As a massage therapist who specializes in pregnancy I am very comfortable with touch, so it is natural for me to have a lot of physical contact with women during their labors. At the last birth I attended I fully realized the huge difference I was making by simply touching the mother's body.
I was with a woman who was trying to have a "natural" hospital birth. She had strong feelings about not wanting an epidural. Her labor stalled at 4 cm and her doctor insisted upon Pitocin to "get things going." When her blood pressure started to rise the doctor required her to stay in the bed and not move around. Feeling there was little for me to do, I sat next to her bed and made one long, continuous, flowing movement with my hand. I started at her temple, moved down her neck, shoulder, arm, hip, leg and ended at her foot. I repeated this stroking for about 30 minutes. When I stopped for a break the woman said "I need to feel you touching me until the baby is born." I agreed, and didn't break skin to skin contact for the next two and a half hours. We spoke after the birth and she said that as long as she felt the warmth of my hand she knew she could handle the pain and that everything would be all right.
If we doulas, nurses and midwives can remember the importance of something as simple as touch, I think we could provide a great service for our clients. -Keri Redding (I would love to share my thoughts with anyone interested in birth doulas. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org)
Reprinted from Midwifery Today E-News (Issue 1:22, May 28, 1999)
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