When I was studying for my Pregnancy Massage qualification, I had to write an essay on any related topic I wanted. I knew instantly that I wanted to write about the role of a father during pregnancy, & to explore how massage for fathers-to-be could help during this time. I spent quite some time reading, spoke to the partners of a few of my case study ladies, & tried out a few 'pregnancy massage lesson' sessions.
Now, obviously I love massage therapy & extoll its virtues - otherwise I'd be in the wrong job! But I realise that I'm not necessarily in the majority when it comes to loving to give massage. Many times I've heard clients, pregnant & otherwise, bemoan the half hearted, telly watching attempts at a back or foot rub. Conversely I've also heard others say they'd like to do more to help ease the aches & pains of loved ones but their thumbs / wrists / arms / [insert appropriate body part] hurts after a short time. So Bristol Massage Therapy offer the opportunity for couples to book a pregnancy massage lesson. I love working with couples in this way - there is something so magical about teaching, encouraging & sharing the gift of massage therapy at such a precious and transient phase of their relationship.
Communication is King
I have discovered that part of the success of a pregnancy massage lesson is to set expectations: for example, mother will not receive much relieving massage, and the partner will spend quite a lot of working whilst sitting on the floor (partner lessons typically take place on the futon). However, the real secret appears to be the art of encouraging a different form of communication. Some couples will have given each other a foot rub or massaged one another's back at one time or another - or even quite regularly. I remember one couple had previously attended a massage introduction weekend course together and had a massage table at home but this is the exception.
Pregnancy is a natural everyday kind of experience, except that for couples this may only happen a once, or perhaps a few times. It is very easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure of what's best or even what's going on in many 'ordinary' areas of your life. So seeking professional guidance on what is good, what is ok and what isn't such a good idea when it comes to massaging your partner whilst they're pregnant is a great idea. But here's the real secret ... I've found that this lesson is more about encouraging trust of touch and communication than it is about teaching a routine or techniques to ‘master’.
So if that's all there is to it, what's so special? Why is it a good idea?
What is a pregnancy massage lesson?
Well, whilst I'd hope that most people would not contemplate using a percussion / tapotement (think using hands to drum roll) across or down a back, there are some little hints and tips which you'll pick up that could make a big difference to both partners' enjoyment of massage during pregnancy.
Whilst initially I offered pregnancy massage sessions on a futon on the floor, I quickly found that my knees and long back didn’t really like this working position, so now all my pregnancy massage appointments are completed on the massage table, whereas Thea does sometimes use the futon for her pregnant clients. However, pregnancy massage lessons always take place using a futon on the floor. Let’s face it, it is highly unusual for non-bodyworkers to have a massage table lying around at home!
The first area we focus on is quality of contact: what tool to use, by which I mean heel of hand, thunk, loose fist, fingertips; where to contact and how much pressure. All of these things really come down to communication. Because the mother receives some work from the practitioner, then the partner repeats this it encourages the couple to communicate gently and honestly with each other. What might make it feel 'good' as opposed to 'fine'? Perhaps adding a little movement, slowing the pace, remembering to breathe?
The body position and usage of the partner doing the massage is as important as the comfort of the mother - whether in practice or during labour, there is no point in the birthing partner providing beautiful & relaxing massage if their position suddenly induces calf cramp!
During the lesson we work in a variety of positions which typically include using a stability ball, on all fours, and side lying. The joy of this work is that each session that couples complete as 'practice' in the run up to the birth will also be hugely beneficial to the mother's body! We will discuss the usage of these different positions both in the weeks leading up to the labour, and during the birthing process itself, and we will consider these positions in relation to your preferred birth plan.
Booking a pregnancy massage lesson
For a while, it was possible to arrange an hour's partner pregnancy massage lesson using our online booking system. This made it much easier for existing pregnancy massage clients to book their partner lesson at a mutually convenient time. Unfortunately, I also started to find that couples we have not previously worked with were also booking in for a 60 minute lesson.
That might sound like a crazy thing to say … wanting less people to book in, but what this meant was that we have to cover a complete medical & prenatal health consultation, understand a little about the couple's outlined birth plan, establish the mother's massage experience and preferences, discover the areas of her body she was experiencing discomfort in ... & give some practical hands-on lessons on body use, techniques & consideration to the father. To be honest, this was too much in just an hour.
I found I was not truly happy with the quality of the care or advice being provided, so I removed the option of a partner lesson from the online booking. Which now meant clients were not overtly aware that we were offering this service.
So what's changed?
I was recently contacted by a father-to-be who really wanted to organise a pregnancy massage lesson for himself and his wife, but their time was extremely limited so it wasn’t going to be possible for the mother-to-be to come in for a pregnancy massage earlier. We had quite a long conversation and together came up with a plan … a 90 minute lesson which would cover all those questions I would need to be answered, about birth plan, medical history, pregnancy history, areas of aches and pains, without a strict time restriction making this feel rushed. It would allow us to have plenty of time for the actual ‘lesson’. I absolutely loved everything about it, and they both seemed really thrilled with what they learned.
I am always seeking ways to ensure that Bristol Massage Therapy are providing exceptional quality of care to you, our clients. Once again, by listening to your honest feedback and genuine enquiries, I believe that we can improve our service offering to provide what you really need and want. So thank you … to that couple, and to all our fabulous clients.
Thea & I are currently working to ‘formalise’ our provision for pregnancy massage lesson for partners, but in the meantime, if you’d like to book in with your pregnancy massage practitioner for a lesson, do please contact us directly.