Performing Therapeutic Bodywork on a pregnant woman is tricky business. There are minefields to navigate. One such minefield is the possibility that she might go into early labor and miscarry. The odds are slim that bodywork could cause such an event but the possibility is very real.
There are acupuncture points that can trigger labor (more on this later). I would be very upset if a lady were to miscarry after a session with me, even if I were fairly sure I didn’t cause it. That is why I rarely work on gestating women until late in the pregnancy when I am confident that the baby could survive in the outside world.
I am most comfortable working in the ninth month when I am most needed. This is the stage when I am asked, “I feel like I’m out of room, Ritchie. Can you make me some space?” As long as I am clear that the baby would be fine if born right then, I am willing to make my intervention and “make space” until birthing begins. In this case, I work with the lady in side-lying positions and I open the space between the pelvis and the ribcage. When I do that correctly, I frequently hear her say, “That’s the first good breath I’ve taken in months.” When I hear that, I know I’ve done the right thing.
I’ve made a 3-decade specialty of putting post-partum women together but my most recent adventure was helping a woman whose labor was stuck. Her doctor had told her, “If you don’t have that baby in 24 hours, we’ll have to operate.” I saw that her anterior lumbar curve was so accentuated that the baby’s head was not aligned with the birth canal. This is an exaggeration of the usual pattern most people bring to my table. So again, I was doing a special application of what people need anyway. I made space and lengthened her lumbar spine. When I was pretty sure the baby’s head was effaced, I made ample use of those acupuncture points that induce labor (the ones I mentioned earlier that I usually deliberately avoid ). A beautiful baby girl was born the next morning.
Most people, whether men or women and pregnant or not, lose their space between the pelvis and the ribcage. So, once again, pregnancy work is a special application of what all people need anyway.
®Rolfing Structural Integration is a service mark of the Rolf Institute Boulder, CO USA