Thai medicine has a long history of taking care of everyone, from the merchant with a cold to the monk with a serious infection to the child with the broken leg, and on and on. This includes a whole practice of midwifery which prescribes herbal medicines, specific diets, daily habits, massage/bodywork and more for pregnant and postpartum women.
Many modern women get massages while pregnant. It feels great and is able to soothe the pains and imbalances that result from making our normal-sized bodies grow a whole extra person inside us. It's truly mind blowing what our bodies do during this phase of life, but let's come back to that. First, let's just talk about Thai pregnancy massage and overall Thai pregnancy care. Most people think of Thai massage as the stretching or deep tissue kind of massage. The kind you might not want when you're pregnant. However, there is a whole lot more about Thai therapies that people haven't caught onto yet. So, here's the scoop:
1. Thai Pregnancy Massage.
Traditionally, there is minimal to no stretching. This is because the hormone relaxin starts working to open up your ligaments, even in early pregnancy, so we don't want to further disrupt your joint stability. Full body deep tissue work is also not recommended as there is always some detoxification that results when we dig deep and stir the pot. We don't want your baby to pick up any toxins that get released. Of course we can do some spot specific deeper work because otherwise you'd just be in pain for about 40 weeks. It's just best to not overdo it. Thai pregnancy massage is mostly gentle techniques and herbal compresses. These are balls of medicinal herbs packed together and then heated in a steamer to open up their healing magic. There are herbs to help circulation, relax muscles, calm the mind and more. And they feel like heaven.
2. About the postpartum philosophy.
Since becoming licensed, I have worked with lots of belly bumps. However, once the baby is on the outside, I usually don't see those mamas again for a long time. It's fair. Even best friends might not see those moms for a while. But what they don't know is how much benefit can come from just 2-3 visits as soon as possible after they have their baby.
Returning to the mind blowing activities of the female body during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period now. I have heard childbirth likened to climbing a mountain. At any rate it's an intense physical, mental, emotional and spiritual activity. You could say running a marathon or insert other intense life changing activity here. So you're about to climb a good sized mountain or run that marathon or whatever it is. Most people do lots of training to increase the body's strength, endurance and overall stability. They want optimal lung capacity, try to eat healthy, get the body lean and strong. But for childbirth... you put on an extra 30 pounds, give or take, to be supported by the joints that are now looser thanks to a big dose of relaxin hormone into the bloodstream and now you're more prone to dislocation and general discomfort. Then add HCG, the hormone that many believe causes "morning sickness" (which mamas all know can strike any time of day), and causes many people to barely eat for the first few months. Unfortunately, this sickness doesn't stop after the first trimester with a lot of women. Add a dash of progesterone for dizziness, fainting and a host of gastrointestinal symptoms, and to sweeten the pot, you never know what emotions will attack you at any given moment. On top of all this, you can't sleep through the night anymore for any number of reasons. For months, your guts are squished and your lungs squeezed and then you climb the mountain.
Labor alone might take a whole day or two (dare I say 3?) and then you push, sometimes for several hours. You lose blood, you lose a ton of sleep and then after all that, your body is expected to start making milk to feed the new baby. Your body is taking its own nutritional supply and giving it to the baby. And what if you had a C-section? In addition to any host of the previously mentioned experiences, you just had major abdominal surgery. Routine though it may be, you still had your belly cut open and a person taken out of it and now your body has to put that back together as well. And while you're now taking care of a completely dependent person around the clock, getting chafed and bloody nipples, ears ringing from the intense crying, this is when you are supposed to recover. Wouldn't some self care come in handy right about now?
I won't even get on the soap box about why we expect women to return to work or normal activities so soon after childbirth. Of course not everyone has all of these things happen. Some pregnancies and deliveries are easy as a breeze, but some of us get it all and then some and you never know who will get what. I mention all of this not to prove that women and moms are weak. To the contrary, we go through all this and still carry on jobs, relationships, parenthood to older children, all kinds of important life stuff. What all this tells me is that women are incredibly strong and resilient and if supported correctly, we can stay that way.
There is a widespread belief in Thailand that lifelong illnesses can result from improper care during the first 4-6 weeks postpartum. There is also modern research to support the importance of quality postpartum care. This article published by the National Institute of Health begins with the statement "Postpartum maternal health care is a neglected aspect of women's health care." I couldn't agree more. And Thai medicine has support ready for you.
3. Thai Postpartum Massage & General Care
The first 6 weeks postpartum is a crucial time for new mothers. In many places around the world there are certain systems in place to help moms and families adapt and give their lives space to recover, adapt and care for a new baby. Traditionally in Thailand, the mother would spend a whole month doing little more than laying by the fire. She might drink a special postpartum tea, eat nourishing food, receive other herbal remedies, and do a lot of resting. The practice is called "Yoo Fai" literally meaning "by the fire." This is done in Thailand. Where it is really hot most of the year. Women still would lay by the fire to keep warm. Because pregnancy and childbirth is incredibly depleting. During this time, she ideally has food prepared for her and housekeeping tasks done so she doesn't have to work. This is especially important for the first baby because the body has never done this specific kind of extremely hard work and intense change before. [Cue to enter: supportive community of people who don't need your attention and just want to drop off food or do a quick chore and then disappear unless you ask them to stay.]
The midwife would visit and perform therapies such as belly wrapping, vaginal herbal steams or other herbal therapies and massage. Just like Thai pregnancy massage, Thai postpartum massage is usually gentle, but sometimes may include a bit of deeper focus in one area and may include techniques to encourage the uterus to return to normal. No full body deep tissue or much (if any) stretching. You still have relaxin in your system for a while and we don't want to hurt your joints, and we still don't want your baby getting toxins. Traditional Thai postpartum herbal massage uses a specially formulated herbal compress to help flush excess fluids, shrink the uterus and speed overall recovery.
In a session with me, in addition to massage and any herbal therapies, we may include aspects of Reusi Dat Ton, including breath work and postures to help strengthen the body and overall habits to help nurture you as you spend so much energy nurturing someone else.
4. BRING. YOUR. BABY. When you are newly postpartum, the last thing you need is to have to find child care and break away from your baby, even for just an hour so you can take care of yourself. I am delighted to welcome you both. Of course if you'd prefer to come alone, that's perfectly ok, too. I can also do training sessions with you and a support person or two while you're still pregnant so you can stay home and have your support person do some of the therapies until you're ready for an office visit.