What is The Well Mother approach
Supporting the transformative power of pregnancy with shiatsu and massage and understanding how this affects us for our whole life
We see pregnancy as a time in women’s lives which offers much potential for change, growth and personal development: for the whole family and which affects them for the rest of their lives.
Parenthood offers a wonderful opportunity to understand more about ourselves, to heal old patterns and grow and develop physically and emotionally. It is also the time when the foundations of our relationship with our children are laid down. The long term health of women and their families is affected by the experience of the maternity period.
This aspect is often neglected in modern maternity care with its focus on what may go wrong. The very nature of the care it provides tends to undermine the confidence of the mother and the partner in listening to and acting on their own wisdom, and that of their baby. While things do sometimes go wrong and orthodox medicine is essential in some cases, it is also important to be supported in the joyful and transformative aspects of this time.
We have found that shiatsu and massage offer effective tools to support the well being of mothers and their families through their experience of pregnancy and birth and want to see them taking their place as a core part of 21st maternity care.
We also find that our approach to shiatsu and massage is relevant for people at all stages of their lives.
We also find that shiatsu and massage, because they are simply working with supporting your body, work alongside all other forms of treatment, whether more medical or complementary. They tend to enhance whatever other work you are doing.
Why do we think that massage and shiatsu can be beneficial in maternity care?
Shiatsu and massage offer tools to enable women and their families to focus inward and process the changes which are going on for them, both emotionally and physically.
Shiatsu and and massage offer a powerful combination of nurturing touch, breathing/visualisations, exercise and postural awareness.
Nurturing touch can ease physical and emotional dis-ease and help the mother be more aware of the changes going on in her body. This includes tools for connecting with her baby and her partner.
Breathing can help the mother be more relaxed and connected with herself, as well as her baby and partner.
Exercise and postural awareness help support the mother’s body in the changes she is experiencing and prepare her body for birth and the postnatal period
Shiatsu includes an awareness of the eastern/traditional view of the body as a garden which needs to be nurtured and tended: supporting our body in its relationship to the environment.
The traditional views of the body tend to focus on how we change according to the environment we are in. This is a key stone of Chinese medicine, which includes Yin and Yang and the five element theory. We all know how stress affects us but we are always affected by our environment in subtle ways: by the time of day, where we are in the world, the season, who we are with and so on. Sometimes small changes we can make in our environment can have a big impact, such as simply getting up and moving around if our work involves a lot of sitting or choosing to limit the time we spend with people who are not supporting us. We are more sensitive to our environment when we are pregnant and our baby is also being profoundly affected by the environment. Shiatsu can support us to understand the changes we can make in both our internal and external environment to best support ourselves and our unborn child.
Awareness of the importance of the quality of the energy of whoever is working with the mother and her family
As we are affected by the environment, we are affected by people working with us. If our health professional is stressed that affects us and our baby. All Well Mother work is about tools which are equally useful for the practitioner as well as the mother and her family. If you see a Well Mother trained practitioner we hope that you will feel relaxed and at ease with them, however if you do not, then it is important to find a practitioner with whom you feel a supporting connection. For the practitioners who do our course, we encourage them to work with the tools to support their own health and well being. This is an important part of traditional healing practices: “physician heal thyself’. Especially with massage and shiatsu, the practitioner is, in essence, the tool for supporting change and balance and so needs to be in a state of health and balance themselves.
Sharing the Well Mother approach
We want to share our approach. We are always available to talk and give interviews to the media as well as giving talks and running courses for midwives, childbirth educators, shiatsu practitioners, massage therapists and anyone else who feels they would benefit.
Our practitioners offer one to one sessions with women and their families and some of them offer group classes and give talks.
We have built up a considerable body of knowledge through our in depth work in the field since 1990 and are constantly enriching and updating our work.
History of Well Mother
Well Mother is an educational organisation, founded by Suzanne Yates in 1990, with the original aim to enable women and their partners to discover and trust their inner wisdom and find their own unique paths in their journey through parenthood. Through her work with women and health professionals, she has increasingly realised how this work is relevant, to some extent, to everyone at all times of their lives.
Suzanne Yates established Well Mother in Bristol in 1990, while working as a shiatsu and massage practitioner, when she became pregnant with her first child, Rosa Lia. She felt that there was not enough support for the positive aspects of her own pregnancy and realised that shiatsu and massage could offer this kind of support. At that time there was no training in the UK in maternity care which could support her to develop her work, so she decided to travel to the US to study with Elizabeth Noble, obstetric physiotherapist and pioneer of exercise in pregnancy. This helped her to understand how she could start to develop her own approach. She set up weekly antenatal and postnatal exercise classes which included a mix of shiatsu and yoga-based stretches, breathing and some shiatsu and massage techniques. She also ran birth preparation workshops based on shiatsu and yoga, with her partner Chris Wilkinson, a yoga teacher. These were increasingly popular. Obstetricians and GP’s were impressed by the effectiveness of shiatsu and touch. Midwives attended the classes and encouraged Suzanne to develop her birth preparation and support work for midwives. Some even went on to train in shiatsu.
In 1998 Well Mother started offering courses for professionals to share the knowledge that Suzanne had built up. Gill Tree at Essentials for Health asked Suzanne to develop a Pregnancy massage Diploma. Suzanne also created the Shiatsu and maternity care diploma for shiatsu practitioners as well as the Shiatsu for midwives courses. The courses became increasingly popular and so in 2006 Suzanne set up a Teacher Training course to train other teachers to teach the Well Mother approach.
Now Well Mother runs courses and supports practitioners world wide. Well Mother holds a UK and international register of health professionals it has trained.
Teachers are available to run courses, give presentations at conferences and work with your organisation or individuals to develop massage and shiatsu in maternity care.