For those of you who have been reading regularly, I want to thank you for your patience while I took the last month off from blogging to complete my taxes. There is a big year ahead of us, and many changes are in store for Mother Oak Massage.
I have been working on continuing education for lactation support, so that I can counsel and educate women prenatally and post-partum about breastfeeding. The goal is to complete the Certified Breastfeeding Specialist program by August/September, and start offering education while I continue to work on international board certification (a process which can take up to five years of clinical work prior to testing). In the meantime, if you have questions about breastfeeding, I have networked with several CLCs and IBCLCs and can refer you to the appropriate professional based on whether you are searching for education, or diagnostic and treatment plan type support.
Much sooner in the year, possibly in the next month or two, I will be offering Belly Binding as a service. I have been in contact with Sacred Pregnancy to schedule my certification course in Sacred Belly Binding, a postpartum service that helps provide emotional and physical closure, is warming, and has benefits in aiding realignment of the hips and abdominal muscles. I can't wait to take this course so I can share the benefits with all of you!
I am also expecting a child, and am 15 weeks into my pregnancy journey. I'm sharing this with you because I want you to know that the information I share with you, I take seriously. I want it to be accurate and helpful, because I would expect no less for myself. I will be taking a short maternity leave around September (about 6 weeks), after which I will be returning to Mother Oak Massage. Anyone who receives regular services from me will be notified in advance, and I am more than happy to refer to a colleague that fits your needs during my short time away.
Stress is a killer
Using meditation to lower stress
I myself can be anxious at times, It isn't always easy to recognize and address that. Recently I was talking to a friend of mine, who also has a lot of stress going on in her personal life, and she is worried about going into labor early because of the stress. This is a very valid concern, and has me thinking about why stress is such an important part of our health to address, and what we can do about it.
Why is stress important? Stress exists to alert us to danger and prepare our bodies to fight or flee to survive the situation. It causes our body to release adrenaline and cortisol, our heart rate increases, and so does our blood pressure. Short term, these are beneficial physiological changes. Long term, they can cause chronic heart disease, insomnia, hypertension, as well as psychological distress that affects our mental health and relationships with others.
We all know that massage can be useful in alleviating stress and anxiety, because we have each received massage in the past. Exercise, and good sleep patterns also help releive stress. But what else can you do if you already do all of these things?
Meditation can be very helpful for lowering stress levels. It simply requires you taking time out of your day, whether it be three minutes a few times a day, or thirty minutes once a day, to focus on quieting your mind. Sometimes this can take the form of sitting in quiet solitude. Not everyone is successful at doing this though, and so I'd also like to recommend a few other methods.
Today's mantra: I allow myself the time and space I need to honor my body's needs.
Starting this month, hot towels will be included as part of the signature service, and no longer offered as an add-on purchase.
I have a few books on my nightstand right now, two of which I thought would be excellent to share.
First is Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, by one of the nation's leading midwives. Ina May Gaskin has compiled birth stories from many of the women who have given birth at The Farm, an intentional community in Tennessee with a prenatal care clinic the midwives opened after receiving training from a local physician. The stories are amazing, positive experiences. The women have many of the same fears that all pregnant women have, but there are no horror stories here. Well, there is the summary of a few bad experiences. These are shared as examples of what prompted mothers to seek an alternative experience, and are followed by the experiences that they had with their next delivery. A home birth is not for every woman, but every woman deserves to hear how beautiful birth can be. Every woman deserves to hear that she is capable of not only surviving, but thriving through this rite of passage. In addition to the empowering birth stories, Ina May Gaskin's book educates about the process of pregnancy and labor, teaches you ways to work with your body through the process, and has an informational section to aid in choosing a caregiver who aligns with your priorities for your birth. No matter where or how you choose to have your baby, this is an empowering read.
