Since the Sixties, there’s been an increasing amount of interest in complementary therapies in prenatal nutrition, wellbeing and fitness, not to mention natural methods to help the mother to be cope with the physical and emotional aspects of labours.
Here are just a few of the most popular…
Acupuncture has been practised in China for thousands of years, but only became widely known in the west in the 1970s. During a treatment, a practitioner places very fine needles in certain specific points around the body to clear these blockages and effect healing in the patient. Acupuncture has been used successfully to treat a wide range of pregnancy-related discomforts, although its best-known use in pregnancy is for turning breech babies. Research studies have shown that acupuncture is successful in around 70 per cent of cases, which is at least comparable to the usual, external cephalic version, which is successful in around 67 per cent of cases.
While certain oils should be avoided during pregnancy, an aromatherapy massage by a qualified therapist can be very beneficial, particularly in the treatment of oedema (swelling), backache and anxiety (as long as they are not part of a larger problem such as pre-eclampsia). Aromatherapy is also beneficial during labour, when it can be used to fortify and maintain contractions, or simply to relax the mum to be.
During pregnancy, weight-bearing changes occur and the mum to be’s centre of gravity shifts forward. In order to compensate for this, the natural curves of the spine become exaggerated, causing lower back pain. Gentle osteopathic adjustments help ease lower back pain and keep your body (nerves, muscles, organs, etc) functioning at their optimum. Cranial osteopathy is an extremely gentle form of osteopathy, which is suitable for pregnant women and babies alike. New mums in particular can benefit from cranial osteopathy, particularly if they suffered from symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) during pregnancy.
Reflexologists believe that the feet and hands are a mirror of the body, and that pressure placed on specific reflex points on them can be used to treat the corresponding areas of the body, in order to stimulate natural healing powers and promote well-being. Although reflexology is safe throughout pregnancy, some practitioners prefer not to treat women in the first three months. One piece of good news…..research has shown that women, who have regular reflexology treatments during pregnancy, have labours of up to two thirds the length of those, who don’t.
A gentle and powerful Japanese healing art, shiatsu means ‘finger pressure’ and originated from oriental massage. Although it affects the same points and meridians that are worked on in acupuncture, shiatsu uses a method of gentle pressure through touch to re-establish the flow of energy and well-being. There are many conditions that arise during pregnancy which can be helped with shiatsu, including backache, tight shoulders and neck, pelvic discomfort or pains, abdominal compression, morning sickness and restless legs. It’s generally advised that you start shiatsu in the fourth month to gain the optimum benefit and support from it.