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In this article we will look at ways in which Wellmother can support you to prepare for birth, what a birth preparation session might include and some frequently asked questions such as “what are the points which can help me and when can I start using them? what if my baby is breech? what if I have pelvic instability? what if I am overdue?

For more information on what is shiatsu

Here at Wellmother we want to help you prepare for your birth and believe that our tools will support you whatever kind of experience you might have.

We have written a book to support you, Beautiful Birth, and created an on line course  but you may prefer to find a practitioner who can work directly with you.

© Jules Selmes

Finding the right practitioner for you

In addition to the questions and information you will find on Choosing the right maternity practitioner. You will also want to ask:

Have they attended births? What are they going to cover in the sessions? Do they work with midwives ? Have they used this work? How did they develop it? How will they tailor it to you. Do they offer to attend the birth themselves?

What does a birth preparation session include?

The therapist will discuss with you what your specific needs are. These can be different if it is your first baby, you are having a home or hospital birth and  how your pregnancy has been. Birth preparation can also be done to prepare for Caesarean births. You might feel that you need some sessions on your own to prepare you or you want to do one or two sessions with your birth partner, who may or may not be the baby’s father.

Sessions with the birth partner are an opportunity for them to learn to support the mother.  Shiatsu and massage in labour need to include working with different types of birth positions and including appropriate  breathing, visualisations and relaxation. Time can be spend with your partner exploring how they feel about their role during birth and their relationship with the baby. Sessions usually last one and half to two hours.

The kind of work that is included is illustrated in the book Beautiful Birth.

I have heard that there are points which help start labour off which can be dangerous to use too early?

This is a bit of a myth. Just because points are helpful in labour does not mean that they start labour off if you are not ready. All the points are are specific ways of supporting your body. They can not make your body do something which is not helpful for it if you work them sensitively. The main thing to be aware of, and what a good practitioner will explain, is that it depends how you work the points and how your body responds to the points. You will know if they feel right to use or not.

Usually the more specific labour points are worked more intensely as your body naturally prepares to go into labour: from about 37 weeks or so before birth. However sometimes people use some of the points before this stage if they feel right.

© Jules Selmes Beautiful Birth

My baby is in the breech position. Is there anything that Shiatsu or massage can offer?

Possibly. It depends on why your baby might be breech. In most cases breech babies will turn but in some cases they may not. In some situations there can be a physical reason why your baby is breech, such as a short cord, the shape of your uterus or position of your placanta but in most cases there is no obvious reason why your baby is breech. The Chinese have a lovely saying that the “baby is clutching at the mother’s heart”. This can be interpreted either as the baby is feeling very comfortable in the womb and not really wanting to come out, or perhaps the baby doesnt feel ready to be born or is afraid. Whatever the reality is, the connection between mother and baby is important. Often these days, if the baby is diagnosed as breech the mother can become very anxious and get frustrated with the baby not turning. THis is not particularly helpful and shiatsu and massage can support the mother to connect in a more positive way with her baby and relax.  Some work preparing for birth both physically and emotionally may also be helpful. There are some points which have been shown to turn breech babies, and these are usually included as part of the treatments.

As with anything to do with birth, part of the approach is to prepare for the unexpected and to accept what the reality is. If the baby doesn’t turn, depending on the reason, some care givers may still be open to supporting a vaginal delivery.

I am overdue. Will shiatsu and massage get my labour started?

Shiatsu helps your body do what it needs to do. If you are not ready to go into labour, it won’t make you go into labour, but it will help support the process of preparing for labour. If you are overdue, it may well help support you to go into labour.

There are various reasons why women are overdue. These days, with pressure of medical induction looming women are often needlessly stressed and stress blocks the process of labour. Anything that helps you feel less stressed will help; going for a walk, listening to some restful music. Shiatsu can help reduce stress by physically relaxing your body. It can also help by including breath awareness work which can help you feel calmer and support a more positive connection with your body and baby.

Many women find it helps them tune in to what is going in their body so they can start to feel less anxious and more trusting. Shiatsu uses some techniques which are similar to massage, and massage itself can be helpful, as it helps relax your muscles and your breath. Shiatsu also works with the energy system of the meridians and points of acupuncture, which can help regulate your hormonal system which is responsible for starting off the process of labour.

Another reason why women may go overdue, is that their baby is not in the best position. Shiatsu work can include techniques which may help to encourage your baby to move.

I have been told I have Pelvic instablity. How will this affect my preparation for birth and the birth?

The main effect will be that you will need to modify the birth positions so that they do not aggravate your condition. A lot of the other work will be the same. Read more: Pelvic instability

Benefits for woman and partner: offers tools to support the woman

  • to tune into her body and learn to pace herself and prepare for labour physically and emotionally
  • to be more aware of her baby
  • to trust in birth and increase her confidence that she can have a positive birth experience
  • to help her examine her attitudes, needs, and hopes for her birthing experience
  • to provide strategies for working with pain
  • to include her partner by offering practical strategies for them to be involved during labour

Benefits for baby

• may help the baby get in good position for labour (optimal foetal position)
• if the woman is more relaxed it will tend to create a more relaxing environment for the baby
• helps support pre-natal bonding between the parents and their baby

Potential benefits may include:

  • shorter labor, decreased need for caesarean deliveries, forceps and vacuum extraction, oxytocin augmentation, and analgesia.
  • less difficult and painful labours
  • reductions in anxiety scores, positive feelings about the birth experience, and increased rates of breastfeeding initiation.
  • postpartum benefits include decreased symptoms of depression, improved self-esteem, exclusive breastfeeding, and sensitivity of the woman to her child’s needs

Some Research References


Scott KD, Klaus PH, Klaus MH. J Womens Health Gend Based Med 1999 Dec;8(10):1257-64 Division of Public Health, County of Sonoma Department of Health Services, Santa Rosa, California 95404, USA. The obstetrical and postpartum benefits of continuous support during childbirth.

Langer A, Campero L, Garcia C, Reynoso S. Br J Obstet Gynaecol 1998 Oct;105(10):1056-63 The Population Council, Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, Colonia Coyoacan, Mexico DF, Mexico. Effects of psychosocial support during labour and childbirth on breastfeeding, medical interventions, and women’ wellbeing in a Mexican public hospital: a randomised clinical trial.

Kennell J, Klaus M, McGrath S, Robertson S, Hinkley C. JAMA 1991 May 1;265(17):2197-201 Department of Pediatrics, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH. Continuous emotional support during labor in a US hospital. A randomized controlled trial.

Keenan P. Altern Ther Health Med 2000 Jan;6(1):66-74 Potomac Massage Training Institute, USA. Benefits of massage therapy and use of a doula during labor and childbirth.

Mary T Mc Nabb, Linda Kimber, Anne Haines, Christine McCourt
Complement Ther Clin Pract
Aug 2006 (Vol. 12, Issue 3, Pages 222-31)
Does regular massage from late pregnancy to birth decrease maternal pain perception during labour and birth?–A feasibility study to investigate a programme of massage, controlled breathing and visualization, from 36 weeks of pregnancy until birth.

Khoda M Karami A Fathizadeh N 2002 Effect of Massage therapy on severity of pain and outcome of labour in Primapara Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research Winter 07 Vol 12 No 1

Chang MY Wang SY Chen CH Effects of massage on pain and anxiety during labour: a randomised controlled trial in Taiwan. Journal of Advanced Nursing 2002 38 (1) 68-73

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