TRIMESTERS Massage Therapy Education

The Power of Birth

This article originally appeared in Massage Therapy Canada, Summer 2003 issue.

Reproduced with permission.

by Cindy McNeely, M.T., co-founder of Trimesters

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The most important element of the LSP’s job at this point is reassurance and encouragement, providing as much comfort as possible, and facilitating the woman in reaching an internal/external state of deep trust in her body to birth her baby. This may involve creating the environment for a restful, relaxing experience more than anything else. Dimming the lights, providing music that the woman loves, ensuring there are no distractions which take the woman away from her birthing work ie. noise, interruptions, questions, may be the most important accomplishment of the LSP.

I once had a nurse come into my client’s birthing room in the hospital, and as she whisked through the door, she suddenly paused, slowed down her pace, and said – “I feel like the Tasmanian Devil who comes whooshing into this room which is so beautifully calm and peaceful – such a contrast to what is going on in the unit outside,”

Similar to the environment that many Massage Therapists attempt to create in their practices, a peaceful birth place creates a peaceful family. Much of the work of Labour Support involves waiting and a wordless presence. If our birthing clients reach a state of internal calm (again a mirror of the deepest states of relaxation on the massage table), then everyone’s work is easier. There are indications that it is in this state that the natural endorphins of the woman are released providing an amazingly effective sense of pain relief. It is my belief that if more women were taught prenatally to facilitate the release of these endorphins through visualization, vocalization, and through breathing, women would be much more confident in their capabilites to birth without ‘needing’ epidurals or other medications to ‘get them through’ the process.

Most families love to hear the words 10 cm dilated because it is at this point that the woman will begin the 2nd stage of labour which is the pushing phase. There are various ways to facilitate the entry of the baby into the world. These can vary from waiting the woman’s spontaneous urge to push, or to have the primary careproviders actively coach the woman in her efforts in conjunction with uterine contractions. This can be an intense but very rewarding effort since the woman or her partner will eventually witness ‘crowning’ of the baby’s head on the perineum. It is a welcome sight to see the tufts of hair or little head that appears at this time. Some fathers look forward to watching their baby’s enter the world with a hope to actually ‘catch the baby’, while others are more content to remain at the head of their partner, encouraging them in their efforts to ‘bear down’ and deliver their baby. The LSP is often in active use at this point – they may be helping to support a leg, massaging the neck in between contractions, vocalizing their support during the pushing, or reminding their client to relax and release tension at times when they are not pushing.

At last, the baby arrives!!!! -- a time of relief, elation, and celebration. The baby will be assessed for state of health but may be immediately placed on the mother’s chest or abdomen to ensure that those supreme first minutes are spent in close contact with the woman and her partner. The energy in the room at that time can be incredibly heightened, and the doula will meld into the situation as appropriate. page