13 December 2020

Reflexology, Aromatherapy and Osteopathy in the 3rd Trimester

Being pregnant during a global pandemic has meant that I’ve had to forgo a lot of the usual activities an expectant woman might indulge in. I wish I could go swimming or take part in actual antenatal class activities instead of the virtual ones but this is the world we live in today, so we make do.

Nevertheless, I have had the chance to indulge in some complementary therapies that have helped both my body and soul to feel better during the last weeks of my pregnancy.

As my belly gets rounder and heavier, my lower back has really been feeling the strain. In the last weeks of pregnancy the body starts producing relaxin as well, which is a hormone produced by the ovaries and the placenta which relaxes the ligaments in the pelvis and softens and widens the cervix. All great stuff as my body prepares to push a baby out, not so great when my body tries to find a comfortable position in bed. My hips and pelvis have been aching constantly for weeks now and even thought the pain is not excruciating, it is uncomfortable enough that is has prevented me from getting a restful night’s sleep more than once. Add to the mix a dash of pregnancy hormones which have at times left me feeling anxious, hysterical, scared, vulnerable and insecure, and you have yourself a right mess of a human being.

So I started exploring alternative ways to relax my mind and maybe ease the pain in my hips. That’s how I got into Reflexology, Aromatherapy and Osteopathy.

Reflexology

Reflexology is a type of massage that involves applying different amounts of pressure to the feet, hands, and ears. It's based on a theory that these body parts are connected to certain organs and body systems. Put simply, it is a glorified foot massage.

A few months ago I saw an Instagram post from the midwife led unit where I plan to give birth, announcing that with COVID restrictions now easing off (hooray!) they have introduced reflexology sessions with a qualified midwife. I honestly didn’t think it would make too much of a difference but I thought to myself ‘Hey, it’s a free foot massage and my feet could do with some TLC so why the hell not‘.

I was well and truly surprised by the session I had and the instant relief I felt. I had a long chat with the midwife reflexologist about my pregnancy to date, my aches and pains and also how I’ve been coping emotionally. She explained how reflexology works and the type of benefits I should expect and she cracked on with it. She was ever so gentle while applying varying degrees of pressure on my feet. I felt instantly soothed and relaxed. The following days I felt a huge relief in my hip and lower back pain and my sleep improved as well. Emotionally, I felt more at ease as well. So yeah, I am now booked to see her every other week for a treatment and cannot recommend reflexology to any pregnant lady strongly enough.

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is another holistic treatment that uses natural oils and extracts to promote physical and emotional wellbeing. For me, aromatherapy and reflexology go hand in hand.

As part of our initial consultation chat, my reflexologist midwife brought out a few essential oils that she gave me to smell and asked me what I thought about them. Some I found a tad too pungent, a few I found a bit too strong but then there was this one oil which was a blend of lavender, sweet orange and bergamot essence which I absolutely adored.

She used that oil on my feet for my treatments, she gave me some in a little bottle that I could use in a bath at home, and she also infused one of those sniffer things which I can carry in my bag with me. I love that oil, the way it smells and the way it makes me feel. During our treatments, the sweet scent lingers in the room and I enter an almost meditative state. At home, I use the oil in a bath before bed and I swear it has helped improve my sleep dramatically.

Osteopathy

Osteopathy is a non-invasive manual therapy that aims to improve health across all body systems by manipulating and strengthening the musculoskeletal framework. In lamest terms it’s a deep tissue massage with the added bonus of getting your joints cracked like a glow stick.

I have enjoyed osteopathy for a few years now having discovered it as a way to relieve some neck, shoulder and back pain which developed as a result of too many hours spent hunched over a desk. Due to COVID, I was unable to visit my osteo during the first stages of pregnancy but as things are now relaxing a bit I thought I’d give my therapist a call and see whether I could come in for treatment in the third trimester. Unbeknown to me, my osteo has an actual qualification allowing her to work on pregnant women.

During our sessions, Ruby (my ostoe therapist) gently eases the soreness of my muscles, rebalances my pelvis and realigns my hips. During our last session (which was this morning actually) we tried using sports tape to ease off some of the strain that my heavy belly was causing. It literally helps to distribute the weight of the extra pounds evenly with the tapes around. The relief was instant!

She also advises me on exercises I could do at home to ease off the pain, best sleeping positions and also positions I could adopt for when it’s time to push the baby out.

We have also been discussing postnatal treatments we could explore that will help readjust my pelvis after the birth and also strengthen my core which at 32 weeks pregnant is pretty much non-existent.

The combination of these 3 complimentary therapies has brought me a huge physical and mental relief. I feel a lot less pain. I feel that my body and my mind are better prepared for the birth. Lastly, each one of these sessions leave me feeling pampered and well taken care of.

So if you have the opportunity to explore one (or all 3!) of these holistic therapies in your third trimester, I could highly recommend that you take advantage.

Side note:

Pregnancy is a special time for a woman and also a time of great sensitivity. Please make sure that the therapists you go to are certified professionals who have the qualifications to work with pregnant women. The last thing you want is to sustain an injury in the hands of someone who lacks the necessary skills and experience to work with pregnant women.

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