I learned a lot from my first pregnancy. Top of my list during my second pregnancy has been self-care, minimising stress and rallying a team around me who bring incredible gifts and knowledge to the pregnancy, birth and postnatal table.
In my search for finding a spa for pregnancy massage, my osteopath recommended Bella Mama Pregnancy Spa and Wellness Centre. And so, I took my bump to Auckland’s North Shore and had what was the best massage—ever (and I’ve had a few!). Blissed out, I vowed to make this my little sanctuary during the remainder of my pregnancy.
Upon finding out owner Jo Hogan is also a postnatal doula, I promptly made an appointment to chat about postnatal care, and how I might incorporate her services into my 40 days of rest after bub arrives. I left our appointment feeling uplifted, confident and excited—I have a team of incredible women with me on this transformative journey called pregnancy, birth and mamahood.
As a first time mama, I had no idea about so many things, especially postnatal rest and care. So, I’m excited to be able to share this interview with Jo, so you might learn some things I had absolutely no clue about the first time around. Enjoy!
How did you become so passionate about mamas and babies?
It was after completing my Infant Massage Teacher Training in London in 1998. I had been working as a massage therapist for a few years and I always felt in my heart that massaging babies would be something very special to do. That amazing training (with the International Association of Infant Massage) really opened my eyes as to the importance of the mother/baby bond and the profound difference that compassionate, loving touch can make to the development and wellbeing of babies and therefore of course to the future of the human race!
I was so transformed by this training and information that I went on to have my own son about nine months later! I then went on to research and discover that these benefits start in-utero and how we treat women during pregnancy can significantly impact on their health, birth experience and postpartum recovery.
When a mother is healthy and well in body and mind she is more likely to have a positive and transformational pregnancy and birth experience with fewer complications. This in turn eases her transition into motherhood. I went on to complete specialist post graduate training in pregnancy and postnatal massage in Devon, UK where I was based at the time.
Why Bella Mama?
After returning to New Zealand from the UK in 2002 I decided I would start a business that focussed on my passion. I realised there was a gap in the market for a business that specialised in this unique area, working with pregnant and new mamas (and their partners) throughout the ‘childbirth year’.
Pregnancy massage is very safe when practised correctly, however the standard of training in New Zealand are minimal meaning many therapists refused to work with pregnant women who had complications or were high risk—the very group that needs it most!
I imagine mamas would book a treatment, but walk away with so much more than just a massage! How do you help them on their pregnancy journey?
You are absolutely right! Massage has so many more benefits than just the physical and the importance of deep relaxation during pregnancy cannot be overstated! In many different cultures they have rules and regulations around keeping pregnant women relaxed and cared for and research now backs up the fact that stress can have negative impacts, not only on the mother but in the growth and development of her baby too.
The thing is, we often can’t avoid stress in our busy lives. It just happens. However what we can do is understand that we must also prioritise relaxation and massage is a wonderful way of doing this. It can help reduce stress hormones, ease muscular aches and discomfort, increase oxytocin and other beneficial hormones and give the mum the time and space to really connect with her baby.
The thing is, we often can’t avoid stress in our busy lives. It just happens. However what we can do is understand that we must also prioritise relaxation and massage is a wonderful way of doing this.
The effects of massage during pregnancy go far deeper than just a pampering treat, it’s a way of improving the health and wellbeing of mother and baby, physically, emotionally and spiritually. At Bella Mama we also advise on other ways that mum can care for herself and her baby during this time i.e. yoga, optimal nutrition, osteopathy etc and I teach various workshops and classes including a gorgeous workshop for birth partners teaching them the benefits and techniques of using massage in the labour room.
Why do we put so much emphasis on pregnancy, but fail to think about the “fourth trimester”?
Great question!! I heard a quote once: “I knew I was pregnant but why didn’t anyone tell me I was going to have a baby!?” I totally felt this way following the birth of my son. I had focussed so much on the pregnancy and how I wanted the birth to go that I was completely blindsided that I was now caring for a newborn baby.
The feedback from the mothers that I work with has is often they have felt underprepared for the challenges of the postpartum weeks and have often struggled with sleep deprivation and mood disorders and breastfeeding issues. This, along with my own experience made me want to find out more about this important time and I started training as a postpartum doula.