and ankles’ fully supported and is a wonderful support physically and mentally during pregnancy, labour and the post-natal period.
I think EVERY woman should have some kind of body work during pregnancy. I believe this so strongly that if I won the lottery and never had to work again, I think I would actually give them away for free.
We are so used to hearing pregnant women complaining about aches and pains that we don’t realise that a lot of these so called ‘pregnancy ailments’ can be avoided. Achy hips, Pelvic girdle pain, Pubis pain or Sciatica to name a few common problems I see on a regular basis, can all be helped and often stopped with the use of Massage, Cranial Osteopathy, Physiotherapy, Chiropractic care and other body work. We DO NOT have to put up and suffer, in fact, when caught early, a lot of these symptoms are so easily managed, and you’ll forget you even have them, or they may indeed disappear completely.
There are many causes of hip and pelvic aches in pregnancy, from an increase in the hormone ‘Relaxin’, resulting in joints and ligaments between the bones in your pelvis loosening and becoming hyper mobile, to things as simple as merely having to sleep in a side position, which puts pressure on the hips. Whatever the cause a good therapist trained in treating women pre and post-partum will know which areas to target to support the changes your pre-natal body is going through. They will be able to advise you on posture, show you stretches and talk you through everyday self help tips to ensure that you can continue to enjoy your pregnancy pain free.
Women I see, who have regular treatments throughout pregnancy very rarely suffer with lots of the ailments we commonly associate as just being ‘part of pregnancy. What better way is there to keep cramps, heartburn, sleepless nights, tight shoulders painful hips and achy backs at bay.
Nearer to your due day we can use acupressure points during the massage to get the body ready for labour. This works by working on points known to have a ripening effect on the cervix.
Ideally, all new mums would have a massage as soon after birth as possible, to help the muscles release the muscle memory of labour, gently aid healing and help with spinal realignment. These are all important factors in helping your body to return to its pre-pregnancy state.
In my work as a post-natal massage therapist I am hearing more and more from women that they feel that there is a lot of support in the run up to having their baby, but very little to help them afterwards. Anyone who’s ever had the misfortune to have been subjected to one of my ‘we need to improve post-natal care’ rants knows my view on this.
Whilst training in pre & post natal massage I studied antenatal care around the world. The thing that struck me the most was how the west, compared to most other cultures had lost the ceremony around postpartum recovery for new mums. While in Ayurveda women are cared for by female relatives for 40 days often having daily massage, and in Mexico women have baby moons of 28 days where they are tended too and nurtured, here in the west we often feel pressured to be back in our skinny jeans, lunching at the Tate by day 5! And then we wonder why women are so tired and exhausted, suffering with emotions and back ache?!?
I often have women come to my clinic for post-natal massage months after the baby was born, by which time they have, what we in the trade call the breast feeding hunch, or lower back niggles from misaligned hips and so on. Nearly every woman I speak to says ‘I wish I’d done this sooner, I feel amazing’.
So why don’t we do it sooner? Again I think it’s because we hit the ground running in the new role of mother, we are programmed to feel like we have to come last and that we just have to get our head down and get through those first few weeks. But those first few weeks should be blissful, we should feel like goddesses and after pushing a baby out we should be bloody well spoilt rotten!
Whilst training I had the pleasure of working with lots of different midwives – and one of my favourites, a very old fashioned south American midwife used to say to her ladies ‘’this is a time for you three to get to know each other , I want you in bed for the first week, skin to skin and feeding your baby – everybody else can feed you, you must do nothing else but feed your baby and cuddle each other. On the second week, you may move to the sofa but should still only feed the baby and cuddle each other, and maybe watch some TV– any visitors do not get in without food – and all must do a household chore before they leave. By the third week – you can do as you please!’’.
I loved this idea – that both parents and baby were put to bed for a week and that relatives and guests were to come and feed and water them while they nurtured the baby! Let’s face it, most of us are rubbish at giving ourselves permission to rest. So being ordered to like this felt really nurturing and in keeping with the honouring of the postpartum period.
Obviously I’m a big fan of massage – apart from it literally being my job, I’m actually a bit of a massage junkie. I’ve even taught the kids how to give a killer foot massage, and can often be found begging them for a foot rub!
Often we mistake massage therapy, for the sort of strokey massage we get at day spas – relaxing, but not that effective. A good massage from a properly trained therapist is way more than that. We are trained to look at the structure of your body, to look at where things might be misaligned and to work at bringing the body back to where it needs to be. In the post-natal period massage can be so so beneficial.
Labour is essentially a process of muscle contraction and release, often over many many hours. A post-natal massage will release this muscle memory, enabling muscles to relax into a resting state.
Massage stimulates the lymphatic system, encouraging the body to clear out waste products and toxins. It’s a great way to break down and clear out epi’s.
Massage stimulates the production of prolactin, the hormone that brings in the milk.
Rest and restore
Massage give mums a much needed rest and ‘me’ time after birth. It produces lots and lots of endorphins, which are our happy hormones and it helps us feel good! Really good!
Massage increases the body’s circulation and encourages healing and cell regeneration. Very good for episiotomies and C-section scars.
Post-natal massage can be done with baby latched and feeding, snuggled up next to mum or on a mat in the room near mum. If you have someone who can come and hold baby when they don’t need feeding even better, but if not – we’ll work around the baby, and they can stay as close to mum as they need to.
’During my pregnancy with the twins I saw Beccy regularly from 10 weeks right up until I gave birth. Beccy’s massages where the only thing that got me through each week, her warm welcoming manner meant I felt I got to off load all my pregnancy woes as she got to work on my tired achy body. Her knowledge and expertise also meant I felt 100% confident in discussing my pregnancy related issues and she would advise accordingly. I truly believe having gone through 2 previous pregnancies before my twin pregnancy, that my pelvis and back felt considerably less sore and painful due to her massages. People like Beccy are a rare breed I just wish she still lived around the corner so I could lie on her heated bed more often!’Clemmie Hooper