Jan 12, 2016

First trimester bodywork and massage

Bodywork & Massage during First Trimester Pregnancy

The first trimester of pregnancy can be the most intense phase of pregnancy for many women. We go from being our normal selves to quickly becoming someone we may not even recognize. As our bodies shift to the focus of growing a baby, there is a tremendous shift in hormones, including the hormones being made and circulated by the placenta. These hormones affect how we feel and think about things, changing how we respond to a given situation. A sappy story on the radio makes you cry, that annoying little thing your spouse did last weekend is suddenly the focus of an enraged outburst, you catch every little cold and bug that's going around, you can't eat, you can't sleep, you can't do your normal daily routine because you're exhausted. You want to vomit. You feel like a stranger in your own body, and yet no one around you recognizes what's going on unless you've informed them you're pregnant. Your growing baby is still so tiny, the changes in your body remain subtle to the outside world for weeks to come.
When I was pregnant I was in a constant state of nausea and fatigue. My rational mind took a backseat to surging, confused emotions. I was simultaneously full of happiness and fear. There were many dark thoughts: Was I ready to deal with pregnancy? Were my husband and I in a good place to support a child? What kind of mother would I be? Had I already harmed the embryo when I drank that extra glass of wine before I knew I was pregnant? What if the baby is born sick or malformed? What if I miscarry or have a stillbirth? On days when I did not feel so nauseous and fatigued I feared I was no longer pregnant - ironically feeling horrible indicated to me that everything was ok.

These are such dark intense worries to flounder in, on top of the physical misery of first trimester. But society expects us to be rejoicing and doesn't allow much space for processing a very big change. 

My experience with bodywork and massage during my first trimester

I had booked a session with a mentor practitioner of mine weeks in advance, and thus long before I knew I was pregnant. When I went to see her, instead of receiving any kind of bodywork that day, I spent the whole session talking, ranting and crying. Before going into the session I'd had no idea I could be so emotional, or that there was 'unfinished business' in my heart.b It all just suddenly came pouring out. But the bodywork-turned-talk session' was good for me, and because it was in a therapeutic setting, I could empty out my thoughts and worries without feeling judged.

Although I was used to receiving frequent and various kinds of bodywork, during my first trimester I suddenly had little or even no desire to receive touch. I also did not feel confident or trusting of very many therapists, I became very particular about from whom I got my bodywork. Craniosacral therapy was ok, and the work is inherently slow, works on myriad layers of the self, and at the very least helped me feel more emotionally balanced. 

Surprisingly gentle foot massage, which I received from friends and my husband, helped mediate my nausea. I would've loved to have it everyday. But otherwise I was not interested in relaxation or swedish massage, nor even my beloved myfascial therapy (MFT). This makes sense, since  MFT changes relationships within the body and my body was already undergoing changes; it didn't need any extra external input on how to change, at least during the early stages of pregnancy. In later weeks of pregnancy, MFT may be indicated to help the body more comfortably accommodate the growing baby (or in my case, babies).

How I work with women during first trimester of pregnancy

The most important part of my bodywork in early pregnancy is support for the new mother, as well as focusing a feeling of deep respect and deep sensitivity to the new mother and her growing baby. A pregnant woman needs our extra support in every aspect; emotional, physical, psychological, economic, social and spiritual. Also, every woman experiences pregnancy differently, and every woman will experience each pregnancy uniquely. Bodywork can help a woman connect with her body-self as it changes rapidly as much as it can help balance her emotions and spirit in a time of great and rapid change. A bodywork session may simply focus on relaxing touch or it may include more specific craniosacral and myofascial work depending on what the pregnant client is feeling at the time. 

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