Abdominal Therapy for the Childbearing Year

As a doula and lactation counselor who also practices the Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy, I get plenty of questions about how it can be sace and for fertility and for pregnant and postpartum bodies. It’s a great question, because these are sensitive times when it means the world to have skilled, compassionate providers in your corner.

In the big picture here, abdominal massage is warming, grounding, and offers relief for constrictions and discomfort in the belly and low back, whether from heavy periods, pregnancy, digestion, posture, or stress. You certainly don’t have to be pregnant, of childbearing age, or even a woman to benefit from abdominal therapy. But childbearing bodies are especially well-suited for extra belly love! Whereas clinical touch by maternity care providers tends toward formal, quick, cold, and for the purpose of assessment and diagnosis, abdominal therapy provides relief through nurturing and connection. Abdominal massage and wraps, warming castor oil packs, herbal teas and pelvic steams are physically and emotionally supportive for new mamas, mamas to be, and anyone preparing for mama-hood. Plus, the experience of learning your own self-massage to continue at home is an opportunity for many women to take their health care into their own hands and reconnect with a changing body and self-image as a mother.

To accommodate the special considerations and contraindications at each step in childbearing, practitioners are careful to modify the treatment appropriately – taking special care around suspected pregnancies, first trimester sensitivities, growing bellies, and after miscarriages, cesareans, perineal tears and episiotomies. Abdominal therapy supports the body’s natural healing abilities by improving blood circulation and nerve function, although we also recognize when not to interfere, when the uterus is doing its own work and the best way to support is by doing nothing.

We ask clients to time their treatments as close to the end of their menses as possible, and to hold “warm hands” over their uterus rather than do their self-massage while menstruating and after ovulation, if they are trying to conceive or have had a fertility treatment transfer. We turn to gentle steams, castor oil packs, and energy work for women with IUDs, intense pelvic pain, or discomfort with the idea of massage for sexual trauma or personal reasons. We encourage mothers to rest or receive energy work during their first trimester of pregnancy to not disrupt the immense fetal neurological development during this time. As mom’s belly grows in the second and third trimesters, we focus our massage away from the uterus proper and turn to uterine ligaments, tendons, and adhesions to reduce pelvic pain and soften the upper abdomen, diaphragm, sacrum, and hips – this improves fetal positioning and expands the ribcage, opening up breathing space for mom, and increasing her hip flexibility and mobility for labor and pushing.

We work alongside other allopathic providers, complementing fertility treatments through increasing the quantity and egg-white stretchy quality of cervical mucous with carefully timed herbal steams. We can work with a new mom and her obstetrician to reduce scar tissue, 8 weeks after her cesarean, to reduce her chances of urgent urination, constipation, or future scar related issues should she choose to birth vaginally (VBAC) next time. We show her how wrap her belly after a long vaginal birth (or any birth), giving her organs the external support to return back to position, lessen bloating and low back pain, and to give her the feeling of a much needed, snug fabric “hug.”

Our techniques are varied and customized to many situations, whether you are an aspiring mom with unexplained infertility, pregnant for the first time with round ligament pain, or your children are now grown, yet digestive or urinary issues are still lingering from your cesarean scar tissue. What I believe is unique about the Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy is its ability to promote physical health and anatomical support while also giving nurturing, maternal care to fatigued bodies, which we all need from time to time.

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