WNT founder and massage therapist, Jennie Duck, shares her experience of therapies and teachings from colleagues during her pregnancy last year
We have been planning a pregnancy information day (Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond) at West Norwood Therapies to share the broad experience our team has and the support we can offer people during their pregnancy journey. And this has led me to think back to my not-at-all-distant (but a lifeltime ago!) past and how I used the various therapies on offer during my pregnancy…
Acupuncture and pregnancy go hand in hand for me. I actually had acupuncture way before I was pregnant to treat polycystic ovaries. My sessions with Philippa cleared that up, regulated my cycle and I had an easy conception. I kept having acupuncture throughout pregnancy, mostly for general wellbeing, I found it very grounding and balancing (physically and emotionally). The therapist matters too, and Philippa’s steady presence, interest in my progress and thoughtful advice around diet, movement and labour was a good support.
She also armed my husband and me with some acupressure techniques and moxa. The former was my primary pain relief all through labour (secondary was 2 paracetemol around 2am!) and was a helpful way of involving my husband in birth preparation and supporting me through birth itself. Then we used the moxa a week or so after to help recovery (we were going to use it before too as my baby was breech, but he flipped himself a few days before) and I’ve since had some acupuncture to help full recovery internally – turns out that can all take a while to get back to normal, it’s quite a thing growing and birthing a baby!
Pilates was another fantastic support to me from pre-conception right through labour. I had a mixture of one-to-one sessions and prenatal classes, both with Matthew before he joined WNT, and I felt so strong through my pregnancy and immediate recovery from labour. Though I work with bodies, working with your own is a different matter and I learned a lot from my sessions about how to move safely with a giant bump sticking out of me and to build strength in the most necessary areas to support both the baby and my body. More surprisingly, Pilates with Matthew also helped me relax - there was a good level of focus on the breath and some visualisations and relaxation exercises that really made a difference. We also incorporated some of the exercises in our birth preparation with my husband (lots of tandem squats!) and we now own 2 exercise balls - one at my desk and the other in the bedroom for bouncing baby Willow to sleep at 3am :-)
The concept of prenatal pilates was simple but powerful: Build enough strength to support the baby and help your body manage the extra weight safely, and be able to relax these same developed muscles to be able to get the baby out...it worked!
As a massage therapist I am obviously a big advocate of massage through all stages of life and I never go very long without getting on the massage table myself. During pregnancy the desire to have your muscles kneaded is especially acute and the relief to your lower back and shoulders is particularly sweet! Durning my last trimester my husband gave me a foot massage and lower back rub every evening. Unfortunately this hasn't become a permanent fixture, our baby is the only one who gets a daily massage these days...but that again was helpful for my husband to feel involved and for me to feel relief and connection to him. I saw my colleagues for fuller, professional treatment too - Veronica is a very understanding therapist around pregnancy changes and her treatments really feel nurturing which is what you need in pregnancy. I had some lovely deep massage with Erika too, in fact she helped Willow make his way down - I had a massage with her on Friday afternoon and went into labour the following Monday...
While acupuncture, pilates and massage were regular fixtures for me during my pregnancy, I only saw Yinka for osteopathy a handful of times. This was of course limited by time and finance, I couldn't manage all 4 so regularly! But I did call on Yinka when I felt like things were getting a bit twingy. Once when my hip felt like it was a bit unstable, once when I had a twinge in my groin and another time in the early days when I fell off my bike and tweaked my neck. Each time it wasn't long to get back on track and any longer-term issues were averted. I find osteopathy helpful for getting a better understanding of pain and biomechanics and a really empowering treatment to have.
I know I am lucky to work in a world where I have this support structure around me and it may not be possible to have as many different treatments as consistently as I have, but I hope that sharing my experience will help other women on their pregnancy journey to see what support there is available and to make informed choices about what could best benefit you. Our pregnancy information day is being planned to this same effect, so do come along if you are interested to hear more.
More information about Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, our information day for women, couples and birth partners.
Jennie Duck is back from maternity leave, working a reduced hours and only seeing existing clients.