Fertility Massage – Ancient Tools Creating a Healthy Future

By  Guest Blogger, Shalon Da~Nai LMT
Like all massage, fertility massage was practiced by ancient civilizations. Before the advent of surgical intervention and hormonal therapies, healers were helping women conceive naturally. Rooted in the culture, was an understanding of the body and what it needs to function with ease. They used all of what nature provided e.g., physical touch, movement, plant medicine, energy and intention or prayer. For example, the Practice of belly dancing was designed to strengthen the core, open the hips and stimulate blood flow so that women could become pregnant easily and have healthy pregnancies and births.
Massage therapists, like myself, are continuing these powerful methods of hands on healing that our ancestors pioneered. These tools are even more valuable in our fast paced, modern world. Stress can impede the natural function of the body in many ways, especially when it comes to the delicate balance of hormones required to create a baby. Not only is there more mental stress, but also more physical stress, as we are exposed to more toxins in our environment.
The goal of Fertility massage is to help create the ideal conditions in which conception can occur. Bringing the body into balance allows it to work more efficiently. A combination of modalities are used to treat the client wholly, physically as well as emotionally and energetically. During the massage, reflexology points correlating to the endocrine glands are stimulated to help regulate hormones. Acupressure points are activated to open the flow of Chi through the body, allowing the energy to nourish all organ systems. Abdominal massage treats both the digestive and reproductive organs. Circulating blood into the soft tissue helps eliminate toxins and support cellular health with oxygen. Massage of the colon cleanses it of stuck waste, which will ease pressure in the abdomen and aid in the absorption of nutrients. Massage of the ovaries and fallopian tubes works to break down excess tissue from endometriosis, cysts and fibroids, and helps to remove mucus that can block the tubes. This makes for easy passage of the egg during ovulation. Massage also breaks down scar tissue caused by infections or surgical procedures. Misalignment of the uterus can be corrected with this gentle massage technique. Aside from enhancing fertility, this therapy can also improve cramping or clotting during menstruation, ease symptoms of PMS and regulate a woman’s cycle.
Science has advanced our understanding of the body beyond that of our ancestors. Medical doctors can diagnose imbalances that contribute to infertility. They have various procedures to help couples conceive, such as hormones, surgery, artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization and more. Many couples choose natural methods focusing on diet, exercise, yoga, herbal medicine, chiropractic, acupuncture and massage. Fertility massage enhances the success of both natural and medicinal approaches to regaining fertility. By creating a healthy environment for a baby to grow the chances of a full term pregnancy and healthy baby are increased.
Wanting to have a family is only natural. Unfortunately for some, it can be a long and stressful journey. Stress is one of the main things to avoid when trying to become pregnant. Massage gives us the opportunity to slow down, breathe, and get in touch with our bodies. It lowers the stress hormone cortisol and releases the love hormone oxytocin. Not only is it creating a better state of health for you and your future baby, but it feels good and makes you happy.
When it comes to fertility massage you must be an active participant in this process. This therapy does not end when you get off of the massage table. You will take with you, tools to continue healing yourself. With regular massage, women will find them selves feeling better and in most cases, achieving their dreams of motherhood.

Shalon Da~Nai, LMT offers massage therapy to Men, Women and Children. She is certified in Prenatal/ Postpartum massage. Her services can assist with pain, stress and infertility using various modalities. She also offers classes for families to learn hands on Labor support techniques and Infant Massage.
Shalon can be reached by phone at (603) 303-6968. Appointments can be booked online at ShalonLMT.com.
Shalon is available for massage at Healing Hands Chiropractic Family Wellness Center, 156 Harvey Rd. #2 Londonderry, NH 03053

Healing Hands Chiropractic Family Wellness Center is a full-service holistic family wellness center offering chiropractic care, massage therapy, acupuncture, nutrition, reiki, yoga & meditation, childbirth education, La Leche League breastfeeding support, RESOLVE fertility peer support groups. All of our practitioners specialize in fertility, prenatal, postpartum, pediatric and family wellness care.