The second book I am exploring right now is Anni Daulter's Sacred Pregnancy: A Loving Guide and Journal for Expectant Moms. This book is full of beautiful color photographs. It's a week-by-week guide with cues for honoring your journey spiritually and emotionally as your pregnancy progresses. There are so many books out there that will teach us about the physiological changes that occur throughout pregnancy for both mom and baby. Sacred Pregnancy focuses instead on mindfulness and enjoying the journey to meet your baby. While it is available for Kindle and in print, I recommend the print version since it is a journal. The only down side is that due to the super-smooth texture of the pages, it may be difficult to find a pen that does not smear. Still experimenting with that. **Update: A Sharpie pen works well with no smearing (as long as I don't touch it before it dries!)**
Have any books you would like to recommend? Please, share in the comments!
Photos courtesy of Carolyn Reece, postpartum doula, Sacred Pregnancy Certified Sacred Belly Bind Wrap Artist
One of the aspects of perinatal services I offer is postpartum massage. Postpartum massage uses a series of techniques to increase energy, provide support to joints and organs as they try to realign after the birth of the baby, and ease muscle discomfort. In addition to scheduling postpartum massage, there are self-care techniques you can perform at home to help your body transition and maintain strength as you heal. Postpartum binding is one self-care technique that aims to support the sacroiliac joint and help realign the pelvis (Claire Marie Miller, Nurturing the Mother, 2013).
A method included in my postpartum massage support training involves the use of a tapered fabric strip that is eight inches wide in the center, and twelve feet in length. The fabric is centered in the front of mom's pelvis, and wrapped around on either side, meeting and crossing at the sacrum (tailbone), then pulled snugly so that the ends are brought back towards the front, and tied in a supportive manner.
Other methods also provide support to the abdominal muscles as well as the pelvis, which is very important for women who experience diastasis recti, a separation of abdominal muscles, during pregnancy. Our abdominal muscles are very important in providing core support that aids in correct posture, not to mention holding in our guts. So using abdominal binding to aid in healing diastasis recti can prevent hernias (protrusion of intestines through gaps in muscle), and decrease back pain. This can be done using velcro or elastic postpartum binders. If you aren't a fan of velcro or elastic, or prefer a more breathable option, you can try a traditional Malaysian belly binding called Bengkung. This is a beautiful as well as functional option. Bengkung also uses a 7-8 inch strip of fabric, but it is 12-15 yards (36-45 feet) in length, depending on the width of mama's hips. The bind is a series of overlapping wraps held firmly in place by a twist/knot at the midline of the abdomen. It provides support from the pubis to the top of the abdomen below the breasts. This helps in realignment of the pelvis as well as holding the adbominus recti muscles close during healing in the postpartum period. Carolyn Reece, postpartum doula, and certified sacred belly wrap artist at Natural Momma offers the Bengkung Belly Binds for sale on etsy, as well as other postpartum care items.
A quick word of safety for any type of wrap or binder you choose to use: You should always be able to fit two fingers between any wrap and your skin. This isn't to say the bind should be loose, but rather that it is unhealthy for the wrap or bind to be so tight that it impairs circulation to your skin. Impaired circulation can deprive your skin or nourishment from blood supply, as well as cause sores. If you experience impaired sensation, or are having reddened indentation marks, your bind is too tight. If you have had a cesarean birth, you should consult with your physician prior to beginning binding. A Bengkung type wrap may be best performed after the incision has healed, and potentially above the level of the incision, or your surgeon may prefer you use a post-surgical binder prior to or underneath the bind until the incision has healed.
Welcome to the first in a series of weekly (3/4 weeks of the month) peri-natal blog posts from Mother Oak Massage. My name is Michelle Martino. I'm a registered nurse, and a licensed massage therapist. As a licensed massage therapist, I specialize in prenatal and postpartum massage. As a registered nurse, I work in home health, and am currently taking continuing education in lactation, so that I can also provide support to breastfeeding mothers. For full disclosure, I am not a labor and delivery nurse. The information I will be presenting to you I will include references (linked in the text) that you can examine yourself and discuss with your health care provider.
