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Birth Doula and Bodywork Therapy: A Natural Combination

12 Apr 2017

If there was ever someone who needed a relaxing massage, it’s a pregnant woman. But prenatal massage has many more benefits in addition to its stress-relieving, relaxation-promoting components. Pregnant women deal with a number of health issues that massage therapy can address:

  • Varicose veins
  • Swollen ankles and feet (from edema build-up)
  • Lower back pain
  • Sore joints
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Impaired circulation
  • Muscle tension and headaches

Prenatal Massage

There is plenty of evidence that supports the use of therapeutic massage to address all of these conditions. And under most circumstances, prenatal massage is very safe. As a woman’s pregnancy progresses, some adjustments in technique need to be made. For example, in the latter stages, side position massage might be more comfortable for the woman and easier for the therapist to address lower back issues. But it’s always wise to get the consent of the woman’s health care provider.

Bodywork therapy being performed during the labor period can enhance the woman’s production of oxytocin, which helps to speed along labor, and it also can reduce the need for pain medication.

For therapists who provide prenatal massage, there’s an additional skill that may be helpful:  training as a birth doula.

What Is a Birth Doula?

The concept of doula is an age-old one. The word ‘doula’ is derived from the Greek word which means ‘woman caregiver.’ And that’s exactly what a birth doula does. A birth doula is there to give both physical and emotional support to a pregnant woman and her partner during her pregnancy and after childbirth. Many think of it as ‘mothering the mother-to-be.’ Birth doulas can be a source of helpful information as well as support.

Pregnancy can be a stressful time, both emotionally and physically.  But women who have used a birth doula report a much more positive pregnancy and birth experience. Both the birth doula and the massage therapist offer skills to address stress and anxiety, and so it just seems natural to combine the two functions.

And that’s just what we’ve done.  

At our Minneapolis massage school, we now offer birth doula training as part of our continuing education classes. Our next session of Birth Doula and Bodywork Therapy begins May 20, 2017. This course follows standards set by DONA, the international doula organization. Upon completion of this class, graduates can apply for DONA certification and registry (with completion of some additional requirements). Register by April 28th – click here for course details and registration information.



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