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Touch For Birth

The Amniotic Connection

This is an excerpt from book. See end for source.

Amniotic fluid is the ocean-like substance unborn babies float in. It offers fetuses buoyancy, protection from trauma, and oxygen. Like semen, amniotic fluid is comprised of two basic elements: living cells and the liquid they’re suspended in. In this case, the cells represent sloughed-off fetal skin and bladder tissue.

Amniotic fluid is a mixed drink, with contributions from both baby and mother. Some proportion of amniotic fluid is secreted by the lining of the amniotic sac itself, and some of it is blood serum from the mother, which passes freely through this lining. And some of it is baby pee. We know this because fetuses without kidneys (who can survive only until birth) are surrounded by too little amniotic fluid. But what goes around comes around. Fetal urine itself is distilled from amniotic fluid, which is continuously sipped and swallowed by the baby. Amniotic fluid also soaks right through the skin because the outer waterproofing layer doesn’t form until week 20. The fetus also inhales it during rehearsals for breathing. In these ways, amniotic fluid bathes the inside as well as the outside of the developing body.

Amniotic fluid is a biological mystery. It is bacteriostatic, meaning that bacteria will not grow when cultured in it, so amniotic fluid undoubtedly helps keep the womb a sterile place. But what it does once it seeps inside of the fetus—through the mouth, through the lungs, through the skin—is not at all clear. Some researchers suspect it plays an integral role in establishing the fetal immune system. As it washes through, amniotic fluid exposes the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts to various immunological factors. This contact may recruit the mucus lining of these sites for future work in immunity.

Whatever its internal activity, amniotic fluid eventually re-enters the womb as urine. Here it is absorbed back into the body of the mother and replaced by fresh fluid, in a ceaseless cycle of emptying and refilling. This process speeds up as pregnancy progresses. By the third trimester, amniotic fluid will turn over every three hours. By birth, every hour. But at fifteen weeks, the baby and I require twenty-four hours to replace the volume of fluid just removed.

The obstetrician is finishing up. She reminds me to drink plenty of water today.

Drink plenty of water. Before it is baby pee, amniotic fluid is water. I drink water, and it becomes blood plasma, which suffuses through the amniotic sac and surrounds the baby—who also drinks it.

And what is it before that? Before it is drinking water, amniotic fluid is the creeks and rivers that fill reservoirs. It is the underground water that fills wells. And before it is creeks and rivers and groundwater, amniotic fluid is rain. When I hold in my hands a tube of my own amniotic fluid, I am holding a tube full of raindrops. Amniotic fluid is also the juice of oranges that I had for breakfast, and the milk that I poured over my cereal, and the honey I stirred into my tea. It is inside the green cells of spinach leaves and the damp flesh of apples. It is the yolk of an egg. When I look at amniotic fluid, I am looking at rain falling on orange groves. I am looking at melon fields, potatoes in wet earth, frost on pasture grasses. The blood of cows and chickens is in this tube. The nectar gathered by bees and hummingbirds is in this tube. Whatever is inside hummingbird eggs is also inside my womb. Whatever is in the world’s water is here in my hands.


Creating life


Seed embryo baby Sean FrosaliAccording to my research, there are much more interesting and poetic ways of understanding the process of reproduction, vs the scientific story of oocytes and blastocysts and Gonadotropin-releasing hormone and terms that isolate, subdivide, and have nothing to do with how it feels to make babies.
Some tribal South Africans understood that conception occurs if a woman lies down in the rain, allowing the seeds inside her body to be germinated, just like those in the land.
A Nepalese way of understanding the creation of life is that the souls of those who have died in the past 40 days visit with couples who are making love, slipping into the woman’s body during intercourse. It is the “buttermilk”, or semen, that creates the baby’s bones, and the mother’s menstrual blood that forms the baby’s body.
In Malaysia, the fetal spirit is conceived in the father’s brain and heart, where it learns first of the world through the father’s perspective. The spirit then enters its mother in the father’s semen during intercourse.
For the Trobriand Islanders, whose culture is entwined with the sea, the souls of babies float in seaweed and attach themselves to women as they swim in the ocean. 



Prenatal Massage offers therapists a unique, inspiring opportunity, not only to relieve pregnancy discomforts, but to also massage two people at once and potentially impact the mother and infant's relationship for the rest of their lives! Pregnancy massage can reduce mother's anxiety while increasing beneficial "happy" hormones: dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. A "happy" womb environment means baby's develop more effective immune systems and more tolerance for handling stress. Studies also indicate that women receiving pregnancy massage have reduced rates of postpartum depression and touch their newborn infants more. These extra hours of infant MotherTouch is correlated with an increased sense of security, higher IQ, and having more advanced motor and language skills by age 8, than those without extra touch. It seems nurturing touch is "Vitamin T"—a vital nutrient for both mother and baby!

