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The PERILS of PREGNANCY and How MASASAGE can HELP!

Congratulations! You are having a baby. Welcoming a new member into your family is exciting and joyous for everyone involved. But the excitement is not without its anxiety, and sometimes even fear of what is to come.

The stages of pregnancy present unique developmental changes for your baby as well as unique physical and emotional changes form you too. Understanding these changes – and where massage fits in – can help you feel supported, nurtured, and empowered as you enjoy a healthy pregnancy.

 

The First Trimester, 0-13 weeks:

Perhaps you have missed your period, or you’ve been tracking your cycle, or undergoing IVF transfers. You may have peed on a stick or had a blood test. And it is confirmed. Two pink lines. hCG. You have a baby on board!

In the first trimester, for 0 to 13 weeks gestation, there will be tremendous changes on your hormones, which can cause headaches, fatigue, and mood swings.  You will experience constipation and frequent urination as the uterus presses on the bladder. Breasts can feel heavy, swollen and tender. Cravings or distaste for certain foods in common, as well as “morning sickness” and nausea. While the first trimester is elevated risk time for miscarriage, there is no evidence to suggest that massage causes miscarriage. However, your pregnancy massage specialist may request medical consent prior to treatment if you have had more than two consecutive miscarriages.

Massage in the First Trimester:

Massage in the first trimester has a focus on relaxation to aid circulation and support physical changes. Care is taken, especially is mum is experiencing nausea. Treatment can be performed either prone (with mum lying face down on her tummy) with appropriate pillow supports, or if preferred mum can lie on her side. It is recommended to receive treatment every four weeks.

Second Trimester, 14 – 26 weeks:

You have made it through the first trimester, morning sickness is resolved and now you can bask in the pregnancy glow, reclining on a banana lounge, mocktail in hand! Hmmm, not quite.

During the second trimester, body aches become more common. Most women experience back, abdomen, groin, or thigh pain due to hormones causing tendons and ligaments to relax.  Postural changes are common as the body tries to accommodate the growing foetus, causing a strain on the lower and upper back. It is also common for the ankles, fingers, and face to swell.

Massage in the Second Trimester:

A specialised pregnancy massage treatment may focus on hip and lower back pain, due to the onset of Relaxin. Hip pain may be the result of postural changes and tight glute muscles. Pelvic instability may be alleviated by massaging the adductor. Massage treatment often includes abdominal massage to support postural changes and bring balance to the body. It is recommended to receive treatment every four weeks.

Third Trimester, 27-40 weeks:

The countdown is on! You are hot and sweaty, exhausted and you can’t seem to get to sleep, and uncomfortable, just incredibly uncomfortable. And you want this baby out!

During the third trimester, you may have difficulty in sleeping, due to comfort levels, foetal movement, or muscle cramps. Breast tenderness may continue as the breasts prepare for milk production. The baby may put extra pressure on your bladder, causing frequent urination. You may experience heartburn as baby your organs rearrange to accommodate the baby, and swelling may occur at your ankles, fingers, and face.

Massage in the Third Trimester:

The focus of massage during the third trimester is comfort. A specialist pregnancy massage helps alleviate stress on strained muscles in the back, hips, and shoulders. Gentle massage over the abdomen can promote connection with mother and baby and enhance relaxation.  By 36 weeks, massage treatments can be scheduled weekly. Massage can also focus on the low back and glutes to provide relief for pelvic, hip and ligament pain.

Fourth Trimester, 0-12 weeks Postpartum:

The fourth trimester is the fist twelve weeks following the birth of your baby. It is a time of immense physical and emotional changes as you adjust to the demands of motherhood and as baby gets used to life in the outside world. Sleep-deprivation and exhaustion are common as personal self-care often goes out the window as you struggle to find balance between looking after yourself and your baby. Your body is still recovering from pregnancy and labour. It can be a challenging time to adjust to this new role.

Massage in the Fourth Trimester:

Massage during the fourth trimester can even enable a quicker recovery from pregnancy and childbirth. It can also improve the health and wellbeing of mum. And we all know that if you look after mum, you look after the whole family. Massage can assist with labour recovery and alleviate physical and mental exhaustion. It can reduce stress, and symptoms of anxiety and depression. Massage may also focus on rebalancing postural changes, provide relief from breastfeeding posture, reducing general pain, and aid the repair of scar tissue from a cesarean birth.

What’s Next?

Massage serves a specific role at each stage of pregnancy and postpartum. It is not surprising then that a relaxed and well-supported mum will experience reduced feelings of anxiety and depression, increased feelings of relaxation and a sense of control when it is time to give birth.

Are you ready to make massage a part of your pregnancy journey? Click here.

