My role as a Holistic Pregnancy Therapist
A client of mine waddled into her first appointment holding her tummy, she was 28 weeks pregnant, suffering with pain and discomfort in her symphasis pubis. Her spirit was low and as a result she was not enjoying her pregnancy. Despite putting on a brave face I could tell she was really fed up and unsure how she could possibly make it to the birth.
After receiving regular massage she strolled in through my door at 38 weeks with ease and confidence, she was beaming, enjoying being pregnant and was even looking forward to the birth.
When I visited her for a postnatal treatment she said “You treat me with such care”. Her story of her experiences led me on to thinking about my role as a holistic pregnancy therapist, what it involves and how it fits alongside medical services.
Many couples do not seek help during this time unless they have been ‘trying’ to conceive for a while and are concerned that something could be wrong. It is generally advised that couples should be having regular intercourse for a least a year before seeing their GP if under the age of 36. A year can seem like an awfully long time when the decision to have a baby has been made.
The GP may authorise preliminary blood tests to look at hormone function to see amongst other things whether ovulation is taking place. Hormone levels can also point to reproductive system disorders such as premature ovarian failure, endometriosis and PCOS etc. The GP may also screen for underlying infections and the male partner may also be offered a sperm test to determine count, motility, morphology etc.
My principle aim as a fertility reflexologist is to help couples to create healthy babies naturally. I do this through the preconception care programme which should be started three months before attempting to conceive as it takes around this time for the sperm to fully develop and the egg to mature.
Fertility reflexology provides guidance on how to assess your own fertility and brings awareness of the female cycle and the bodily changes that happen during the fertile time. I encourage temperature charting as this can reveal hormonal imbalances and prove whether ovulation is occurring. I also provide basic advice on lifestyle and diet. This can all help to empower my clients, making them feel proactive and helps them take control.
The reflexology sessions work alongside the different stages of the cycle and the treatments pay particular attention to the endocrine and reproductive systems ensuring that they are working optimally.
As holistic therapist I provide a supportive space where we can explore individual approaches that may lead to a successful pregnancy. If underlying issues are detected I may send clients back to their GP armed with information about their cycle and any potential issues / conditions that may need investigating.
The sessions also provide an opportunity for women to tell their story, reflect on themselves, their health and their situation. For many clients the feedback has been that they start to feel positive as they are ‘doing’ something, taking some control rather than just waiting for tests / results.
If a client is undergoing fertility treatment such as IUI / IVF / ICSI, fertility reflexology can provide a wonderful balance to the more clinical approach of fertility clinics, offering a positive and supportive environment which aims to help reduce stress and anxiety that may be experienced when undergoing further investigations or treatments. I use specific reflexology treatment protocols and techniques aimed at enhancing the efficacy of the drugs used during the different stages of the treatment process and this can provide great reassurance that all is being done to support the body’s systems.
It is now uncommon for a pregnant lady to be designated a midwife and see her at each of her antenatal appointments. This demonstrates the importance of a holistic pregnancy worker to some women who require additional and personalised support during this time.
The pregnant lady will have to wait over eight weeks to meet her midwife. The first few months are when significant hormonal shifts cause physical changes within the body and the foetus is fuelled by the mother and supported by her hormonal system. It can be a time of great drawn out anxiety as she waits for her first scan. Contrary to popular belief, as qualified pregnancy professionals we are able to offer reflexology and massage to pregnant woman during this time (the first trimester) and in my opinion it is a time when women really could benefit from the support as they may be feeling quite unwell and / or emotional.
Following the initial antenatal appointment the first time, uncomplicated pregnant lady will only receive nine short appointments until her 41st week of pregnancy (excluding scans), woman who have already had a baby receive even less appointments. In a short appointment the midwife has to conduct her tests, listen to the baby and discuss pregnancy related issues. For a concerned mum that isn’t a lot of time to air her thoughts, feelings and physical discomforts. When I go through my consultations they usually take a while as it is probably the first time that pregnancy issues, conditions or concerns are discussed and properly listened to. I often ask ‘have you mentioned that to your midwife?’ and my clients say ‘yes but the midwife said it’s just pregnancy’.
If a client is suffering from a particular issue whether its changes in mood or something more physical like SPD I explore what is going on and work out ways to help and relieve the issue through the use of massage or reflexology and offer practical advice on exercise or lifestyle changes. We look at the broader picture – it is easy to see how a pregnant lady who is suffering pain and discomfort during her pregnancy may be desperate to deliver the baby early, she may have issues bonding or may go into labour with a very negative mind set. We may also consider how this could manifest in the birth itself and the subsequent postnatal period.
If a client see’s the importance in incorporating pregnancy massage / reflexology into their lifestyle we may very well see them much more than their midwife, because of this we are able to track the progress and health of the pregnancy and we have time to work through any anxieties and unresolved issues that the client may have.
I am often contacted by clients around their 39th week wanting a treatment to induce labour ‘naturally’ because they are too frightened to go ‘overdue’ and be medically induced. This is quite frustrating as they have failed to see the importance in receiving regular reflexology treatments throughout pregnancy with many clients claiming that they had wished they had received treatments earlier. From our holistic point of view the baby will come when both the body and baby are ready and often the client also understands this but they have been frightened by the thought of being induced and the road this could lead them down – the term ‘cascade of medical intervention’ is often used and is can be very frightening.
We need to reassure our clients that 40 + weeks does not necessary mean overdue, that due dates are arbitrary and are not observed by baby or the body. When appropriate, it is possible to work the acupressure points after 40 weeks to help move things along but more importantly I can help women prepare for labour by simply listening to fears or concerns about birth. Using relaxation and hormone balancing techniques I also aim to reduce stress which in turn can remove blockages to those wonderful birthing hormones, and create feelings of release, flow and a sense of letting go, supporting the body naturally.
In a birthing situation it is possible to continue to support woman in this way.
The postnatal treatment is the often the one most neglected as mother’s focus is on her newborn baby. However, woman at this time often need support as they can neglect themselves. The health visiting team are primarily focussed on baby and ensuring that its needs are being met and positive emotional and physical support for new mums can be lacking.
The role of massage and reflexology can be extremely beneficial to the postnatal woman as it provides an opportunity for the birth story to be told and worked through. Physically it can rebalance hormones, soothe aching muscles and ease the transition from the pregnant to the non-pregnant body. It can also help bring attention and focus back to the new mother, her body and her wellbeing which is essential when looking after a baby. Needless to say it also provides an opportunity for some time, space and much needed rest.
It wasn’t until hearing the words of my client that I really thought properly about my role and how important it can be to women who are in need of support. Upon reflexion I have come to really appreciate and acknowledge my place working alongside the medical profession who may be too stretched to deal with individuals with any great depth or care. I have come to see that my role as a holistic pregnancy worker is much more than providing reflexology / massage treatments to my ladies, it is about providing support both physically and emotionally to women and offering a space to nurture, encourage and prepare. I like to think I help woman to experience happy, healthy pregnancies, to enjoy and celebrate their bodies and their babies and to feel truly special every step of the way along their journey into motherhood.