3 Sublime Bodywork Therapies To Try Before You're Pregnant

Photo: BONNINSTUDIO

Planning on making a baby this year? If you’d like to birth a human through your lady parts, and do so with as few medical interventions as possible, then I encourage you to schedule an appointment for these three therapies now—before you get pregnant.

I didn’t even know these therapies existed when I had my first baby. It took birthing two babies, becoming a certified prenatal yoga teacher, and working in the birth industry for a few years for me to realize how incredibly helpful these would have been for me. Now that I have experienced them for myself, I want every mama-to-be to give them a try:

1. Pelvic-floor physical therapy.

Ever had a professional vagina massage? As with most things in life, it wasn’t until a good (pregnant) friend of mine told me she was having a weekly appointment with a pelvic floor PT that I decided to take her referral and give it a go.

If you’ve never been pregnant before, the idea of having someone massage your vagina in order to help it stretch probably hasn’t occurred to you. There’s debate about whether a massage around the birth outlet will lower the risk of tearing or the need for your doctor to cut your perineum—particularly if you overdo it—but it’s a valuable therapy even if it is just intended to help you get oriented with how it all works down there.

If this is an idea that makes you cringe, then I encourage you to ask yourself how you feel about a human head stretching your vagina for you instead. Surely a gentle, warm, careful massage from a professional pelvic floor specialist would be a calmer way to ease into it?

If you’re worried that the experience might be, ahem, arousing, then I encourage you to look into concepts such as orgasmic birth. There is a saying in the birth professional community that "what gets the baby in, gets the baby out…" For real. I have seen many births where the mama is smiling, laughing, and hollering with pleasure as the baby crowns.

The only happy ending we’re going for here, though, is a happy, healthy baby and a happy, healthy vagina. Give it a go now, and maybe shop around for a therapist that you feel really comfortable with who will continue the therapy when you get closer to giving birth.

2. Hypnotherapy.

During my first pregnancy, I found "hypno birthing meditations" annoying and totally woo-woo, so I dismissed them entirely. Until a good friend of mine (there it is again!), gave birth to her second daughter without experiencing any pain after learning the Calm Birth technique.

I didn’t learn a specific method, but my yoga practice and ability to concentrate deeply allowed me to go into a deep meditation for around eight hours during my second labor. I was amazed to learn that taking yourself into a deep meditation can enable you to transcend pain. (Someone broke my meditation at hour eight by opening the blinds, which flooded the room with light and sent my perception of pain from 2/10 to 90/10 within minutes. So I now know viscerally that this is for real!)

A drug-free birth CAN be pain-free for some people, but to even try requires work. So why not start now, before you get pregnant? Just as we build strength in a muscle through repetition, now is the time to build your capacity to stay calm throughout a situation where you are not in control.

There are many different modalities of hypnotherapy related to birth—you can choose to work directly with a therapist, do a group class with an organization like HypnoBabies or CalmBirth, or even find podcasts, online trainings, and apps such as Expectful. Seriously, I have met women who experienced lots of pain the first time they gave birth and NO pain the second time when they did hypnotherapy ahead of time. Even simple writing exercises like the one I offer my students can help you "get into the zone" too.

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3. Watsu massage.

Many people describe their Watsu Massage (Water Shiatsu) as like being in the womb or being rocked by their mother. It brings up lots of emotion for some people and puts others into a deep state of relaxation. When I got to try Watsu in Hawaii last year, I found myself relaxing so deeply that I was convinced I was floating down a river. I have never surrendered so deeply before. It was magical.

The therapist will meet you in a warm pool, invite you to float as they hold your body, and move you gently through the water. It feels amazing. (I recommend earplugs if you get swimmer's ear, because you will have your ears underwater.) Doing this therapy now may help to release emotions or anxiety related to your birth (i.e., when you were born) or at the very least give you a chance to relax deeply into the idea of birthing a baby one day.

After this massage, you will understand why many women want to give birth in water—and why this experience is so calm for babies. The reality is that once you become pregnant, you may be too busy or sick or tired to bother shopping around for new experiences. In my case, I was so overwhelmed by all the choices to make—and how sick I felt—that I relied heavily on my friends to guide my experience, rather than doing my own research.

If you give these therapies a try now, and maybe even attend a few prenatal yoga classes, it may be easier to wrap your head around (no pun intended!) what it takes to make a baby and bring that baby into the world with as much pleasure as possible.

Next up? This is what a doula wishes you knew about the birth experience.

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