Looking at Life Through The Shit Tube

The other morning, I woke up looking at life through the Shit Tube. Allow me to explain…

I woke up, and it was cold “Winter is the worst”
Next up, breakfast “Ugh. Oatmeal again. Why is being healthy boring?”
Then, I attempted to get ready for work while wrangling a toddler. “Why can’t you just sit still so I can get you dressed and ready to go.”
When finally get in the car we are faced with traffic and road works on every street. “Who was the genius that thought doing all these road works at the same time was a great idea?”

When I finally got to work, I was fuming – nay seething with rage. It was 9am and I was in a foul mood.

And that’s when I realized.

I was looking at life through the Shit Tube. I was zoning in on all the mildly inconvenient and annoying things about my day rather than expanding my view and focusing on the positive.

Now this was a concept that was first introduced to me by my amazing business coach Elicia, so I cannot take all the credit for this description of the way we can look at life. It was one of the many business lessons I learned that can transfer to everyday life.

If we are always looking at life through a single lens and focused in on the negative, then everything will seem, well quite frankly – Shit.

If we remove the Shit Tube, and instead look at the world through eyes of Love, then life just might seem a bit different.
Instead of cold morning being the worst, I am grateful for warm clothes to keep me cozy.
Instead of despising oatmeal, I am grateful for nourishing food to fuel my body.
Instead of stressing of getting out the door, I am grateful for a healthy family.
Instead of road raging, I am grateful for the ability to travel.

With eyes of Love, I can see the positive. I can be thankful for the things that I have in my life.

When life gets you down, or feels monotonous or like you’re in a rut or if everything seems Shit, stop looking at life through the Shit Tube and put on your Love Glasses. I promise life will be a lot easier.

Belly Birth – Remy’s Birth Story

I am a proud belly birther.

When I was preparing for my birth, a cesarean was the absolute last thing I wanted to do.

However, as the day of Remy’s birth drew near, and I thought more and more about our options, I decided that if a cesarean was needed then I would go with the flow.

As it turned out, we had a cesarean. I told the doctors as they were getting the paperwork ready for the operation that I wanted it to be called a “surprise cesarean” rather than an emergency cesarean because, there was no emergency or life-threatening factors attached to the cesarean. The simple fact was my waters had broken hours ago and risk of infection was increasing, Remy was stuck, I was at 6cm and we were all exhausted and wanted him here already.

I was wheeled up the theatre, dosed up on drugs and waited for my baby to be born.

I had my favorite artist playing over the stereo, and I tuned into the music as the doctors did their thing.

I heard Remy’s cry and I teared up. He was finally here, and it was over. Nine months of waiting all brought down to a single moment. They bundled him up and handed him to us to hold while I was stitched up.

My baby was in my arms and that is all I needed. How he got here did not matter.

Having a cesarean is not an event it’s a journey. It is major surgery and takes time to recovery, physically and emotionally. There are days where I feel tenderness and pain around the scar. And there are days where I look at myself in the mirror and feel disgusted by my body. And then, there are days where I have freedom of movement and am proud of myself and my strength and my ability to birth my baby.

If you were to look at me nurturing, feeding, playing with, and loving my baby, you would never know the birth journey we had.  You would only see and happy mum and a thriving bub.

Be proud and stand strong, my fellow belly birthers . You are warrior women!

Welcoming Olivia – A Birth Story

Pregnancy Massage Practitioner Clare Houston, shares the story of birthing her second daughter, Olivia.

It is hard for me to believe but darling daughter #2 is turning 5 in two weeks. Olivia is strong-willed and passionate, and I cannot believe she will be in prep next year. With that in mind, I thought I would share Olivia’s birth story. Every birth story is unique, and I hope my story can help some other women who may be experiencing a similar situation.

I was desperate to have this baby to be out and, in the world. The pregnancy itself was good, the only “problem” was that she was tracking big. But with having a toddler who climbed all over me all day, pelvic instability which made moving in bed or even walking very hard, but I had done this once before so I could do it again.  I wanted her out as soon as possible. I was still overdue though when contractions started.

Eventually the hospital set a date to be induced, I was relieved to say the least. I was even starting to show signs of labour, which was great, it meant my body was doing what it was designed to do. This fact even helped me while talking to the insurance company about a recent bingle. While I was talking to them over the phone, I mentioned I was having a contraction and we didn’t pay a cent!

The day before the induction, at about 2am I felt the strongest pains I had felt yet and knew that this was the day. My partner Macgregor helped me to attach the TENS machine at home and we called the hospital. The contractions were about 3 mins apart. They suggested we come in.

We knew from attending our childbirth preparation class that the transition to hospital can slow contractions. Macgregor and I were confident that the contractions would return soon. The midwives set me up in the birth suite and of course, my contractions slowed. Half an hour later the midwives came back in and told me I wasn’t in labour and should go home.