Massage During & After Pregnancy

by Shalon Da~Nai Spaulding, LMT
Massage Therapy is beneficial to everyone, especially the expectant mother.  Pregnancy is a time of great change for a woman.  From the continuous changes in her body to the overall transition as she journeys toward motherhood, there is much to process.  It is a time of great joy and excitement, but with that can also come physical discomfort and mental or emotional stress.

Prenatal massage
is customized to alleviate the physical discomforts of pregnancy and prepare the body for birth. During pregnancy the center of gravity shifts as the baby grows.  This causes changes in posture, starting at the pelvis and affecting  the neck and shoulders.  Muscular tension and inflammation are common side affects of this shift.  The body produces the hormone relaxin to help joint mobility.  Relaxin causes all ligaments in the body to soften, stretch and weaken.  As a result, women may develop carpal tunnel syndrome, pelvic pain, and/or other joint pains.

Pregnancy affects nearly all systems of the body. Sinus congestion and constipation are often an issue. Breathing and digestion are affected as the baby grows, compressing and displacing organs within the mother’s body.  Skeletal position also changes. As the baby grows, it lifts and widens the rib cage up to 3 inches.  The pelvis also widens to prepare for birth.  All of these changes may affect each mother uniquely, and massage can help ease the ensuing discomforts.

Stress during pregnancy is common, as it is a major life change.  Many practitioners believe that everything the mother feels, the baby also feels.  Stress affects hormone levels within both mother and child, and this can affect fetal development.  The best thing an expectant mom can do for her baby is to stay relaxed and promote feelings of love and well being within herself.
Studies have shown that women who received pregnancy massage not only experienced lower levels of stress hormones and fewer common discomforts, but also had fewer complications during labor and fewer premature births than those who did not receive massage.*
*Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, 20, 31-38

Benefits of Prenatal Massage:
~Reduces stress levels
~Eases back and pelvic pain caused by changes in posture
~Reduces swelling of feet and ankles
~Improves skin elasticity, reducing stretch marks
~Improves sleep
~Improves digestion

~Reduces sinus congestion
~Relaxes and soothes baby

The effects of pregnancy do not end after the baby has been delivered.  The body takes time to shift back to its original alignment.  Trigger points that developed may still cause pain, stiffness and weakness in the muscles.  The body continues to create the hormone relaxin for up 4 months postpartum, and this perpetuates the excessive flexibility and weakness in joints. It can be hard for a new mother to focus on anything but her new child, but it is important to realize that time spent caring for herself enables her to care for her baby in the best way possible.

Benefits of Postpartum Massage:
~Brings the body back to pre-pregnancy alignment
~Helps with tension and muscle pain of the neck, shoulders & low back
~Aids in returning the uterus to normal size
~Soothes digestive trouble
~Energizes and helps to eliminate fatigue
~Balances hormones & sleep cycle
~Decreases stress and the effects of depression

Shalon Da~Nai Spaulding is a NH Licensed Massage Therapist.  She is Certified in Pregnancy Massage and Postpartum Massage.  Shalon also offers labor support techniques and Infant Massage classes.

All practitioners at Healing Hands Chiropractic specialize in prenatal and postpartum care, including chiropractic, acupuncture, reiki, and yoga. We also offer workshops in pregnancy, childbirth, and wellness.

Labor Pain: What EVERY Pregnant Woman Needs to Know

by Jenny Everett King, childbirth educator and prenatal yoga teacher

Because we promote natural childbirth at Healing Hands, some people assume that our practitioners are opposed to epidurals and other pharmacological methods of labor pain relief. This is absolutely not the case. Rather, what concerns us is the idea so prevalent in today’s culture that women need medication for labor pain. We encourage natural pain relief methods because we want every pregnant woman who walks through our doors to know that non-medicated birth is a viable option.

