Recently, a bodyworker who specializes in working with pregnant women pointed me in the direction of a largely unexplored topic: the relationship between pregnancy and autoimmune diseases. How does one affect the other, and how can we and our clients make the best possible choices in this context?
In preparation for the many changes ahead of her, the one thing a pregnant woman needs most — even more than pickles and ice cream — is nurturing, especially in the form of bodywork.
Massage therapists have long catered to the pregnant client, helping her relax, renew, and even physically prepare for the strenuous birth date. Now spas are picking up the pregnancy pace as this unique client is walking through their doors seeking respite more than ever before.
Q. I’m a relative newcomer to the world of massage, and I love it. I just found out I’m pregnant. Can I still have massages?
Even with today’s medical advances in childbirth, one simple truth remains — a woman must eventually do most of the work herself. Understanding how to best utilize a woman’s inner strength and harnessing her body’s wisdom can make the process that much easier and healthier for both mother and child.
Get Out of the Way
The use of complementary therapies is one of the best ways to harness that wisdom and strength, giving a woman in labor the tools to control her fear surrounding childbirth in an instinctive and natural way.
“It’s a tragedy what has happened here in the United States.” So says Sandy Ventura Gordon, director and president of Bodyworkers Association for the Birthing Year, Inc. (B.A.B.Y.). In a recent interview, Gordon spoke of the 20th century trend toward the medicalization of childbirth, and the consequent relinquishment of women’s power in the process. “Delivery has been turned into a medical situation and instills in a woman not to trust herself. She thinks her body can’t do it right. Women who trusted in their bodies and their ability to give birth now fear birth.
Author’s note: With greater societal acceptance of complementary therapies, many more doors have opened for massage therapists. I went through one of those doors when I became a certified infant massage instructor in the Perinatal and Neonatal Units at St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., where I have practiced since 1992. This is my story.
Childbirth, although a perfectly natural physiological process, can be very painful and physically traumatic for the mother. New and improved alternative approaches to labor pain have afforded many women some relief during that part of the process, but there remains a major problematic area – lacerations in the perineum area (between the vagina and rectum), with resultant postpartum pain and possible permanent damage.
Shiatsu may sound exotic, but it has a long tradition in Western massage. Indeed one of the first books that influenced the growth of the modern massage movement in 19th century Europe was the translation of an ancient Chinese massage text, The Cong Fu of Tao-Tse. Shiatsu evolved over thousands of years, influenced by massage in China.
Pregnancy is a beautiful and natural condition — nine transformative months full of excitement, planning and peering at the awesome unfolding of life. But this transformation also brings inevitable side effects, sometimes making a woman feel like her body has been taken over by an alien force. In the early months, there are mood swings from ecstasy to unpredictable crying; in later months, there are aches and pains more common to the domain of the elderly.