Today's post was inspired by an Australian article on delayed cord clamping my sister shared on Facebook. It got me thinking about how when I was a teenager, banking stem cells from baby's umbillical cord was a big trend in the birthing community (or so the parenting magazines would have you think). Now, delayed cord clamping is the trend that is replacing banking stem cells. Here's why:
If delayed cord clamping is something you would like to do for your baby, discuss it with your OB/GYN or Midwife, and your delivery team.
This month's self-care tip focuses on hydration. Dehydration is something we usually associate with the hot summer months, but truthfully, water is key in maintaining homeostasis all year round. This is just as necessary in the cold winter months when the air is much drier. Homeostasis is the constant state of equilibrium our body strives to achieve. Maintaining this equilibrium involves a complex interaction of hormones, nutrients, proper function of organs, muscles, and all body parts. Temperature regulation is also an important part of maintaining homeostasis, because our bodies begin to shut down or malfunction outside of a certain temperature range (when hypothermia or hyperthermia occur). What does this have to do with hydration? Adequate fluid intake is essential for healthy blood volume, which is needed to maintain a healthy blood pressure and properly transport nutrients throughout our bodies. Our interstitial spaces and organs are lubricated with fluid, whose major component is water. It also helps us maintain our body temperature and moisten mucous membranes (e.g., those in our eyes, mouths, and noses). Proper hydration helps us maintain the integrity of our skin (although "extra" water intake has not been proven to lead to better than average skin health - Dr. Lawrence E. Gibson - Mayo Clinic).
How much is enough?
The Mayo Clinic cites a study by the Institute of Medicine that has determined the average woman needs 9 (8 oz) glasses of fluid, and the average man needs 13 (8 oz) glasses of fluid a day. However, if you have kidney failure, your doctor may limit your fluid intake. Likewise, if you are pregnant or nursing, your needs are increased to approximately 12-13 (8 oz) glasses daily.
What about other beverages?
Water is the healthiest choice, and what our body really needs. Sodas, teas, coffee, milk, juices, even energy drinks do contribute to your fluid intake through the water your body extracts from it. That being said, these beverages often contain sodium, which can increase your blood pressure and cause swelling. They may contain sugar, which will elevate your blood sugar and interfere with weight loss or diabetes management. Other components of those drinks are filtered by your GI tract (nutrients and water), and your liver and kidneys (waste). Caffeine induces urination, but in general will not cause you to lose more fluid than the caffeinated beverage you drink. While a cup of coffee may negate itself, the water you drink at the gym for instance will not necessarily be expelled because of the caffeine in that coffee. Even some fruits and vegetables are water dense, and therefore should be counted toward your total fluid intake.
I specialize in prenatal and post-partum massage. As part of this specialization, I will be offering weekly blog posts on prenatal, post-partum, labor-and-delivery, breastfeeding, and related topics (3/4 weeks of the month - the other 1/4 is the newsletter post). You will all continue to receive the monthly self-care tip and special in your inbox once monthly. To avoid unneccesary email for individuals who are not interested, the pregnancy related topics will be posted on the blog, but not emailed. You can follow on Twitter or Facebook to see when a new post is published, or check the blog weekly.
Many of you already know that I make my own massage cream. I choose to do this so that I can guarantee a natural product with a texture I prefer as a therapist and has a beneficial effect for my clients. I am not an aromatherapist though, so it is very important for me to make sure that I get reliable information from a certified aromatherapist when choosing my pain relief essential oil blend and concentration to include in my massage cream.
Aromatherapy and essential oil use have become quite popular lately, and believe it or not, there are some safety concerns to keep in mind. Even though essential oils are natural, they are highly concentrated and can cause harm if used incorrectly. Here are some quick tips from Andrea Butje at Aromahead Institute, and a link to a free introductory class if you are interested in learning more. She also offers classes in natural living, and certification classes if you are interested in becoming a certified aromatherapist.
