with Michelle Lowe, FGHG pregnancy and fertility massage therapist and doula
What do you love about your work as a remedial, pregnancy and fertility massage therapist?
There’s so much that I love about what I do as a massage therapist, I feel I am very fortunate and lucky to be able to do work that I am deeply passionate about. I love being able to see the transition patients make from when I first see them to when they leave the treatment like a whole new person and then seeing the progress they make with each treatment. I love being a part of the journey with women to falling pregnant and helping them to switch off and just receive. Hearing my patients’ good news that they’ve fallen pregnant, or the relief they feel after a pregnancy massage is really rewarding for me as I love to help.
What initially inspired you to add womb massage to your skill set?
So I used to suffer from really bad period pains, with no real understanding as to why I was suffering from them. I tried many different things to help, but for me they weren’t overly successful or not well suited for my lifestyle. It was definitely more of a personal journey for me initially to train in fertility/ womb massage. I remember sitting in circle on the first day and all my symptoms were explained so clearly to me as to why I was experiencing period pains. With this experience I learnt so much about my body that I wanted to help others who experience the same.
What types of benefits do you commonly see in your patients doing regular womb massage?
Everyone can be vastly different as all cases are unique. The main benefits I will see in almost everyone is that they are more relaxed and grounded. Almost everyone reports a lighter feeling in their abdomen, better bowel movement, reduction in period pain and feeling less stress and anxiety.
In your work you support many women on their journey to becoming pregnant. Do you recommend they continue to see you after becoming pregnant? What benefits does massage have to offer women in pregnancy?
Absolutely, massage is really beneficial to have throughout pregnancy. It’s great for relaxation, especially during first trimester or if any stage of pregnancy is causing some stress and/ or anxiety. It’s also great for relieving any aches and pains associated with pregnancy or pre-existing aches and pains that may be exacerbated by pregnancy. Beyond that, its beneficial for sleep and circulation, especially during third trimester when everything is starting to feel compromised. I like to think massage gives you a boost mentally and physically to help you feel more comfortable and relaxed.
You are also a doula (also known as a birth attendant). What inspired you to become a doula?
This has always been a tricky question to answer as there are many reasons why I decided to become a doula/ birth attendant. I think one of the biggest reasons why I wanted to become a doula was to support women and be with women during a time that can make you feel very vulnerable. I’ve been treating pregnant women for many years and I’ve heard lots of stories from women who hadn’t felt well supported during their births and many other stories when women haven’t been aware of their choices and options during pregnancy and labour, maybe wanting to have done it differently. If you look at the statistics and the possible causes of medical intervention, having a support person, particularly a doula, has shown positive research results. I’d love to help women have better birthing experiences.
What sorts of things do you do to support women in your work as a doula?
As a doula I am an emotional and physical support person during the pregnancy and labour of a mum to be. I support the mother in helping her through the pregnancy in the lead up to the labour, really getting to know her and her partner and what’s important to them during their labour experience. I personally like to go over any fears and try our best to work with them so that a couple can have a positive birth experience.
We go over a birth plan and their options as to what they might like to experience and how they usually cope with pain. I am currently working on a plan to try and determine tools that couples can use to help women cope with pain. This will allow partners to have a better idea of what they can do and possibly what role the mother wants from them – whether that’s eye contact, movement, massage, pressure points, music, rebozo work, there are sooo many things we can use to help create a safe space that is working with pain (if that’s what a mother’s goal is). Having said that I obviously bring in my own tools to work with pain and that’s massage, rebozo techniques (using a shawl) and pressure points, which are also great at boosting oxytocin for labour. I can use and teach these tools to partners so that we can support each other in supporting the mother to be.
After the birth I also like to meet up with the new family and see how they are going and offer any support that I can during this transitional phase too.
Can you share a moment from your work that you will never forget?
I will never forget that magical moment of seeing a baby born for the first time. I was so in awe of the mother’s strength and perseverance, it’s a magnificent journey to witness and be a part of, words cannot describe the feeling in the room once that baby is born. There are ups and downs, but you’re working as a team to support the mother and father along the way. That first birth taught me soo much, and I think it will forever affect my approach to being a birth attendant.
Your patients are often seeing acupuncturists and naturopaths as well. What type of benefits do you see in these types of shared care?
I find the women and couples who are seeing an acupuncturist and or a naturopath are very well supported through all aspects of health. We’re all looking at different angles of the individuals’ health and I find these clients tend to have better overall health and reach their health goals quicker, generally speaking.
What other modalities do you find your clients get benefit from?
Meditation and yoga, and when necessary counselling.
When I see patients who have a lot of mind chatter and trouble switching off I like to advise meditation to calm the monkey brain.
I also hear lots of good feedback from clients who have seen a counsellor, whether it’s to put things into perspective or have someone with an unbiased opinion to talk to.
I am also a yoga enthusiast and will often advise patients to do certain yoga poses to help stretch and strengthen muscles for better alignment, but if people can get to a class that’s even better.