Amazing Benefits of Prenatal Massage

ilumina's  Audrey Blanchard, LMT, shares the many benefits of Prenatal Massage. During pregnancy, women’s bodies go through gradual yet significant changes. Prenatal massage is a great way to relax and ease some of the discomfort that may be experienced during each trimester. Prenatal massage can help to alleviate leg cramps and stress on weight bearing joints such as the hips, knees, and ankles which have to support the additional weight of the growing fetus. Neck, shoulder, and low back pain that occur due to shifts in posture are also relieved. Blood volume can increase up to 40% during pregnancy, which can lead to swelling, or edema, in the hands and feet. Massage can help to increase the efficiency of the blood and lymphatic vessels to drain the excess fluids from the extremities. The increase in circulation brings fresh oxygen and nutrients to different cells and tissues of both mother and fetus, allowing for optimal  development of the fetus. The relaxing affects of massage have also been shown to decrease levels of cortisol, or stress hormone, in the body which decreases feelings of  depression and anxiety in mom, and may decrease excessive fetal activity.  Studies have shown that women who receive massage during pregnancy have fewer complications during labor and lower rates of premature delivery.

Don’t forget about yourself after the baby arrives, post natal massage can help to realign the pelvis following birth by relaxing muscles around the pelvic bowl and allowing the uterus to shrink back into its optimal position.  Decreased levels of stress hormones in the body after giving birth can help to increase milk supply to make breastfeeding easier.




Field, T. et al. Pregnant women benefit from massage therapy. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology. 1999;19:31-38.
Osborn, C. Pre- and Perinatal Massage Therapy, A Comprehensive Guide to Prenatal, Labor, and Postpartum Practice. Baltimore, MD:Lippincott Williams and Wilkins; 2012.


Midwife Q&A: Are We Having Babies All Wrong?

Ina May Gaskin started delivering babies in 1970 while on a hippie cross-country trip known as the caravan. She had no medical training, just a master's degree in English and a gut feeling that women deserved kinder, gentler births. When the hundreds of caravaners settled in Tennessee on what they called the Farm, Gaskin and several other women began delivering the community's babies at home and also opened one of the first, nonhospital birthing centers in the country. Word got around when Gaskin wrote about her successes in Spiritual Midwifery, and a movement was born.

Today, women still travel far and wide to give birth on the Farm, and Gaskin's methods have the respect of clinicians around the world (there is even an obstetric maneuver named after her). Now 71, she is credited with reviving what was essentially a dead profession in the U.S., inspiring scores of women to enter the field and helping found the Midwives Alliance of North America. But even while midwives attend more births in the U.S. — about 7.5% in 2008 — they're finding it increasingly hard to get practice agreements with doctors and hospitals. In her latest book, Birth Matters: A Midwife's Manifesta (Seven Stories, April 2011), Gaskin argues that America needs midwives more than ever.(Read "American Women: Birthing Babies at Home.")

You started attending births with no formal medical training. How did you know you could do it?

I knew how to deal with potential complications because kind doctors helped me. But basically I was behaving the way my aunt, who had a farm, would around any laboring mammal. You don't disturb her, you don't upset her. She deserves peace and quiet and respect. Doing that meant that no C-sections were necessary for the first 200 births on the Farm.

The C-section rate on the Farm is very low, under 2% for about 3,000 births, while the average in the U.S. for low-risk women is 20%. Can you explain?

It's very rare to see an undisturbed birth in a modern U.S. teaching hospital, but when you see a woman who isn't frightened, who's giving birth without interference, you stand back in awe and realize how little needed you are except in the rare circumstance. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't be around in case there is a problem. It just means that you should be able to tell when there's a problem, and you should be able to tell how not to create problems.(See the risks of early C-sections.)

Singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco, who wrote the foreword to your new book, describes a very long and painful home birth.

Yes, she acknowledges how difficult it can be. But she also asks, Why are we so afraid of pain in childbirth? Why do women who choose unmedicated births get called masochists?(See TIME's special report on women and health.)

Why the title Birth Matters? Who are you trying to convince?

Lately, I've been thinking we really need to get men interested in birth. Because fathers-to-be have a very strong protective instinct, and we're not utilizing this well. Men instantly understand what I call "sphincter law." You don't try to defecate while lying flat on your back tied to various machines with somebody shouting at you! Why do we, then, continue to treat women as if their emotions and comfort, and the postures they might want to assume while in labor, are against the rules?

I almost felt like you wanted to call this book Midwives Matter.

If birth matters, midwives matter. In Europe, there are hospitals where the cesarean rate is less than 10%, and you'll find midwives in these hospitals, you'll see a lot less re-admissions with infections and complications, and you'll see a lot less injury to mothers.

And yet it seems like U.S. hospitals are constantly cutting off midwifery practices.

It's getting a lot worse, in fact. There's still a lot of hostility toward midwives.

