Shiatsu for Pregnancy, Birth and Babies: Vignettes from a Practitioner’s Casebook. Published in The Mumsbury Times (The NCT branch newsletter for Malmesbury). Winter 2006 issue.

I have been practising Shiatsu for four years now, working from home and clinics. Last year I made a very good decision. I attended Suzanne Yates’ Well Mother Shiatsu course. We studied pregnancy, birth, post partum and baby development from the Western and Chinese perspectiives and how Shiatsu functions in these contexts. For me treating mums, helping to allay their fears, ease their discomfort and assisting them to connect with what I sense as the incredible, vibrant and loving energy of their prenatal babies, is an unceasing wonder and delight.

Shiatsu takes place on a comfortable futon on the floor with the client clothed in loose cotton trousers and top. There are basic assisted stretches (everyone loves the side stretches) followed by essentially freeing up the energy along specific energy pathways or meridians. Shiatsu practitioners normally work with the 12 Classic meridians of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In pregnancy however we also focus on treating what are known as the Extraordinary Vessels. These have a profound effect on the life creating processes taking place within the mother’s womb. Thus the classic anti-nausea point (two thumb widths down from the center of the wrist) is one of two paired points that link into the Penetrating Vessel, responsible for the Blood in the body. Pressing here can help to ease the effects of increased blood production which, according to TCM, produces nausea. The effect can be quite instantaneous. Stuck energies around the hip area is can be assisted by working on the aptly named Girdle Vessel.

Blocked or insufficient energy along the meridians can be at the root of a number of discomforts from cramps or weak legs to piles and exhaustion. Unattended, these can have a negative effect on both mind and emotions. Many mums experience minor forms of depression as they realise the implications of motherhood and the loss of independence. The meridians affect mind, body, emotions and spirit. Working along them with thumbs, forearms, elbows and occasionally knees creates a “feel good factor” that is best described as a kind of relaxed but conscious floating. This “letting go” takes place as energies that are out of alignment return to a natural state of balance. Feeling “energised”, “ironed out”, “more comfortable” “calmer” and “lighter” are all commonly reported after a Shiatsu session.

Most mums have lower back ache during pregnancy but not just because of the weight of the baby at the front. In terms of Chinese Medicine, enormous pressure is being put on the Kidney energy, responsible for growth and development, leading to physical exhaustion. I have often seen a mum come for a session with brown shadows under her eyes, indicating that this energy is depleted. I never cease to be surprised how these miraculously can disappear or reduce substantially by the end of the treatment.

By the final weeks mums are usually longing for the birth. Time seems to drag. They may also worry about the baby never coming out! Like acupuncturists, Shiatsu practitioners use a number of induction points which can help move a baby – an infiinitely better option than medical induction. These I teach to partners in my labour support classes since they can really help during the birth. Not so long ago a mum turned up in a panic with her baby in breech position and about three weeks to go. I showed her husband how to apply the pungent moxa stick to the little toes (yes, the toe!) at home. Great relief when the baby’s head moved back into the down position two days later.

baby massageBaby massage is of course a delight to teach. But actually there is no “right way” to do things. In my classes Mums learn through experience that their quality of touch and focus is far more important – and most important of all, their own wellbeing. If you are worrying about where you left the car keys your baby will sense your disconnection. Just 15 minutes a day of undivided attention can work wonders for a child’s developing self esteem as well as growth and development. It is also wonderful for mums to enter into that magical world of childhood – guided by a small expert in the field!

I feel that Shiatsu links mothers back into their bodies (and their babies), empowering them to hold their own in the often confusing choices to be made in modern obstetric medicine. Life seems to go by so fast now – I am seeing mums who are leaving work a week or two before the birthdate who have not really grounded themselves in what is actually a profound rite of passage. Preparation needs to be both external (hospital/home birth) and internal (connecting with the baby, with your hopes and fears about giving birth). Shiatsu is one tool that by helping with the latter aspect can make all the difference to the former.


For any further information on Shiatsu and Craniosacral Therapy contact

01666 824 625 or 07952 923 245

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Clinics are in Malmesbury and Bristol.
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