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Pre- and Perinatal Massage Therapy

by by Carole Osborne-Sheets

listed in massage

[Image: Pre- and Perinatal Massage Therapy]

A book for professionals written by a professional somatic practitioner. I use somatic rather than massage because her experience encompasses more than is commonly described as massage. Her career evolved to include all aspects of Pre- and Perinatal care because of her own pregnancies and those of her friends. Her subsequent research revealed that there was little useful information available to help her provide good safe care for friends and clients. Through collaboration with perinatal professionals and interested colleagues, she established protocols and guidelines for safe effective work with pregnant women.

By 1980 the author had established a training programme and was co-founder of the International Professional School of Bodywork in San Diego California. Like all professional practitioners, she refines and expands her teaching as she gains new insight working with her clients.

Complementary Therapies are becoming accepted as having an important role in conjunction with Western Medicine and the development of somatic therapies for pregnancy, and childbirth is part of this evolutionary process. However the author has reservations, she feels that a thorough understanding of the intricacies of pregnancy physiology is vitally important and that appropriate training is required. Her book provides a comprehensive theoretical foundation necessary to "safely weave appropriate therapeutic touch back into healthcare." It has been written for massage therapists, bodyworkers, neuromuscular therapists, Rolfers, other hands-on practitioners and physical therapists as well as midwives, obstetric nurses, physicians and childbirth educators.

Currently in Britain there is much debate about courses in Complementary Medicine being regulated to meet specific standards. This is important for the safety of both clients and practitioners. However, I would suggest that regulation alone does not ensure client safety. There have been many instances in recent months and years where qualified healthcare professionals have been found guilty of malpractice; training and regulation does not necessarily ensure the honesty or integrity of the practitioner. I would suggest that the personal development of the practitioner is as important as the skill they are learning, but this receives little or no attention in the debate.

The manner in which this book is written conveys to me that the author is both an empathetic person and a safe and effective practitioner.The five chapters deal with:1. The benefits of pre- and perinatal massage therapy;2. Guidelines and precautions;3. Trimester recommendations;4. Labour and birth facilitation;5. Postpartum bodywork.

A holistic approach is used to deal with the issues in each chapter. Physiological and emotional changes in each stage of pregnancy and childbirth are discussed and are enhanced by clear diagrams and drawings. The author looks at the benefits of somatic therapies on the various body systems, describing in detail the effects of pregnancy on each one. Contraindications are clearly explained and ways of handling high risk pregnancies emphasized.

The positioning of the client to ensure her safety and that of the foetus is vitally important; these are clearly described and the use of appropriate support cushions are shown in photographs.

It is easy to forget just how much a woman's body changes during the 9 months of pregnancy and how it impinges on daily activities. Sitting, standing, walking and lifting are all affected and if the woman already has older children these difficulties are compounded. Techniques are given which deal with all of these discomforts and include acupressure, body sculpting and reflexology.

The author constantly stresses the need for the practitioner to co-operate with nursing and medical staff, especially during labour and delivery. Relationships need to be established during pregnancy if team members are to work in harmony. She looks at the problems which arise if a birth plan cannot develop as expected because of difficulties during delivery.

The feelings of guilt, loss of control and disappointment experienced by the mother are serious issues. If the medical and nursing team are focussing on dealing with the emergency, the somatic practitioner is perhaps better placed to give much needed support to the woman and her family.

Another topic discussed is how past and even current physical, emotional and sexual abuse affects the experience and outcome of pregnancy and childbirth.

After reading the book I read The Good Birth Guide which the Sunday Times magazine produced in 2001. This gave details relating to the provision of maternity services in Britain. I re-read Integrated Healthcare, A Guide To Good Practice produced by The Foundation for Integrated Healthcare printed in 2000. I wanted to see how a book written by an American writer would benefit from care here.

Whilst training in Glasgow I enjoyed supporting patients through the first stages of labour and delivery. Continuous effective support reduces tension and fear and aids relaxation contributing towards an easier delivery. This support is not readily available when midwife staffing levels are poor. Monitoring equipment is no substitute for the calm influence of a good midwife. The Times Supplement indicated that poor staffing levels often resulted in increased medical intervention.

The somatic therapist could provide the all encompassing support that women deserve to assist them in delivering a live, healthy baby. As we know this is not always the outcome and that support becomes even more important.

Complementary Therapies are now widely used by the public and the contribution they make to healthcare deserves to be recognised. I hope this book will be welcomed by practitioners and healthcare professionals as a good example of the benefits of integrated healthcare provision.Further InformationReaders wishing to purchase this title may order it via the author's website

Sheila Michie
Published by Body Therapy Associates, CA.

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