Massage can also assist the new mother. Compassionate touch eases the transition into motherhood and the growth of a family. Postpartum massage can:. Compassionate healing touch nurtures and supports the physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual transformations of pregnancy. Numerous modalities of massage and bodywork are adaptable to the childbearing year. Acupressure, shiatsu, reflexology, energy work, Craniosacral Therapy, Swedish massage and Esalen massage are a few of the excellent disciplines in bodywork that can enhance the childbearing journey. Sheila Kitzinger, a social anthropologist of birth, differentiates the types of touch used in childbirth: comforting, therapeutic, blessing, greeting of the newborn , physically supportive, diagnostic, manipulative, restraining and punitive.
This spectrum of touch encompasses the variations of touch from compassionate to invasive. The compassionate elements of touch are the foundation of traditional midwifery care all over the world.
Compassionate touch is overwhelmingly lacking in the medical model of birth, in which doctors and nurses have emphasized diagnostic, manipulative, restraining and punitive touch. Professional midwives, from the lay midwife, certified professional midwife, licensed midwife to the certified nurse-midwife, bridge the spectrum of touch in maternity care.
Some professional midwives offer massage, others offer comforting or therapeutic touch during labor, and yet others offer extremely medicalized care with little compassionate touch. The technocratic model of birth primarily utilizes touch as a diagnostic tool. Instead of the skilled palpation and massage of traditional birth attendants, the medical practitioner diagnoses through vaginal exams, measurements of the fundus, ultrasound, blood pressure checks and fetal heart tone monitors.
The art of palpation and therapeutic touch is minimalized and discredited within the medical system as being subjective and therefore unable to stand up in a court of law against monitor readouts and ultrasound imaging. On the other hand, the data from electronic fetal monitoring and other obstetrical tools can be interpreted in a myriad of ways, thus providing unclear and non-objective information that is disconnected from the actual mother and fetus. Manipulative touch may manifest during the medical model of childbirth in multiple forms.
Manual stretching of the cervix during labor, pulling on the infant via hands, vacuum extractor or forceps , fingers inserted in the rectum to pull the infant down the birth canal, pressure on the fundus and external cephalic versions manual rotations of a breech fetus are all examples of manipulative touch. Manipulative touch may assist in a complicated labor through avoiding surgical intervention, or it may complicate a healthy labor with invasive and unnecessary interventions.
Increasingly, doctors perform cesarean deliveries without attempting manual rotation of the fetus or after causing complications through unnecessary manipulative touch. Restraining touch is still frequently employed in crowded hospitals in North and South America. Nurses and aides may restrict movements by holding back arms, legs and hands. In the decades of twilight sleep in the U. Straight jackets, straps and cuffs were used to immobilize the laboring mother. Restraining touch had transformed into restraining apparatuses. The cruel and inhumane practice of restraining pregnant and laboring women is still in practice in the U.
Furthermore, in the medical model of birth, women are often left to labor alone while the nurse and obstetrician attend multiple laboring women. A professional doula or bodyworker can profoundly affect the birth experience in a technocratic setting by providing touch that is comforting, therapeutic and physically supportive. Today, in North America and Europe, the popularity of the massage therapist as labor support is growing quickly.
The traditional midwife primarily utilizes comforting touch, therapeutic touch, blessing touch, greeting touch and diagnostic touch. She is also able to manipulate in non-invasive and hands-on ways, if necessary. Comforting touch can take place as hand holding, back rubs, a gentle touch on the forehead, hugs or massage. Therapeutic touch can be expressed through various modalities of simple touch and healing bodywork, such as energy work, massage, acupressure and reflexology.
Comforting and therapeutic touch can be interchangeable; the only difference, in certain scenarios, may be intention. Together they form the cornerstone of compassionate care as a birth partner. The greeting touch of midwifery practitioners also differs from that of medical model practitioners in its allegiance to the mother-child relationship. The newborn may be massaged gently to stimulate the respiratory and cardiac systems. Midwives attempt to delay measuring, weighing and examining the infant for as long as possible, so as to allow time for initial bonding.
The infant is treated carefully and gently. The cutting of the umbilical cord may be delayed until it ceases pulsing or left on, as in lotus birth. It welcomes the newborn into the family and community. In hospitals, the bonding process is only partially supported, at best. After cesarean surgery, and frequently during normal births, the newborn is rushed away from the mother to be inspected, measured, weighed and swaddled before the mother can hold her child. Medical practices of greeting the newborn include immediate cutting of the cord, slapping or startling to initiate breath and isolating the child in a nursery where she is deprived of physical human contact and stimulation.
Mechanical touching of the newborn in the medical model of care ritualizes the infant as a product of the institution. Traditional midwives trained in healing touch can diagnose and manipulate without mechanical tools.
The ability to receive and interpret information through touch is profound. Awareness of tension, movements, vibrations and warmth can provide information on the state of health in the body. Through pressure on the fundus, compresses on the perineum, pelvic rocking and external rotation of the fetus, traditional birth attendants are able to perform hands-on manipulations. Physical support may be offered as a lap or shoulder to lean on. Global birth customs have incorporated ropes, scarves, chairs and tree branches for women to hold on to during contractions.
In the hospital, if a woman needs support, she may have a birth partner or be able to use a squatting bar; usually she will be administered pain medication. The midwife does not simply catch the baby, but provides care that aligns with and supports the social and spiritual orientation of the mother. Since the beginning of history, birth has been a spiritual experience for the mother, baby and community. During the witch hunts of the Middle Ages, thousands of women healers and midwives were killed.
Historically, women healers who integrate spirituality and healing have been oppressed for not supporting the patriarchal medical and religious institutions. Maternity care in the twenty-first century has developed an extreme dependency upon technology. Traditional midwifery arts are being cast aside, particularly the core practice of touch. Every woman and labor is unique.
Some women desire constant touch and massage throughout the entire labor, others only during specific stages or times, and other women desire to labor alone without touch.
However, the knowledge that healing touch is available, should they so choose, is a vital assurance and benefit to mothers. The art of massage is an ancient tradition of health care that is compassionate, empowering and holistic. Midwives, doulas and other birth attendants who massage mothers reap the benefits of increased comfort, closeness and communication with their clients.
It is not necessary to be a professional massage therapist to reach out and touch compassionately. Currently she shares her passion for holistic living arts, creates global online educational programs and is a business coach for wellness entrepreneurs. She can be reached at: KaraMariaAnanda. Touch and massage are quintessential elements of hands-on care.
Effects of Massage During the Childbearing Year Intuitively and experientially, women have known that massage and touch are valuable assets during pregnancy and birth. The Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology published a study by Fields in demonstrating that regular massage during pregnancy results in: Decreased anxiety Improved mood Reduced back pain Improved sleep patterns Reduced leg pain Reduced stress hormone levels Fewer complications during labor Fewer complications for infants following birth The musculoskeletal system experiences enormous changes during the childbearing year: weight gain enlargement of the breasts and uterus , muscle stretching abdominal and perineal , muscle compression lower back and pelvic , loosening of ligaments pelvis and uterus and displacement of the center of gravity.
She has been part of the Lamaze International team since She lives and works in the Orlando, FL, area with her husband and three children. Contact Us Login. Welcome To Lamaze. The Lamaze Difference. Early Pregnancy. Signs of Pregnancy. Navigating Prenatal Appointments. Fitness During Pregnancy. Understanding Bed Rest. Forming Your Birth Plan. Pregnancy and Birth Decision Guides.
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