Do you talk this frankly to obstetricians when you give grand rounds at major hospitals? Do they take offense?

A lot of OBs aren't happy about the high cesarean rate either. Malpractice-insurance companies have become the boss of obstetricians. It used to be that OBs were taught skills to deliver twins and breech babies vaginally. Now all they can really offer is surgery. If you're a woman who would like to have a breech birth vaginally in this country, you'll probably have to find a midwife. When I go into hospitals, I talk about how we do things on the Farm. I love talking to OBs. We midwives and physicians have a lot to teach each other.

Written by Jennifer Block for

Natural Skincare at ilumina

Now FeaturingHEALING ANTHROPOLOGY: NATURAL SKIN CARE LINEWe are proud to announce the newest addition to our retail line here at ilumina.  Healing Anthropology is now exclusively available at our location.  This all natural skin care line offers wonderfully rich, effective products completely free of any toxins or chemical preservative.All Healing Anthropology products are blended in small batches by a clinical herbalist and ethnobotantist.  The use of solely natural and organic ingredients such as cold-pressed essential oils, healing herbal extracts and reparative antioxidants makes the products as luxurious as they are safe.  The Rejuvenating face care line combines anti-aging ingredients that have been used for thousands of years with modern natural nutriceuticals.  The Nourishing Body Cream and Soothing Calendula Salve contain wonderfully emollient ingredients and essential oils that heal even the driest, most damaged skin and are excellent for eczema and psoriasis.  The Nurturing Baby Line is especially delicate and calming with organic calendula, lavender and chamomile.The product line will be available at the clinic beginning October 20, 2010.  Look for the November 1, 2010 Newsletter for more in depth details on this exciting new line.

Vaginal Birth After Cesarean is a Safe Option

New ACOG Guidelines: Vaginal Birth After Cesarean is a Safe OptionWashington, DC - The Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA), a professional midwifery organization since 1982, commends the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) for their updated practice guidelines on Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) released July 21, 2010. ACOG's recent guidelines are less restrictive than previous ones. The new guidelines state that VBAC is a "safe and appropriate choice" for most women who have had a prior cesarean delivery, including some women who have had two previous low-transverse cesarean incisions, women carrying twins, and women with an unknown type of uterine scar.There has been a dramatic increase in cesarean delivery in the United States (from 5% in 1970 to nearly 32% in 2009) and a rapid decrease of VBACs (from 28% in 1996 followed by a decline to 8% in 2006). Lack of VBAC availability in U.S. hospitals due to practitioner and institutional restrictions, which diminished women's choices in childbirth, is often cited as the reason for the conspicuous decrease in VBACs. In light of the VBAC restrictions that have become commonplace in most U.S. hospitals, it is noteworthy that ACOG's new guidelines emphasize a woman's right to self-determination. The new ACOG guidelines state that even if a hospital does not offer a trial of labor after cesarean (TOLAC), a woman cannot be forced to have a cesarean nor can she be denied care if she refuses a repeat cesarean. In addition, previous ACOG guidelines on VBAC stated that anesthesia and surgery must be "immediately available" for an institution to offer VBAC; the new guidelines have relaxed this restriction.ACOG has seriously considered recommendations from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus Development Meeting on vaginal birth after cesarean held in Washington DC in March 2010. Based on the scientific evidence, the NIH expert panel affirmed that risks in VBACs are low, similar to risks of other laboring women, and repeat cesareans expose mothers and infants to serious problems both in the short and long terms. The NIH expert panel concluded that in the absence of a compelling medical reason, most women should be offered a trial of labor after cesarean. The NIH expert panel further recommended that all women be given unbiased educational information during their pregnancies with which to make decisions regarding VBAC in partnership with their healthcare providers. Women should also be offered full informed consent and refusal during their labors."While we are pleased that ACOG has issued less restrictive VBAC guidelines and affirmed a woman's autonomy in her childbirth experience, it is still up to women to take charge of their lives, educate themselves about childbirth practices, and put pressure on their healthcare practitioners to provide the safest birth options for their babies and themselves," says Geradine Simkins, President and Interim Executive Director of the Midwives Alliance. The Midwives Alliance takes the position that the best interests of most mothers and infants are served when women are given the opportunity to birth under their own power and in their own way with the intention of avoiding primary cesarean deliveries and other unnecessary interventions. An impressive body of research literature shows that the midwifery model of care results in less intervention in the birth process and safe and satisfying outcomes for mothers and babies. In addition, evidence shows that birth in a woman's home with a trained midwife, or in a freestanding birth center, results in decreased cesarean sections and other obstetrical interventions. "We want women to have all the choices they need to have healthy pregnancies and give birth safely," say Simkins, "and we are pleased that ACOG's new guidelines on VBAC will add another choice to the menu of maternity care options."For more information on the Midwives Alliance visit For information on practitioner and childbirth options visit Mothers Naturally at