Throughout Europe, many midwives are using shiatsu as a tool to support women. It can address both physical and emotional aspects of their care.
Shiatsu shares some of the techniques of massage and reflexology and other soft tissue disciplines such as osteopathy, some exercise and self-care aspects used in Qi Kung, Tai Chi and yoga based stretching and much of the theoretical background of acupuncture. It includes pressure techniques and stretching. It is often described as calming yet dynamic in nature. It can be done through the clothes or directly on the skin with oil.
Although it comes from Japan, it draws upon Chinese medical theory and in this respect it is a whole body system. It uses the acupressure points and meridian system.
In pregnancy, women can receive a 45 minute to an hour session which usually involves work on a futon on the floor, although it can be done on a massage table. The side position is usually used in later pregnancy, although work can be included on all fours, often over a ball. In labour, work can be done in any position, and it can simply involve holding specific points.
How can shiatsu be integrated into midwifery care?
Some midwives have completed full shiatsu training and offer complete shiatsu sessions; others integrate aspects of shiatsu into their work in different ways.
Suzanne Yates has trained many midwives throughout the UK, and in the US, Australia, Switzerland, Belgium and France. In her book Shiatsu for midwives (Yates 2003), she gives many examples of how midwives use shiatsu. Mostly midwives are using this in their individual practices, in the community and the hospital. The Belgian health ministry recently approved the six day Shiatsu for midwives course for midwives in Belgium.
Shiatsu practitioners can work alongside midwives. One example is the shiatsu practitioner Aline Duclos, who worked from 2004 to 2011 at the Pithiviers Hospital in France. This hospital is well known as the hospital where Michel Odent began his pioneering work on birth. She was paid for by the hospital to offer four sessions to women, three before birth and one after. As she was working there in two blocks of two days per month, she would stay overnight and sometimes attend births. During her time there she trained some of the midwives to use shiatsu in their work.
One of Aline’s clients, who was also a midwife, wrote of the benefits of the shiatsu she experienced while pregnant:
‘The shiatsu helped me and my partner connect with each other and our baby. We had in vitro fertilisation and shiatsu helped us stay in contact with the baby during the transfer. During my pregnancy I felt balanced in my body and mind and Aline showed me exercises that I could use myself. My partner was able to learn techniques that he could use in labour to support me. My own midwife was also able to support me with shiatsu as Aline had taught her some techniques too. I find also that my own work as a midwife has been enriched by the addition of shiatsu.’
Research: how effective can shiatsu be?
The research base directly relating to shiatsu is fairly small because there is a lack of awareness and numbers and as a result it cannot generate the recognition it deserves. Some pilot studies have been done and this is a field where midwives could lead new research.
- Yates S (2003). Shiatsu for midwives. Oxford: Books for Midwives.
- Ingram J, Domagala C, Yates S (2005). The effects of shiatsu on post-term pregnancy. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 13(1):11 – 5.
Also worth consideration are MIDIRS pre-prepared literature searches. Compiled from a range of resources across the MIDIRS Reference Database, MIDIRS Standard Searches cover a range of topics related to midwifery, pregnancy, birth, the postnatal period and neonatal care up to the second year of life.
Standard Search P100 Massage includes 119 abstracts relating to massage throughout pregnancy, labour and the postnatal period, and massaging newborn babies. A hard copy of the search can be purchased for £9.95. Alternatively, for just £12.50 per quarter, a year’s subscription to MIDIRS Reference Database allows unlimited access to the Database and all 564 MIDIRS Standard Searches. For further details click here.
About Suzanne Yates
Suzanne has been developing a holistic approach to maternity care since 1989. Motivated by her first pregnancy, she began to deepen her professional shiatsu and massage work to specialise in maternity care. She established ‘Well Mother’ in 1990, teaching shiatsu, massage and exercise to women and their partners in Bristol, UK, to help them connect with the wisdom of their body.
In 1998 Suzanne set up courses for health professionals (midwives, shiatsu and massage therapists). She now teaches internationally, regularly visiting North America, Australasia and Europe. She has written numerous articles on the subject and has also written three books: Shiatsu for midwives, Beautiful birth and Pregnancy and childbirth.
For further details about Suzanne and her work, please visit www.wellmother.org.
Contributor: Suzanne Yates, Well Mother
Photo Credit: Amanda Harman