Some mothers who plan to use medication for pain relief do little else to prepare for the discomforts of labor. But women who plan on epidurals for labor and delivery still need other coping techniques. If you go into labor at home, you will still need to cope with contractions during the car ride to the hospital as well as the admission process. Even at the hospital, the window of opportunity for receiving an epidural can be relatively small – typically between four and eight centimeters cervical dilation. Request it before 4cm, and you’ll have to wait until your labor has progressed. Request it at 8cm or more – for most women, this is the most intense part of labor – and you’ll likely be denied because the “pushing” stage is imminent. It’s also a good idea to let an epidural wear off somewhat before pushing begins, so that you can feel your contractions enough to work with them. That means that you’ll probably have some discomfort during the second stage of labor. Additionally, epidurals do not always provide total pain relief. Planning in a scheduled cesarean? In the absence of medical need, it’s unlikely that one will be performed before 39 weeks gestation. But full-term labor can happen as early as 37 or 38 weeks. Every pregnant woman, therefore, needs to prepare herself to deal with labor contractions.

Our childbirth workshops teach several ways to cope with and minimize labor pain, including relaxation techniques, the best positions for labor, massage, counter-pressure, acupressure, and vocalization. We also discuss epidurals at length, so that parents who are interested in them can make an informed decision and know when pain medication may be the right choice.

The other services we offer at Healing Hands, particularly pregnancy chiropractic, acupuncture, and prenatal yoga, are extremely useful for minimizing labor pain, because receiving these treatments during pregnancy can help your baby get into the best position for birth. The worst discomforts women feel during labor are usually due to the baby being in a less-than-optimal position. (The horror stories told to vulnerable pregnant women about “back labor” are really stories of a baby facing backwards for birth!)

Our practitioners welcome your questions about handling labor pain and optimal fetal positioning. For more on coping techniques in labor, please join us for “Love Your Birth” on January 26th or April 20th.

MORNING SICKNESS, ACUPUNCTURE AND HERBAL MEDICINE

By Christina Wolf, LaC

Congratulations on your pregnancy!  What’s that?  You’re too nauseated to celebrate?  Unfortunately, this is the reality for many women in their first trimester (and sometimes in the second and third as well).  Nausea, dry heaves, vomiting and heartburn can all eclipse the joy of knowing you’ll soon be a mother.  Luckily, there are tried and true ways to combat “morning sickness” (in quotes here because it isn’t just confined to the morning):

  • Try to eat frequent, small meals.  For some women, keeping their stomachs full will considerably reduce nausea, even though it seems counterintuitive to eat while you’re feeling queasy.
  • Ginger is a wonderful, readily-available herbal remedy that’s been prescribed for thousands of years by Chinese physicians.  Put a raw slice of ginger under your tongue, chew on a piece of crystallized ginger, drink ginger tea or take ginger capsules frequently throughout the day.
  • Trust your cravings!  Avoid the foods/smells that seem to make your stomach lurch and eat the foods you are craving, sometimes those foods will stave off nausea for a few hours.
  • Acupuncture can be very helpful for reducing the nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy.  Pericardium 6, an acupuncture point located about two inches above your wrist crease, on the inside of your forearm, between the two big tendons there is well known for treating any kind of nausea and vomiting.  Some pharmacies sell wrist bands that apply pressure to this point and can be worn all day long.

Still sick after following these suggestions?  Get some help!  Your acupuncturist has other Chinese herbal remedies that may help you, the ND can offer homeopathy and other supplements, your chiropractor can make any necessary adjustments, etc.  Of course if you are seriously ill and cannot keep even water down, you may become dehydrated, so it’s important to seek medical treatment as soon as possible.

Remember that this too will pass and the rewards of parenthood will far outweigh the discomforts of pregnancy.  Hang in there mamas-to-be!

To make an appointment for acupuncture with Christina Wolf, Lic Ac, click here.

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Birth Your Way

“What do you think of your body?”

