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I have been asking some of the people who have studied with me to write about their work. Leslie did my Shiatsu for Midwives course which was organised by Midwifery Today in Eugene. She has written a lovely book on pregnancy massage, “Nurturing massage for pregnancy”  which I highly recommend.  Here she is with some thoughts about her work :


Leslie Stager RN, LMT      Touch For Birth


When I was given a vision in 1985 that “Earth, Birth, Death”  was my work in the world,  I didn’t know that it would lead me to become a perinatal massage specialist. The 28-year path from that sojourn in the desert where I received that message, to today, has been circuitous, but I have always worked with that vision as my base. I guide other seekers on wilderness rites of passage (earth) ; I worked for a decade as a birth nurse (birth) , and another decade as a hospice nurse (death).  Now, I am integrating all. .. With internal pelvic floor work, I assist women to inhabit their root—their pelvis—(earth); to re-empower our natural feminine wisdom, to sink into the earth for grounding, and to practice the art of surrendering to the flow of life  or Chi (birth/death). Earth-Birth-Death–the fundamental circles of existence on this planet: this is what my work is about, And so much of what shiatsu and touch healing is all about. … surrendering to deep listening, letting the vital flow of life beyond the habit patterns of our minds inform us.


During the early 90’s when I worked as a labor & delivery nurse, I watched women waddling down the hospital hallways holding their aching backs and bellies and complaining of round ligament pain and sacral pain. I was in massage school at the time, and quickly understood that these pregnant women would be my optimum massage clientele. The women coming for prenatal tests or hoping they were in labor desperately needed nurturing touch, yet there were few options for them to actually receive it professionally in those days. The prevailing belief then was that massage might be dangerous during pregnancy. How far from the truth that was! The benefits of nurturing touch– from a brief touch on a shoulder, to sessions of Shiatsu or Swedish massage–are far-reaching and absolutely essential for the health and vitality of Mother, baby in utero and for both after birth. Research has shown that even the pregnant woman’s companions themselves gain benefits by offering nurturing massage to the pregnant mom!


But in 1992, there were no books, few classes, and altogether very little information available about massage during pregnancy. A few of us around the world were gathering information though. As a nurse, doula, and childbirth educator, I understood the physiological, hormonal, and emotional layers impacting every pregnant mom. As a massage therapist, I learned more about the structural and muscular issues, and was excited to see how the work supported women and alleviated so many discomforts. I was one of only two pregnancy massage therapists in Portland, Oregon. I imagine Suzanne may have been fairly alone in the work then too over in England. In those days, we had to convince obstetricians that massage would be useful for their patients. Their response was often:  “Why would massage help? They are pregnant. Of course they are uncomfortable. What do you expect!?!”


In 1993, I created the prenatal massage program at Oregon School of Massage that now includes 60–hours of pregnancy essentials, advanced pregnancy techniques, birth massage, and postpartum bodywork.  Still searching for information, I heard of Suzanne Yates in 2002, who was coming to Oregon to teach Shiatsu for Midwives. I was in Maine at that time of the year, but flew to Oregon just to take her course, and to add some of her brilliant sharings to my repertoire. Her class helped support my desires to attune with the unseen energies, as much as work with the grosser physical realities of muscles and bones.


Today I incorporate acupressure and shiatsu into my private perinatal sessions and teaching, while beginning to focus in on postpartum mother care, including Holistic and Integrative Pelvic Care. Postpartum bodywork helps restore a woman’s postural balance caused by birth or by strains from difficult nursing positions and lifting babies. It helps a mother renew her vitality as she nourishes her baby. External and internal Integrative pelvic care helps a mother re-inhabit her pelvis after difficult physical or psychic experiences; extinguishes internal trigger points that contribute to pelvic, back, hip, or leg pain, incontinence, or organ prolapse; helps re-establish balance in her core, and offers reverence to this sacred pelvic temple!


I’m excited to continue this work by developing trainings for midwives and course curriculum to train massage therapists. I’m curious to know about pelvic shiatsu internally and externally as well! And I’m sure Suzanne has much to offer on this topic.


In the 20 years since I began this work, obstetricians have come to their senses and now recognize the value of perinatal bodywork. Research has demonstrated its’ myriad benefits. Pregnancy massage is integrated into every massage school and offered at nearly every spa. I think Suzanne and I, and the other pioneers in the perinatal bodywork field have done a great job in helping pregnant women and professionals recognize the need, the importance, and the safety of offering bodywork to women throughout the birthing cycles.


Blessings on the work


Leslie Stager, RN, LMT


1 Comment

  1. Katy Anne Nicol on 05/02/2013 at 2:40 pm

    I agree; Suzanne’s work is inspirational & she is a way- shower… as is Leslie, I’m sure.
    To be fair to the NHS & to the NCT here in the UK, in 1990, when I was expecting my first baby, we discussed & exchanged massage and learnt of the benefits of peritoneal massage(drastically reduces tears,episiotomies etc)
    During my labour in The Natural Birth Room at Bristol Maternity Hospital, the midwife encouraged my husband to massage my back & shoulders…she’d learnt to do so through her NHS Midwifery training.
    I received hands-on healing,in the same hospital, during my second labour two years later. My birth partner explained to the Midwives that her touch would enable my birthing & they totally supported & respected my desire to birth naturally with as little intervention as possible.
    Thumbs up & big Thanks to all birth educators & enablers everywhere! Blessings to you all’
    Katy Marianne

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