Well I am by no means a pregnancy expert, but I have been through it all twice now. This post is all the things I wish I had known the first time around.
I believe these things should be included in the normal care for pregnant women. However, I am not naive enough to think these are financially available to all women, nor are they all probably local or even able to be accessed without the support or aid of someone watching any other children while the woman receives care or ability to take off work to receive care. Sadly, part of our need for women’s healthcare reform includes our lack of access for all women to things that would help not only the baby but the woman as well, such as physical therapy throughout pregnancy and postpartum (not just the first six weeks postpartum either). The list of those things would be much longer than my list today, including everything from doulas to providers that would assess lip and tongue ties immediately after the baby is born, but I digress.
Today I will talk of four key therapies I never heard about before, either at all, or in relation to pregnancy. I do wish all had access to these things, but again I preface my writing, knowing this comes from a place of privilege. I am sure some may consider these things as selfish or frivolous, but I would like to remind you before judgment that self-care is not selfish. It is not selfish to want to not be in pain. It is not selfish to desire a vaginal birth and work to make your body make space for your baby long before the last trimester. It is not selfish to want to function at work and be able to take care of your kids. It is not selfish to want to prevent peeing yourself postpartum. It is not selfish to take care of yourself, however that looks for you. You do not need to be a martyr as a mother, during pregnancy or afterward. In some seasons you will need self-care of a more extensive and continuous type, and some seasons your self-care will not enlist a care team.
Self-care is not selfish. You do not need to be a martyr as a mother, during pregnancy or afterward.
Oddly, our health care in the United States does not cover much for pregnancy. However, if you have a FSA, HSA, or similar type plan where you are able to pick the type of care you receive and pay pre-tax money for your care, many of these things may be included! Some may have membership type discounts or other ways to finance their services so do not be afraid to ask instead of ruling it out right away!
In order of probable cost:
#1 The Program One Strong Mama
It is no surprise that I love this program. I wrote about it in another post for an in-depth review of how I am still using the program (fifty-seven weeks postpartum, according to their data ) and how I wish all women used it before and after birth. In short summary, it is not only movement and alignment tips on how to prevent back pain, but it is a mini birth prep class, multiple world-class movement classes (six pregnancy and three postpartum), well-researched advice on things like how to lay when you cannot lie on your back and getting rid of heartburn, amazing teaching on how to actually use your pelvic floor, core, and whole body, practice in trying to prevent and “prehab” diastasis recti and pelvic floor dysfunctions, and well-needed meditation and cortisol-reducing birth affirmations…all rolled into one neat package. Although the up-front cost may seem large, over the long run of just one pregnancy this is by far the cheapest investment you will make. Plus you have it for life, so you can use it multiple pregnancies as well as pre-pregnancy to far postpartum.
- It is suggested in the program to use it three times a week if you can! Of course, they stress listening to your body and knowing when to rest instead of being legalistic about your exercise routine, which I am very much all for that freedom!!
- There is a sale going on THIS WEEKEND for Black Friday! Check out One Strong Mama and do not wait until you are in nesting mode to start!! Currently it is $30 off and if you use my code, dcmn0042 , you’ll get $10 extra off! Even if you miss the sale (so sad!)- it is WELL worth the normal price.
#2 Chiropractic Care by a Webster-Technique Chiropractor
- I did actually start this care during my first pregnancy, when my son was not in a great position nearing the end of my last trimester. I include it here because I was completely skeptical and despite my midwife advising us to have a chiro on our care team, because of prior poor experience with a chiropractor, I did not heed her advice until the poor positioning. I wish I would have listened right away! Literally within a half hour of my first appointment, my son moved completely head down (he had been diagonal). I continued with care for the remainder of the pregnancy, got adjusted days after giving birth, and my son (and now daughter and husband) have been in their care ever since.
Chiropractic care can help with so many things, which is why we continue to frequent our office. One day when I have free time again (when does that happen?), I will write about why we take our kids (and infants) to our chiropractic doctors. As far as pregnancy and postpartum, chiropractic is obviously fabulous at helping with baby positioning. Adjustments can be done to help with other ailments like reflux, SPD, SIJ, chest tightness from an expanding chest, and so many other things. You can continue your care after your labor and delivery if you desire, since it’s great to get an adjustment after the marathon that labor can be for both you and baby. When you are getting used to nursing a baby or rocking a baby to sleep, you may need some adjustments as you compensate your posture to hold your infant. If you end up cosleeping, it can wreck a little havoc on your body, so as you adjust you may find relief with chiropractic. Of course if you just have care during pregnancy that is wonderful too. An article about chiropractic and pregnancy can be found here.
