- Karen Stoner, LMT
Stuff I Studied in Quarantine Part 2: Advanced Prenatal Massage
Ok, so this course I didn't totally complete while we were locked down, but it was the quarantine that allowed me to take it. I already have a significant number of hours regarding prenatal massage training, but I had been curious about this course for a long time. In my state, we need 24 hours of continuing education every 2 years. 20 of those hours are required to be for ethics courses and hands-on courses, leaving only 4 hours for additional studies of my choice. Unfortunately, I couldn't justify the significantly more than 4 hours required for this course, however because of all the shut-downs this year, the state waived the in-person requirement and allowed those hands-on hours to be accounted for with remote work, so I was finally able to take this course and have the full amount of time count.
After waiting so long to take this course, the material didn't disappoint. The main text of the class was the book "Prenatal Massage" by Elaine Stillerman, which is basically considered to be the bible of Prenatal Massage. It goes into depth about everything from the history of how pregnancy has been viewed and handled around the world throughout time, to the detailed medical knowledge of what happens to every system in the body during each trimester, to details about birth, postpartum, and how massage can help every single part of everything.
The history was fascinating. It discussed how massage has been used since information on birthing has been recorded. Midwives were the primary people who delivered babies around the world, and it wasn't only midwives - many cultures treated labor and birth as a community event, with all the women in a community helping the laboring mother while the midwife dealt with the actual birth. It wasn't until 1848 when the American Medical Association decided that childbirth was a medical situation, and therefore needed to be regulated so primarily male doctors took over. Also, giving birth originally took place squatting, or in a seated or more vertical position, allowing gravity to help with the delivery, and making it easier on the mother. It was King Louis XIV of France that enjoyed watching his mistresses give birth, so he started ordering the women to give birth laying down with their legs propped up in stirrups. This position has stuck since it is the easiest for the doctors, but not always easiest for the mother.
From the very beginning of the book, I was very happy to see that there was a whole section about myths that exist in the massage world regarding massage and pregnancy. It explains and debunks things such as 'massage in the first trimester causes miscarriages', and 'you should never touch a pregnant woman's feet', and more. When I teach prenatal massage to other therapists, I pretty much start my class discussing the myths that exist out there, so it was actually refreshing to know that there is proof in text to back up what I was teaching. Even though I am 100% confident in what I teach, seeing it in print by a professional makes me feel like someone has my back and confirms that I actually do know what I'm talking about.
There was also a good amount of information that even in my 80+ hours of previous prenatal massage-focused studies, I still didn't know about. Information such as tips on naturally turning a breach baby, labor support massage techniques, and a lot of postpartum information. Many courses I've taken treat their information like it is an industry secret for massage therapists only, they don't provide much to pass on to the client. I understand how industry secrets are good for business, but our clients aren't just ATMs, they are people who are hurting, frustrated, and a little scared. I liked that a large majority of this book discussed how to help clients by giving them advice on how to help themselves, showing them stretches and exercises they can do themselves, and tips to make labor go more easily - information to help them when they are on their own.
The other big thing this course covered was a lot of postpartum information, not just massage-related but about how a woman's body reacts after giving birth, how it changes, and what all she could need physically and emotionally - something that gets ignored very often in the whole birthing process. Our society in general expects women to 'bounce back' way more quickly than they actually do. Just because the baby is out, doesn't mean everything is back to normal. Normally most women are given 6 weeks to recover, but many postpartum conditions barely start to heal by 6 weeks. An episiotomy can take 4-6 months to heal completely, the risk of blood clots can last from 8-10 weeks postpartum, and blood volume may not return to normal until 12 months! We really do our new moms a grave injustice by expecting them to be "back to normal" by 6 weeks.
Overall, the information was fascinating, and has given me many more ideas as to how to help my clients during their pregnancies, and encouraged me to work on my postpartum work more as well. 2020 was a rough year, and one thing I saw a lot of as the year was ending, was encouragement to try and find the good things that came out of the quarantines. I have to say that being able to finally take this course was one of those rare glimmers that came out of having everything in the world shut down. Now the only ironic thing is that I have this great knowledge that I can't wait to impart on my clients, but pregnancy is considered a high-risk condition during the pandemic, so my clients are still not really supposed to come to see me. Well, at least I'll be ready when they come back, and until then, I'll have to pass on my knowledge through articles!