Health Savings Account (HSA) and Flexible Spending Account (FSA) cards are now being accepted as forms of payment for services.
Starting this week, I will also be listed on SpaWish, SpaFinder, and SpaWeek gift cards as well. These gift cards can often be purchased with rewards points on credit cards, or are offered in grocery store gift card selections. If you receive one of these gift cards, I will gladly accept them as a form of payment equal to the value on the gift card. These cannot be partially redeemed, so any amount above the cost of service will be issued to you as credit on your account or a Mother Oak Massage gift certificate you may give to someone else.
Self care tip of the month: Foam Rolling
I have met a lot of people who are incorporating foam rolling into their fitness and wellness routines, and I decided to give it a try. I love it. For those of you who aren’t familiar, a foam roller is a high density cylinder of foam that you place between a surface (the floor) and the muscles you want to roll. The movement requires some strength, and helps increase that strength as you have to use other parts of your body to move yourself in order to get the compression effect. For my hips for example, I had to use arms and legs. For legs, I mostly used my arms to move, which is an area where I constantly try to improve strength. The effect on the muscles you are moving over the roller is a compression that helps to stretch and release the muscles in that part of the body. This helps prevent delayed onset muscle soreness after a workout, and could be used to warm up your muscles prior to a workout as well. From my research there are some areas that are contraindicated such as the low back. It was a nice supplement to my wellness routine, and a great way to add some self-massage in between my scheduled massage sessions. Katie Solon, LMT, a colleague at Inner Connections also recommends a massage ball for areas where more flexibility is needed.
For more information on foam rolling, including some how-to videos, and reviews of foam rollers, check out this article from Runner’s World by Michelle Hamilton:
Or this one from Shape Magazine by Jessica Smith:
Office NewsSome of you may have noticed that Mother Oak Massage is using a new online booking system. This booking system has all of the same features of the old booking system, plus a few more that make running the office side of things a little smoother. Your information is as secure as ever, and you can purchase gift certificates directly from the website now whereas before you were being redirected to my Etsy page. I hope this is more convenient for you.
Mother Oak Massage is also now on Instagram @motheroaklmt
Self care tip of the month: Family Scavenger Hunt
It's the beginning of Autumn already, although I've hardly noticed since it has still been in the 90s the first week of September. Labor day has passed, kids are back in school, and projects at work increase as people trickle back from their vacations. We are busy folks!
With the pools closing, or getting ready to, and many of us overwhelmed by recent transitions, sometimes it is difficult to get motivated to go to the gym or take the kids to the Y right away. Columbus is an active city though, and many of us value the benefits of exercise. Exercise releases endorphins, and helps reduce the stress hormone cortisol in our body. In improves our circulation, which benefits the health of our skin, muscles, and organs by supplying fresh nutrients and whisking away toxins to be filtered by our kidneys and liver. Exercise also expands our respiratory capacity, with regular activity. We don't want to give all that up!
As the temperature becomes more bearable, and the landscape around us flourishes with this annual transition, what better time could their be to add in a leisurely stroll to your family's routine? It's great for the littles too! Walking is low impact, making it ideal if jogging or running causes joint pain. It is still considered weight bearing exercise though, so it is healthy for maintaining strong bone density. By turning the walk into a treasure hunt, you also stimulate your mind and the educate the kids in a relaxing manner. We have such a rich variety of wildlife nearby, with many birds, plants, and flowers to identify. I've included links to the metro parks locations and wildlife identification guides. Don't think you have to go far though to have fun! Even in my apartment complex there are elderberry, mulberry, mums, black eyed susans, catbirds, cardinals, Canada geese, rabbits, and a variety of things to teach my daughter about. You can have fun in your very own neighborhood!
Columbus Metro Park Locations
15 wildlife identification guides!
