Shiatsu and Maternity Care
Shiatsu is a specific form of healing touch, which offers us a way of supporting our body at all times of our life. It is a complete health care system which works with the body’s own resources, supporting and strengthening the body’s natural ability to heal and balance itself. It works holistically, hugging the physical body but also the psychological, emotional and energetic being dimensions. Shiatsu originated in Japan from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), with influences from more recent western therapies. Although shiatsu means “finger pressure” in Japanese, in practice will be used touch, comfortable pressure and manipulative techniques to adjust the body’s physical structure, calm the overactive autonomic nervous system and balance the body's energy flow. It is a deeply relaxing experience and regular treatments can alleviate stress and illness and maintain health and well-being.
Why Shiatsu for Maternity Care?
With Shiatsu you can support your body in all stages of the wonderful journey of becoming a mother and growing up a baby. Ideally from pre-conception, strengthening your ability to begin this voyage, dealing with infertility issues and giving you the time and space to connect more deeply with yourself, your partner and the process of being pregnant. During your pregnancy, helping you to become aware of your body, supporting the physical and emotional changes of pregnancy, strengthening mother and baby bonding. Helping in many of the physical conditions that arise during pregnancy, such as, for example, backache, shoulders and neck conditions, sciatica, morning sickness, heartburn, swelling, constipation, restless leg, cramps etc, while also support the emotional changes that occur during pregnancy, such as anxiety, depression, disconnection from the baby etc. Having already pre-labour support during pregnancy, prepares for the actual labour support, encouraging the letting go of body tension, promoting the natural flow of labour, providing an effective pain relief in first and second stage of labour, dealing with the fear of the unknown or unprocessed emotions that can block the labour process and helping both baby and mother to calm, reducing fetal distress. Postnatally, can help the body to recover from the labour stress and recharge, promote the connection with the baby, supporting the establishment of breastfeeding, preventing or treating emotional issues that might occur, such as postnatal depression. During all stages, the father or partnercan have also benefits, beginning from support of the organism in the pre-conception stage, getting help in case of fertility issues but later also by promoting the bonding both with baby and mother and helping with the emotional changes that occur in family. Baby get also benefits in every stage. With the condition of the parents supported before pregnancy so that the beginning will be the best possible, better physical and emotional health of mother during pregnancy, stronger bonding between baby and parents, help to get the optimal fetal position with natural means and less distress in labour, support in physical and emotional development and natural support for many childhood diseases postnatally. Both parents can be shown also how to use basic shiatsu with their baby, helping to maintain a close relationship with their baby.
The role of the maternity care shiatsu practitioner is to support the mother in the unfolding emotional and physical journey upon which she has embarked – whether joyful and easy or challenging.
Is shiatsu safe in pregnancy?
Since shiatsu is simply working to support your body, it can not be harmful. Of course, the practitioner must understand the changes of pregnancy as the treatment may need to be modified.
Is it safe to receive shiatsu during the first trimester?
People usually ask this because they are worried that shiatsu may increase the risk of miscarriage. This is not a justified fear. In contrary, receiving shiatsu may help your body to connect more with the changes that are happening at this time and support the new life. Women usually do really hard and stressful activities during pregnancy, so having a supportive hour, can only be of benefit. The most important thing is to feel comfortable with the practitioner. Especially during the first trimester, but not only, some women don’t like to be touched, so the practitioner can use some more light and energetic techniques, if necessary.
Is shiatsu compatible with the medical care I have from my midwife or obstetrician?
Shiatsu offers complementary support to your primary care from your midwifery or obstetrician. It simply support your own body abilities, so there is no incompatibility between shiatsu and your conventional medical care. Actually, shiatsu can offer you what conventional medical care usually can't: deep relaxation, more space to discuss particular issues and continuity of care.
What might a session include?
A shiatsu session for maternity care usually take place in about an hour totally, including discussion and relaxation. In some occasions might need to extend to one and a half hour. Besides the hands on work of shiatsu, you may also be offered:
Breathing and relaxation techniques, supporting your relaxation and tune into your body, baby and feelings.
Exercises explanations, to support the physical changes of pregnancy and for birth preparation.
Encouragement of postural awareness, so that the physical changes can be better integrated.
The partner and other children can be involved in learning some simple techniques to support you in daily basis, encouraging couple and family communication and facilitating prenatal bonding with the baby.
Are there times when I shouldn’t have shiatsu during my pregnancy?
The only times that you shouldn’t have shiatsu is when you need emergency medical treatment. The kind of situations would include: eclampsia, vaginal bleeding, severe abdominal pain, severe vomiting. You probably would not decide to have a shiatsu in these situations, but sometimes they develop quickly, so you will be referred by the practitioner to seek medical treatment. Once the acute phase is over and you are receiving appropriate medical treatment, shiatsu can be part of the recovery process.
I’ve heard there are some points that therapists need to avoid because they could make me go into premature labour. Is that true?
No, this is not true. This is based on a myth that the points which can support labour can cause it to happen too early. This is not possible because shiatsu can only work with supporting the body to do what it needs to do. If the woman is not ready to go into labour, then she will not. In any case, the points which support labour are very powerful points with a lot of indications, so the practitioner will be extra sensitive to how to work these points.
I have receive shiatsu before, is it different during pregnancy?
Yes, to some extent because your body is different, so the type of bodywork will also be different. The main difference is that you will need to be in different positions. Which positions are most comfortable for you vary, so the therapist will be able to offer various choices and be prepared to adapt to you if you are not comfortable.
I have swelling and varicose veins, can shiatsu help?
Probably yes, because can be done work to support the flow of increased blood and fluids. However if the swelling is related to pre-eclampsia, it's another case and will have different kind of support.
I am experiencing nausea and vomiting, can shiatsu help?
In most cases, yes. Morning sickness do respond well to shiatsu. However in more extreme cases, you may need to be in hospital for a short period. Even in that case, you can continue receiving support during your hospitalization.
I have back ache, can shiatsu help?
Quite probably yes. If you are experiencing lower back ache in early pregnancy, you probably need more nurturing and energy supporting techniques while if it is in late pregnancy, it is probably due to your posture and the position of your baby, so it might be included some work in a forward leaning position such as leaning over a ball or sitting on the ball leaning on the table.
I have PGP (Pelvic girdle pain) orpelvic instability, can I have shiatsu?
The maternity work trained therapist is aware of the implications of PGP and will adapt the work accordingly. You will be positioned appropriately, will be work with special techniques and you might be advised on relevant life style concerns. Bodywork has been shown to be helpful in such cases.