Monday, 6 July 2009

Teaching dads how to use massage during pregnancy and labour

I have just returned from a wonderful trip to Devon. It was a nice few days away with Jim and Evan in a beautiful cottage set amongst an amazing backdrop of rolling hills all green and lush (not surprising really with the amount of rain we had) but beautiful nonetheless.

But the best part of it was (no offense family) my lovely day spent with Katie Whitehouse of Vital Touch. I had booked a course with her to learn how to teach dads to use massage during pregnancy and labour. It was supposed to be a group course but luckily for me, as a group of midwives had transferred on to her December course, it turned out to be just for me. I'm proud to say that Katie felt it was meant to be and appeared to enjoy our day together too (which is brilliant because of course for her it meant putting in the same amount of effort but for a lot less cash).

I felt totally relaxed and at ease the second I met Katie as she peered over the top of the stairs to greet me in the lovely relaxing Vital Touch premises. We chatted about ourselves for a bit getting to know each other and quickly realising how much we had in common and then we moved on to the more structured part of the day. Although, it quickly became unstructured as at almost every turn we found how similar our teachings were, Katie using the power of touch and me teaching how powerfully we can use our minds. So we kept digressing and sharing stories and were busy scribbling extra notes on how each ones specialism could support what we were teaching with our own.

First and foremost we are both teaching how a relaxed mother (through hypnosis and/or massage) will be able to inhibit the production of the stressor hormone that will cause the muscles of the uterus to constrict and tighten and in turn cause great pain. Both hypnosis and massage can then further promote the stimulation of endorphins the body's natural pain relief (200 times the effect of morphine). Also, when your endorphins are fully stimulated during labour and birth they will actually help prevent your nerve cells from releasing pain signals in the first place.

Katie found it interesting how in HypnoBirthing we use 'anchors' (attaching the touch of the dads hand on the shoulder and the sound of his voice to a wonderfully relaxed state that can then be easily and quickly triggered during labour). There is a beautiful massage technique Katie calls the heart which can so easily include the shoulder anchor. Katie also suggests that the dads use gentle, loving prompts (as we do in HypnoBirthing reinforcing the anchor to the partners voice) as they are administering the massage. We then went on to discuss how smell can also trigger certain memories, feelings and emotional states. I had noticed that I kept drifting back to my front room as I was sitting listening to Katie and I soon realised that it was because I could smell her lovely massage oils that I had bought to sell in my online shop. So we went on to discuss how we could help women using smell. Because the labour massage oil contains clary sage which cannot be used until a pregnant woman is full term Katie advised that it would be lovely to burn a combination of sweet orange and lavender during my courses (and couples could also choose to do that when practising too). As lavender is also part of the blend in the labour massage oil it would therefore help to remind the mum of being in a lovely state of relaxation. Also, if she is not birthing at home it will bring some of her home comfort with her into the hospital room or midwife led unit.

Bringing the couple closer together and giving the dad the opportunity to feel a much bigger part of the pregnancy and labour is also another valuable benefit of using massage as too is the pre-natal bonding that occurs. I teach couples during the HypnoBirthing classes that babies can respond to what is going on in their environment and massage is another beautiful way for the dads to spend time bonding with their babies.

Katie asked me what had inspired me to attend the course. I said that when I had attended part of my friends labour I had found that sometimes there was either no room for or no need for words. I had simply laid a hand to show support, comfort or reassurance. It was really up to her to take on whatever message she chose from my touch. I could have inadvertently said something that didn't match her experience but with touch this couldn't happen. This is something that I now make dads very aware of although I also remind them that if the mum doesn't want to be touched at a particular time that they shouldn't take offense. When I'd found Katie's course I thought aha that is the missing link! There really is such a harmony between the use of hypnosis and massage during pregnancy and labour and I can't wait to start teaching it to my couples.

When we got on to the practical elements of the course Katie taught me how to teach dads extremely simple but incredibly effective massage techniques. How do I know how wonderful they are? Because Katie taught me by letting me experience them. Well I wanted to stop the course right there and then and just book a massage session - it was amazing. So quick, so simple, sooooooooooooooo lovely.

I left fully prepared with a set of course notes and a powerpoint training presentation all of which Katie said I could and should adapt to work with my hypnosis techniques. I am incredibly excited and looking forward to having some time this week to pull together what I have learnt and perhaps write a new script that will work beautifully with some of the lovely visualisations that Katie has included.

I'm going to be meeting up with one of my HypnoBirthing couples this weekend and will be giving them a freebie session to practise my new skills. And if I'm incredibly lucky and the timings work out I will be attending the birth of another HypnoBirthing mum and so will be able to teach her husband 'on the job' so to speak. I will of course be posting more details of these as and when they happen.

If you are pregnant, or a dad keen to learn more about the power of massage for pregnancy and labour, look out for details of my new great course "Teaching dads how to use massage during pregnancy and labour" that I will soon be adding to my site

If you are a Doula or an antenatal teacher be it HypnoBirthing, NCT, NHS or other check out

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  1. I have been following this blog for quite some time now. I have found this blog to be very interesting. It would be really very helpful if the expectant dads are the taught how to message the mother during pregnancy and labo pains. Please keep the wonderful posts coming.

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  2. Hi Dani
    It was so great having you on the course and spending time sharing information and tips too. I have a great quote from a couple who had their 2nd baby a couple of weeks ago and used the massage techniques we covered especially Waterfall:
    "I was in the same position on the sofa, in a kind of all fours but with my chest and arms resting on the sofa during contractions. Phil had started doing the waterfall massage down my back when he had come in and then pressing on my sacral area during contractions. His hands pressing on my lower back really helped during contractions but the water fall massage down my back felt amazing. Also a couple of times he did a really scrunchy shoulder massage between contractions which also just felt amazing. I felt like I could just concentrate on me and labour now he was here..."
    Really inspiring I thought. Hope all's well and look forward to hear how your fathers get on with the massaging.

  3. It feels so nice to find somebody with some original thoughts on this subject. Really thankful to you for starting this.
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