It’s a question that elementary school children have been asked recently, in hopes of shedding light on the body image crisis. But it’s also a question that every woman of childbearing age should ask herself – and most do, albeit unconsciously.

Medical anthropologist Robbie Davis-Floyd writes that a woman’s choices regarding her birth often reveal her deepest beliefs about the abilities of her body, and by extension, her beliefs about nature and technology. A woman who believes that nature has made her body powerful and capable will choose a birth with minimal interventions – a labor that begins spontaneously and is allowed to progress without interference. A woman who believes that technology is superior to nature and that medical knowledge is superior to natural (and often unpredictable) body processes will choose a more “controlled” birth, where the labor process is carefully monitored and perhaps managed by outside influences. Even if the type of birth is not consciously chosen in advance – in fact, it rarely is – these same belief systems are often evident in a mother’s choice of care provider (midwife or OB/GYN) as well as the location for her baby’s birth (home, birth center, or hospital).

Of course, many women begin pregnancy unsure of what they believe regarding medical technology and its relationship to nature. The attitude of today’s average expectant mother could be summed up like this: She wants to believe that a natural, low-intervention birth is safe, realistic, and worthwhile. But by the middle of her pregnancy, she has heard, read, and viewed so many birth horror stories, she is no longer confident in her body’s ability to birth without the “safeguards” of modern medicine. She likely still hopes for a normal birth, but has taken on more of a “wait and see” approach to her birth plan.

Several studies indicate that a mother’s level of satisfaction with her baby’s birth is only loosely related to the choices that were made, but very closely related to the mother knowing she played an active role in making those decisions. A mother who feels pressured to submit to an intervention she would prefer to avoid (or even a mother who feels she was denied an intervention she wanted) is often left feeling very dissatisfied with her birth experience.

Regardless of the decisions she makes, every mother deserves to give birth with confidence in her choices. Just as the physical work of pregnancy reaches its climax with labor and birth, much of the intellectual and emotional work of pregnancy is to be informed and stay confident. Pregnancy and childbirth classes are an excellent way to get information. The face-to-face interaction with childbirth professionals as well as with other parents gives both the mother and her birth partner the chance to ask questions and explore their beliefs about a natural pregnancy and birth. Most importantly, birth classes encourage dialogue between the mother and her birth partner. (This is often a more effective source of communication than handing your husband or boyfriend a copy of the latest pregnancy book and then wondering if he’ll actually read it.)

Prenatal yoga classes offer pregnant women another opportunity to increase confidence in their birth choices, no matter what they are. Yoga’s emphasis on “tuning in” to the self helps a woman build confidence in her intuition. Pregnancy hormone jokes aside, Woman’s Intuition is not cutesy sitcom fodder but in fact a powerful and valuable player during pregnancy and birth. For many women of childbearing age, the value of intuition has gone the way of body confidence: we lost it in early adolescence. Pregnancy is an opportunity to reconnect with both.

Not sure what you want for your birth? Be honest with yourself. Do research. But most importantly, practice tuning in to your deepest thoughts and feelings. With time, you will begin to discover the choices that are best for you and your baby.

Healing Hands Chiropractic offers a number of prenatal care services to help you have the healthiest pregnancy and birth. In addition to pregnancy and childbirth workshops, we offer prenatal yoga, prenatal chiropractic care (including the Webster Technique), prenatal massage, reiki, and acupuncture.

Dominoes

An acquaintance shared her birth story with me. We’ll call her Shelley. Her child was born at a local hospital less than four years ago. Here’s a summary of the birth of Shelley’s first child:

Shelley’s water broke (also called “ruptured membranes”) a few days after her due date. As instructed during the last weeks of her pregnancy, she called the hospital, and was asked to come in for an evaluation. After a quick test, it was determined that her water had indeed broken, and she was admitted to the labor and delivery floor. Shelley was then asked to get in bed so that staff could check on her baby’s heart rate with an electronic monitor.