The Myths: Though the rewards of bodywork during pregnancy are many for clients and therapists, some massage therapists struggle with sidelying body mechanics, draping, and bodywork techniques. They may also be influenced by common pregnancy massage myths. The result? Many pregnant clients receive unsatisfying or substandard bodywork that does little to improve their physical complaints (and may exacerbate some!).

Have you heard these unsubstantiated warnings:

1. Don't massage the labor-inducing acupressure points.

2. Avoid deep tissue bodywork; it may cause a miscarriage.

3. Avoid the ankles, feet, abdomen. (Read more about ankle acupressure/reflexology zones in my article in ABMP magazine )

4. Avoid massage during the first trimester.

5. Avoid or use only light touch on inner legs.

6. A table with a cut-out for the belly is the perfect choice for prone pregnancy positioning.

7. Women should only lie on their left side.

None of these concerns are accurate, though some may have a kernel of truth. So what are real concerns working with pregnant clients?


Supportive Positioning is top of the list! Whether clients are sidelying or semi-reclining, improper positioning could aggravate pregnancy complaints, including uterine ligament strain, sacral torsion, edema and leg cramps, while supportive positioning can prevent, minimize or even relieve these conditions.

So, what does supportive sidelying positioning look like?

The top knee and foot rest on 2-3 flat pillows, or a sturdy bolster and pillow, ensuring that the leg is horizontal and parallel to the table and knee is level with the trochanter. The arm and hand are supported on a pillow over the draping sheet, preventing breast compression and medial shoulder rotation, while simultaneously securing the drape over the breasts. The pregnant belly needs supportive alignment as well, with a small wedge, to prevent uterine ligament strain. Support at the low back/waist is also advisable. Watch my positioning video.


With proper positioning, the therapist can address the following complaints:

Heartburn, which is common during pregnancy, can be relieved or prevented during sessions by using semi-reclining positioning. This puts the client's head above her stomach while offering easy access to head-neck-shoulders, upper legs, belly and breasts. It's a great position for foot reflexology, and avoids diaphragm restriction and uterus-baby compression on the aorta or vena cava, which may occur with supine positioning. It's imperative, however, that the low back be well-supported and that knees are bolstered to prevent exacerbating back, hip, and neck tension.Semi_reclining_Stager-PregnancyMassage-0310.jpg

Sacro-iliac hypermobility is normal during pregnancy, influenced by the hormone Relaxin, which softens and 'relaxes' ligaments that need to expand for birth. Sacral Torsion is exacerbated if the leg is not properly supported in sidelying position, with all joints aligned. This allows your client to relax as you use specific techniques to effectively mobilize the sacrum, open the SI joint, release pelvic floor attachments externally, and rebalance the ilium/sacrum in relation to the pubic bone.

Uterine Ligament Strain or Spasm are common, influenced by non-supportive positioning, and by jack-knifing forward to sit up with a big belly. Uterine ligament spasms refer pain and nerve-like sensations to the hips, legs, and pubic bone. Broad compressive strokes on gluteus medius, hip mobilizations, and specific massage to the round ligament (palpable through the abdomen) will help reduce or eliminate this discomfort.

Edema of hands and feet is normal outcome of the changes in pregnancy physiology. Additionally, the growing belly pressing on the inguinal region increases swelling of the feet and tendency toward varicose veins and clots. Take time to notice: Is her foot drooping down off the pillows? Is her down-side shoulder compressed and needing support under her upper torso? Perhaps her hand is hanging down vs supported on a pillow. Watch positioning to reduce swelling and allow easy access to hands and feet for lymphatic drainage and other techniques.

Useful for All Clients!

Sidelying and semi-reclining positions offer many options for hip, neck, pelvic techniques that can be applied to all clients, not just pregnant women! You may feel awkward at first, but once you master it, you may never go back to supine and prone positioning as your standard!


Window in the Womb World

Look at this video of a baby born via cesarean and delivered still in its aminiotic sac. Apart from the questions of --Can this happen at every cesarian if the sac has not yet ruptured? And how long is it safe once it's cord has been cut and clamped as it appears to be? --apart from that, it is mind blowing to me to see the baby all wrapped up in there, as it was in the womb, moving in its own watery ocean world, still dreaming of the life to come, the cord pressing in against its face, likely to wrap around its neck as she/he moves through the birth passage (without cesarean).

I am struck by that sensation so many feel, of wanting to be wrapped up, contained, go back to the womb in times of stress or trauma, to return to that fetal womb space...

Image result for cesarean in the caul youtube