I have been very lucky to have been trained by Suzanne Yates, world renowned expert in shiatsu and massage techniques for pregnancy and birth and founder of wellmother.org. I recommend her book Beautiful Birth.
Some useful massage or shiatsu techniques your partner can use that I’ve learned from Suzanne include:
Bladder 67 (these are the names of the shiatsu/acupressure points) You can press on the lateral side of the base of the little toenail. This point is used in pregnancy and is said to help in turning a breech baby, from around 32-34 weeks. In labour it can help with encouraging the baby to move, if at any point the baby becomes stuck. Acupuncturists and recently some reflexologists (I plan to train to use it) will sometimes use Moxa on this point too. I did try this with my second child when he was breech at around 37 weeks. I had never felt him move so much! Although he didn’t actually turn for me. If you are going to use moxa find someone qualified to use it.
Meridian stroking technique
Meridians in Chinese medicine such as acupuncture are known as sets of pathways in the body in which chi (vital energy) is said to flow. Chinese medicine doctors work to enhance the flow of ‘chi’ or remove blockages of it, depending on the client’s needs.
With the leg stroking meridian technique start with one hand at the top of the leg and one hand at the bottom. Vigorously stroke the hand at the top down the outside of the leg while at the same time moving the hand at the bottom, up the inside of the leg. Keep the movement flowing while you lightly move the hand which is now at the bottom and the hand which is now at the top, back to where they started.
This technique can be done vigorously or lightly, provided there are no areas of varicose veins. It is an invigorating technique, good for stimulating circulation in the legs, but it is working on moving all the meridian energy. It is helpful in pregnancy for poor circulation, leg cramps, oedema (though be a little cautious with this particularly if the oedema is fairly severe). It can be very useful during labour itself if the mother is feeling tired and particularly if her legs are feeling wobbly.
Holding the hands and feet or massaging them can be very calming. There are important shiatsu and reflexology points in the centre of the foot and the hand which help to induce a calm state. These are…
Kidney 1 – This is below the centre of the ball of the foot (In reflexology we call this the solar plexus)
Heart Protector 8 – this is in the centre of the hand (Also in reflexology it relates to the solar plexus)
Gall bladder 21 – Gently press in the hollow area on the top of the shoulder, straight up from the nipple when you are standing. It is in the highest point of the shoulder. This can be incorporated in a shoulder massage which is relaxing for the woman in labour. It is said to relax tension in the shoulders, neck and jaw. It is also said to help with poor lactation.
Your birth partner will feel empowered to support you with these techniques. They are great for bonding for you, your partner and the baby. I always find the babies respond beautifully. Remember, it’s not just mummy who will be grateful, baby loves you calm and relaxed too!