1) Energy Freedom Technique
What is it? Acupuncture is a therapy proven to bring a number of health benefits, but not everyone is comfortable with the idea of needles, however miniscule. Hailing from the US, Energy Freedom Technique (EFT) offers a DIY, needle free alternative. The principle behind it is to stimulate particular areas of the face, hand and body by using a light pressure or ‘tapping’ in order to activate pathways which regulate the flow of energy through the body. It’s formulated on the belief that physical ailments are symptomatic of blocked energy.
How does it help? EFT workshops have been introduced into the UK by Passion for Health (PFH). “One of the indicators of blocked energy is tiredness,” explains PFH’s Sandra Hillawi, the UK’s leading authority on EFT. “For instance, when we’re handling a lot of ‘life’ – kids, work, relationships – our emotional energy system can get blocked leading to physical tiredness, which is an especial challenge for pregnant women. By focusing on this tiredness and tapping all the relevant points, specific energies are released, which not only lift stress, but also re-energise you. It’s so effective, and so very simple.”
Where can I try it? EFT techniques can be learned at workshops and then practiced at home whenever necessary. “The beauty of EFT is that it only takes about 30 seconds to activate all your pressure points,” adds Sandra. To find out more, check out www.passionforhealth.com
2) Belly dancing
What is it? Belly dancing and pregnancy don’t sound like obvious bedfellows, but according to former obstetric nurse and qualified belly dancing instructor Jacqueline Chapman, pregnant women can derive enormous benefits from this traditional Middle Eastern and North African art form.
How does it help? “Belly dancing can have so many benefits,” says London-based Chapman, who runs special Belly Babies classes for expectant mums. “It can strengthen and stimulate the birth canal, tighten up the pelvic floor and work the torso too.”
She emphasises it’s important to choose a qualified teacher, who is aware of the limitations pregnancy imposes on the body, and always to check with your GP or midwife before enrolling in a class.
“Belly dancing is mentally and spiritually stimulating, and very physically energising to expectant mums,” adds Chapman. “Acquiring any new physical skill males you more informed and body conscious, and this provides women with a keen awareness of the strength of their own muscles and joints, so that they’re less likely to get tired or strain their bodies.”
Where can I try it? Check out www.bellydancer.org.uk
What is it? It’s been called yoga with movement and – with sensible adaptations to typical programmed and under the care of a properly trained teacher – Pilates can give a huge improvement to energy levels to the pregnant woman. “Pilates deals with posture, which changes quite dramatically during pregnancy,” explains Lynne Robinson, a Pilates instructor and author of The Body Control Pilates Pregnancy Book. “Your balance changes because of the weight of the baby and womb, your bigger breasts make you feel a little more round shouldered, and your ligaments are more lax because of pregnancy hormones, so they’re not as good at stabilising joints. This in turn, means that your muscles have to do more work to keep joints stable – something Pilates focuses on.”
How does it help? According to Robinson, aside from the exhaustion caused by poor posture during their nine months, another reason why women get tired is because they’re holding unwanted tension and anxiety in the body – which can be physically exhausting and energy-depleting in itself. Again, Pilates can help release that – but physical strength improvements will be the main benefit. “Some women forget you do need to be fit to give birth,” argues Robinson. “Pilates doesn’t just work at getting you fit, but it gives you the strength to hold your posture and carry your baby well – making you less likely to get tired.”
Where can I try it? Because Pilates classes need to be tailored to the particular stage of women’s pregnancies, antenatal classes can be hard to come by. One-to-one tuition is a possibility, but some instructors may be willing to incorporate you into their ordinary classes. It is vital you use a Pilates instructor trained in issues relevant to pregnant women. For more info, have a look at www.bodycontrol.co.uk
Could a water birth be right for you?
What is it? One thing that many mums-to-be miss, especially in later pregnancy, is the sheer bliss of being able to lie comfortably on their backs. Floatation therapy makes something we normally take for granted, possible again, by recreating the effects of the Dead Sea in a convenient and private bath or ‘tank’, filled with about a foot of lukewarm water heavily mixed with Epsom salts. It’s the nearest to gravity-defying weightlessness you can achieve barring a trip to outer space – and lying peacefully in the dark, with only relaxing music for company has been described as an hour of ‘the deepest rest that humankind has ever experienced.’
How does it help? It’s safe throughout your nine months of pregnancy and so you can indulge in as many sessions as you wish. Soothing and de-stressing it’s good for your blood pressure and any niggling physical pains – as well as being invigorating and energising. “I had about half a dozen floats throughout my pregnancy,” says Janie Evans, mother to 7 month old Kyra and two older children. “Aside from the obvious therapeutic and physical effects, each session just seemed to invigorate me in a way nothing else could. I’d still get tired, of course, but floating gave me the strength to handle it better and work through it.”
Where can I try it? Many retreats and health farms as well as bespoke centres offer floatation. Check out www.floatationtankassociation.net for more information.