- Most chiros suggest sessions as often as you see your midwife or doctor, and whenever issues arise.
- If you are local, please check out the fabulous Dr. Angie Graper, CAACP and Dr. Robyn Brostrom Martin at Family Focus Chiropractic in Chanhassen. We obviously adore this clinic and these doctors are now good family friends. If you are anywhere in the Cities, they are well worth the drive! They dote on you when you are pregnant and treat you as if you are the only pregnant women they have ever seen, as if you deserve all this great care, but I bet they have at least two pregnant women in there a day. The kids adore them; I am pretty sure at the moment Jase’s job aspirations are to be either a drummer or chiropractor. Our whole family receives excellent care there for everything from vertigo to migraines to digestion help. They are pretty much the smartest human beings I have ever met, so regardless of what is going on in our health, we feel so safe going to Family Focus. Basically every time we go as a family, my husband turns to me and thanks me for finding Dr. Robyn and Dr. Angie!
- For those that are not local, please find a chiropractor trained in Webster Technique. It is helpful to find a chiro that is pediatric trained as well in case you would like to get your kids’ care there for things like ear infections, reflux, and colic. Those doctors should have toys and books in the lobby/rooms- since they should have kids in there often! I advise you to find a clinic that is not a franchise, but is independently run. You should never need to sign a contract guaranteeing a number of sessions, get x-rays, or feel uncomfortable or pressured in any way. As always, you are hiring these professionals so find the ones you like the best and use their care often.
- I began to delve into the science behind acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine before my second pregnancy. Did you know the acupuncture field not only requires at least a Master’s degree, but often the practitioners have a doctorate as well? As with all my recommendations here- these professionals really know their stuff! I think often people think alternative or holistic practitioners are not very educated or else they would have done medical school, when it truly could not be further from the truth.
When I became violently sick with vertigo in my first trimester of that pregnancy, I did not know what to do. I could not work, could barely drive, could not take care of my toddler, and could not rest. Everything made me feel worse and it did not feel like it would go away. By some bout of genius (I believe Divine)- I decided to ask someone I had heard of from a local facebook group if acupuncture has any relief for vertigo. She immediately responded that she sees it often with pregnant women and that is invaluable for treatment. As I had not disclosed I was even pregnant with her, I quickly looked for an appointment and she fortunately had a last minute drop (again, Divine) so I could get in the next day. What a relief I felt immediately! Seriously, I should not have even driven there because it probably was not safe, and being online for the five or ten minutes to discuss this with her was literally all I could manage for the whole day. I got a repeat session a day or two later and after the second session my vertigo was completely gone. I went one more time within a short time just to be sure, but such a debilitating struggle was resolved very painlessly and quickly with acupuncture!
- Other things acupuncture can help resolve include nausea, fatigue, infertility, heartburn, headaches, breech babies, digestion and blood sugar issues, and a load of menstrual issues. It is commonly known to try acupuncture to naturally induce as well. Here’s a link explaining how it works and other things acupuncture helps with!
- Practitioners usually suggest you coming in as often as you see your midwife or doctor, as well as if issues pop up between those times.
- Locals should check out Stephanie Braunwarth, L.Ac, Dipl. C.H., FABORM at Waconia Women’s Health. She’s my homegirl. I feel so validated and soothed when I visit her gorgeous office (can I move in there Stephanie??). Seriously I felt like I slept a week every time I had a treatment. I probably snored too. Much needed when you’re pregnant, have a toddler, and sleep is often not restful. This article does not come at an excellent time for those that are pregnant RIGHT NOW, since Stephanie and her other acupuncturist are both due with kiddos fairly soon, so her openings for new clients may not be there for a few months. If you are interested be sure to call and see what you can do. I know in the spring of 2019 she will be back in full force.
#4 Mayan Abdominal Massage
- Through my first pregnancy I did some massage therapy and it was nice and helpful at points, but I tried a different route this pregnancy and I am so glad I did! Massage therapy is wonderful and has a place, but there are many, many types of bodywork specific to desired healing. So many types that I probably have not heard of half the different kinds! I came across Mayan Abdominal Massage through a suggestion on a facebook group. As I had been looking into Traditional Chinese Medicine and different traditional healing therapies, I was instantly intrigued.