I was livid! I trusted my body and knew the contractions would return.  For one of the few times in my life I stood my ground and said I would be coming back in 24 hours anyway.  I said “I am not leaving, can you break my waters and see what happens.” I was all but crying to get them to agree. I was planning to sit in the waiting room all day if need be. I couldn’t go home and stress dearest darling daughter #1 (she can be a worry wart) and mother-in-law had come in at 3am to look after her. And did I mention I was so done with this pregnancy!

So finally, after a staff change, they agreed and put in the cannula and attached the monitors, all “just in case”, then they broke my waters. The contractions did start to pick up again. I spent a lot of time on the Swiss ball, trying to find comfort in the waves.

I hit the point where I knew I needed to push, and it was about then they decided my contractions were not regular enough and they would start the drip to help them along. I was concerned about using the drip because during my previous birth I felt it was too intense and I had no chance to rest or catch my breath between contractions. But I was at the point where I wanted this baby out and knew I had to let go. In what felt like five minutes, Olivia was earthside and in my arms.

Because the midwives worked with me during the pushing stage, I was able to come away without tearing or any major issues. The midwives left me and Mac alone for a while to get acquainted with our little girl.

We were overjoyed and I was proud of myself for standing up and telling the midwifes and doctors what I wanted during the birth.

I hope that my birth story helps you to stand up and speak up for your needs in the delivery room. In the clinic, I hear so many stories where families did not have the birth they envisioned because they felt disempowered and unable to speak up for their needs.  And while I didn’t like giving birth and it was uncomfortable and painful, I know I did the best job I could, and you will too.

The 1 Thing I Did Not Plan For During My Pregnancy

**Disclaimer: This is my personal story and journey with postnatal anxiety and depression. I am not looking for advice or opinions regarding my personal journey. I have professional support and a strong friends and family network. **

During pregnancy you do a lot of preparing for baby. You buy furniture, bedding and linen, cute little baby clothes, nappies, a pram and various items to make the home a safe and nurturing place for your new bundle of joy.

I did all these things. I prepared to bring my baby home and love him and nurture him.

What I did not plan for was the possibility of getting postnatal depression and anxiety.

In the days after Remy’s birth I was extremely emotional. And I figured it was normal. All of the hormones, lack of sleep and joy that is the rollercoaster of a newborn. I was like, “yep, it’s just the baby blues.”

BUT – the tears lasted. What I thought was normal anxiety about my baby’s health and wellbeing spiraled into depression. I can vividly remember on a Sunday afternoon being curled up in bed, sobbing inconsolably, while Remy was crying as well, and my partner had to soothe the both of us. Not only was I overly emotional and sleep deprived, but I was also telling myself horrible things.

Things like: “I am rubbish at this”, “I am a terrible mother”, “Remy deserves better than me”.

The scariest thoughts for me were thoughts of just packing up and leaving in the middle of the night or taking Remy to my parents’ and just driving away.

The new role of motherhood was something I never could have prepared for. The loss of independence, putting my professional career on hold, being stuck on the couch breastfeeding, and being covered in spew. I did not have time to eat or go to the toilet some days. I did not feel like myself. In fact, I had completely lost my identity. No-one asked about me anymore. All questions were directed at Remy. How is he sleeping? How is he feeding? Is he gaining weight? Is he happy? I became invisible.

The turning point came when I was at the 6-week Maternal Child Health appointment for Remy. Our MCH Nurse, Karen, asked how I was doing, and I burst into tears. Karen listened to how I was feeling and requested a mental health care plan with my GP. I felt relief and fear simultaneously. I was relieved to know that someone was looking out for me and wanting to help me. And fear because I felt like a failure as a mum.

Once I recognized that I wasn’t coping, I put a few things in place. As well as seeking counselling, I arranged for post-partum support with my doula. I told my sister that I wasn’t doing well and now she checks in with me daily. I arranged with my partner for some “Laura time” on weekends and arranged with my parents for a break during the week. I made the plan to return to work.

I now feel as though the dark cloud of depression is lifting. I am crying less and not having big emotions all the time. I can see the difference between the good days and not so good days. I am being kinder to myself. I am talking to my sister and partner when I am not feeling so good, instead of keeping it to myself. I am getting counselling.

I know I am not “cured” and I still have a long way to go. I am in a much better place now. And I know that if I keep doing what I am doing, reaching out to my support network, I will be able to be the mother that I need to be for my child.

This week is PANDA week, a week dedicated to raising awareness on perinatal mental health. 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men experience perinatal anxiety and depression. Strong Independent Men and Women Ask for help and accept help. If you are not feeling yourself, and think you need support, speak to your GP, MCH nurse or a trusted friend or family member. This is the first step in feeling better. It’s hard to do, and so important.

Important Contacts:

PANDA National Helpline (Mon to Sat, 9am – 7.30pm AEST/AEDT) 1300 726 306

Lifeline 24/7 Crisis Support 13 11 14

Beyond Blue Support Service  via telephone 24/7 1300 22 4636