She stayed in bed for 13 hours.

Over the course of that long night, not much changed for Shelley or her baby, except that she got pretty darn sick of sitting in bed. When morning came, the birth of her baby did not appear to be any closer than it had been the night before. He doctor decided to administer Pitocin, a synthetic hormone used to cause or strengthen labor contractions. For the next 11 hours, Shelley sat in bed experiencing strong labor contractions with no pain relief. (Because her cervix had not dilated to at least 4 centimeters, she was not eligible for an epidural.)

After a full day of Pitocin-induced contractions, Shelley was exhausted, frustrated, and dilated to only 3 centimeters. By this time her water had been broken for over 24 hours, which many practitioners believe increases the chances of infection. Since Pitocin had not helped her labor to progress, her doctor diagnosed her with labor dystocia (also called “failure to progress”) and recommended a cesarean section. Shelley gave birth to her baby via cesarean a few hours later.

Shelley was left very disappointed with her birth experience. She had wanted a vaginal birth and couldn’t understand why her body had not cooperated. She was left to recover from major abdominal surgery while learning to care for a newborn.

Shelley’s story is a classic example of a concept childbirth educators call the “Domino Theory of Interventions.” Like dominoes falling, one medical intervention leads to another, and that one to another, and so on, often resulting in a disappointing birth experience overall.

Could Shelley’s cesarean birth and subsequent difficult recovery have been prevented? I believe so.

There is a specific reason Shelley’s labor did not progress: Her baby never “dropped,” which means his body never moved down far enough for the top of his head to press on her cervix. Especially in first pregnancies, without pressure from the baby’s head, a mother’s cervix can dilate the first few centimeters, but usually no further.  Mother and baby truly work together to make labor happen.

Why didn’t Shelley’s baby drop? The likely reason is that she was stuck in bed. Her body was not allowed to opportunity to work with gravity and move her baby deeper into her pelvis.  The most frustrating part of this story is that, according to Shelley, there was no medical reason for her to stay in bed for those 13 hours. She simply wasn’t offered other options. Once the Pitocin was administered, staying in bed was necessary, since Pitocin augmentation requires continuous monitoring of fetal heart tones.  (This is because Pitocin contractions can be more stressful on the baby than naturally-occurring contractions are.) As we know already, Shelley’s baby hadn’t had a chance to drop, so the 11 hours of painful and exhausting Pitocin contractions were relatively futile.  For Shelley, confinement to bed interfered with both her own body’s and her baby’s natural impulses, which resulted in Pitocin administration, which necessitated staying in bed and further stole the opportunity for Shelley to work with her contractions. In all likelihood, it was medical intervention that created the need for a cesarean.

So what to do if you find yourself in a situation like Shelley’s? If you give birth in a hospital, starting your labor in bed is highly probable, since most hospitals require 15 minutes of fetal monitoring upon admission. If this is your hospital’s policy, you still have options. You can sit upright in bed for 15 minutes, then get up and move around. Another option – one that works especially well if your situation requires continuous monitoring throughout labor, instead of just 15 minutes – is to labor near the machine but not in bed. You can stand or walk near the machine, or sit in a rocking chair or (my personal favorite) on a birth ball directly next to it. As long as the monitor stays in place on your abdomen, and you don’t move further than the wires can reach, there is no good medical reason for staying in bed.

Our weekly prenatal yoga classes incorporate many poses that can encourage your baby to “drop” and engage in your pelvis at the final weeks of pregnancy. The majority of the poses we practice are equally helpful during labor, and some can even be used for birth.  Any expectant mother who wants to learn more about helping to create the birth she wants for her baby is invited to join an upcoming prenatal yoga class or childbirth class series.

Healing Hands Chiropractic is a family wellness center located in Londonderry, NH. Also offered at Healing Hands: Prenatal and Family Chiropractic, Acupuncture, Pregnancy Massage and Reiki Therapy.