- Luckily Michelle could get me in within a week of me reaching out and it was so needed. I had hit the seven month mark and my SPD and SIJ was flaring big time. I needed to do something that eased that pain so I could sleep. Literally I woke up and shifted my position in bed and heard an audible “click” and felt my pubic bone (which is actually two bones in females so it can open for birth ) shift 1-2 inches. Obviously that felt awful so I needed some manual work on the muscles and fascia that were pulling on those bones. Enter Mayan Massage. As Michelle worked, I could feel my psoas unwind almost like taking a braid of a rope out. The first massage was amazing, but the second one I booked soon after and really left me feeling “normal” again.
- To answer many of the questions I had previously, a large portion of the massage is spent working on your stomach. You are fully covered, except your belly, and the practitioner does gentle circular type motions across your stomach. I will admit, it is odd at first since it is such an intimate area to be touched, but you can quickly feel the muscles release and stomach relax. Do you have any idea how tight the muscles are in your stomach? I didn’t until a Mayan Massage. The practitioner also will work on your back and shoulders depending on the length of your massage. My massage therapist uses hot stones and fire cupping (stationary or moving) if desired/needed as additional modalities of massage within your session.
- As I continued to use Mayan Abdominal Massage throughout the remainder of my pregnancy and postpartum period, it continued to help my SPD/SIJ. While traditional massage therapy feels good, this left me feeling relaxed but also kept the progress of the muscle work for longer than just a day. It was sufficient to go monthly after the first two sessions. I can see this greatly helping those with digestive issues for regulation, as well helping those who have had significant trauma, as the psoas is incorporated in massage and much of our trauma is kept in this strong muscle. Of course this type of massage would be amazingly therapeutic for women with menstrual abnormalities, whether its a tilted uterus, terrible cramping, or extremely heavy flow, the use of hands on the stomach and all the muscles and connective tissue does much more than release tension. For a resource on what this helps with and what to expect, visit this site.
As always with close activities that may feel “in your space” or intimate, there may be a trauma response. Be open with your bodyworker about your past. You do not have to give all the details, but for them to know your body before they even start will help them do their job in the best way they can for you. As frustrating as it may be, the body keeps the score with trauma. If your practitioner does not ask about trauma, they probably are not the right practitioner for you. You definitely want to be able to discuss any emotions that arise or body reactions like muscle tightness that come out of a session. Additionally, personally I cannot relax during a massage if there is not a table where you can lay on your stomach. Something to consider if you are searching for a practitioner- ask them if they have a table for pregnant women.
- For local peeps- Michelle Hansen at Moonshadow Healing Arts is amazing for Mayan Abdominal Massage. Michelle is a true bodyworker and intuitively used different modalities for what my body needed during that session. She genuinely cares about you, your body, and if you’re carrying, your baby. I always felt like I was her only client and the session was set aside specially for me and my needs. I also basically want to curl up in her amazing space and never leave. It is one of the most relaxing places I have ever been!
At the end of my pregnancy, both my chiropractor and my midwife mentioned how much room they felt baby had in my belly. They had both been with me during my first pregnancy, and although my son was a tank, they could feel that it was not that the baby was smaller, but my baby having significant room to move and grow in my stomach. I also had none of the trouble with feeling the baby push on my ribs or feel uncomfortably full. Additionally, probably most miraculously, I did not have to use the bathroom during the night pretty much ever, even when I went “overdue” with my second baby. With my first child by the end of the third trimester I was using the bathroom not once, but twice a night! That is a significant loss of sleep when pregnancy does not always give you wonderful sleep anyways. I contribute this all to the work I was doing in One Strong Mama and the hands-on work of my bodyworker. Not only does having belly room allow for these things, but it allows your baby to move into an optimal position for birth!
Again, even with my knowledge of the body and what I *should* be doing, I depended heavily on this care throughout the pregnancy and postpartum of each kid because pregnancy is no small feat friends. Neither is delivery (however it happens) and the early stages (you know- up to when they are walking pretty much 100% of the time) of baby-rearing. It is all hard work, and adding on the fatigue of being up nights, having a child basically (or actually) attached to you 24/7, and nursing or bottle-feeding about half the day every day…well with all that, chances are good you are not holding yourself well the whole time, even if you *know* better.
Self-care is not selfish, friends. I hope this opens up your view of what these practices can do for you!
Feel free to throw me any questions!
Consider it joy,