Tea of the MonthThis month's complimentary tea selection is an herbal blend called Raspberry Mint. Zen Cha describes this blend as "A unique blend of raspberries, blackberry leaves, peppermint and apple bits gives a sweet, refreshing aroma with a lightly tart fruity flavor and a beautiful light ruby red color."
I love raspberry leaves in tea, so I'm looking forward to having a cup of tea with you!
Self care tip of the month: Dry Brushing
Dry brushing is a multi-benefit technique that anyone can fit into their routine. It can take as little as five minutes, or as long as half an hour, depending on your goals. Dry brushing is well touted for it's ability to shed unwanted dead skin cells on a daily basis, giving you a youthful glow. Did you know that it can also stimulate your lymph system which aids in immunity and reduces swelling? How does it relieve swelling, you ask? The reason we experience non-injury related swelling, such as in pregnancy or at the end of a long day of driving is osmosis. Fluid pools in interstitial tissues in our extremities. What you may not know is that those fluids contain solutes - electrolytes, proteins, etc. Some people even take medication to alleviate swelling, but have mixed results. The medication relieves swelling, but then it comes back worse. This is because medication causes your fluid to return through blood vessels called capillaries. These capillaries aren't able to absorb certain proteins that are too large to cross the membrane. So the interstitial space becomes HYPERtonic (has a higher concentration of solutes because there is less fluid) and will later pull even more fluid into the interstitial space to try to even out the concentration in your body's interstitial spaces. Your lymph system is able to transport the proteins that are too big for your capillaries, interrupting this cycle of swelling (also called edema). Exercise stimulates your lymph system. So does gentle pressure, like that used in dry brushing.
The lymph system is near the skin's surface, so gentle pressure works best in transporting fluid through the lymph system and encouraging suction-pump-like action of lymph nodes, which will draw up the lymph so that it can more easily pass to the next node, and so on until it is able to be filtered by larger blood vessels.
What to use:
-natural bristle brush (one with a long handle helps to reach the back)
-natural loofah (they sell these with handles too!)
-raw silk gloves have even been recommended as part of an Ayurvedic technique called "Garshana" or "skin brushing"
Dry brush quickie:
On dry skin, start at finger tips or toes and brush upward. On torso and back brush towards your chest. Use long strokes over limbs, and circular strokes over joints, armpits, and breasts (lots of lymph nodes here). You can dry brush over your bottom, but avoid the genitals. For facial dry brushing I would recommend a much gentler brush than you use for your body.
Therapeutic dry brushing to relieve edema:
Also to be performed on dry skin. Start with your core. You are still brushing towards your heart. When you move to your limbs start with your upper limbs toward your center, then the lower part of the limb stroking up over the upper limb again towards your center (ex: elbow to shoulder, then wrist to shoulder; knee to hip, then ankle to hip). This can be repeated 3-5 times.
*IMPORTANT NOTE* If you take medication for edema, I am not suggesting you stop, simply that dry brushing in addition to your normal routine may assist with the desired results. Never stop any medication without first discussing with your physician if you should and whether it should be tapered first. Doing so unexpectedly may have harmful effects on your body.
*New* Tea of the Month
Mother Oak Massage is now offering clients a complimentary cup of tea at the start of their massage session. Tea is sourced from local tea salon Zen Cha. The featured tea will change monthly on the 15th.
This month's selection is Lavender Mate. "[Mate is] a species of holly with a distinct earthy and slight bitter taste...[this blend] is known to alleviate anxiety, enhance mental alertness, and boost metabolism." It also seems to me to have the faintest hint of sweetness.
Caffeine-free alternative for pregnant ladies or anyone else wishing to watch their caffeine intake: Nile Breeze
This is a wonderful rooibos tea blended with black currant, pineapple, papaya, mango, and strawberry. It's one of my favorite fruity blends.
You now have the option to select premium add-ons for your massage, including hot towels, heated med-stone, and Reiki energy healing. See services for pricing and information.
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