Why our approach to the Fourth Trimester is wrong, and what you can do to change it.

This article was first published on the Pure Earth Collection Parenting Blog

Written by Megan Murray-Jones, specialising in stress, hormonal rebalance, pre- and post-natal care

What is the Fourth Trimester?

The Fourth Trimester is a relatively new term, describing the 3 months after your baby is born. However, it has always been associated with the baby; we are told that due to a baby’s head size we give birth before full gestation and, therefore, our child needs the Fourth Trimester to truly be prepared for the world. We are also told that colic usually lasts 12 weeks and that babies stop being newborn after this time. But this focus on the baby misses the real point of the Fourth Trimester. Here is why I think Western society has it all wrong: 

Women are offered support, love and care throughout pregnancy but as soon as we give birth all that focus is diverted to the baby. Whilst our baby is worthy of all this attention, our society has forgotten how to nurture the postnatal mum; this leaves her exhausted from birth, sleep deprived and sometimes physically or emotionally traumatised.

I personally experienced postpartum burn out after the birth of my first child so I know why and how new parents ignore their own bodies when it needs nurture and nourishment the most. Firstly, it is assumed that post birth the hard work is done. But, for a woman, labour is one of the biggest physical challenges our body will go through. Our hormones are spiking. From the time the placenta is birthed to when breast milk comes in, a woman’s estrogen and progesterone levels plummet to the levels of a menopausal woman. The process of hormonal rebalancing goes on for months causing mood shifts and extreme highs and lows. And our brains change. That is right; activity increases in regions that control empathy, social interaction and, crucially, anxiety. (It is interesting to know that a man’s brain also changes when he is involved in caregiving so this isn’t just for new mums!)

Secondly, with this shift in brain activity, a woman’s focus has shifted to their new baby (for all the reasons above) meaning that her health and wellbeing takes a back seat. At new parent collaborative Takes A Village I have seen baby weaning workshops sell out whilst parent nutrition courses are cancelled due to lack of interest. 

The fact is that the Fourth Trimester should be about the birth of a new woman; a mother. As Sarah Walker describes it; ‘becoming a mother is like discovering the existence of a strange new room in the house where you already live’. This also inspired me to develop my Fourth Trimester Treatment; treating a client in their first three months postpartum.

So what can we do to change how we view the Fourth Trimester and a woman becoming a mother? I look to other cultures for inspiration: 

The tradition of “Sitting the Month” or Zuo Yuezi in Chinese medicine goes back thousands of years and inspired the book ‘The First Forty Days’. Zuo Yuezi recognises that the month directly after childbirth is crucial to the future health of the mother and newborn. This programme has become an ingrained tradition in Chinese culture and involves strict rules for the month following childbirth, some of which are still followed as closely as they were 2,000 years ago. This includes food delivered to your door, rest and a constant stream of family and friends helping around the house for 40 days. It is now a full industry involving luxury hotels with doctors on call in house and a nurse in the room at all times. Families who can’t afford a luxury hotel still do a version of Zuo Yuezi where the new mother stays with a family member so she can have help recovering and focus on her baby. It is sad (and a reflection of our societal expectations on new mothers to ‘snap back’) that the British press recently reported on Zuo Yuezi by ignorantly presuming it was a negative ‘confinement’ process. 

And it is not just Eastern society that understands the importance of postnatal care. For decades, the French government has subsidised “perineal re-education,” i.e., physiotherapy that helps strengthen a new mother’s pelvic floor. As Claire Lundberg explains in her 2012 Slate essay ‘The French government wants me to tone my vagina’:

“When I gave birth to our daughter last November, my husband and I spent five government-sponsored days in the maternity ward at Clinique Leonardo Da Vinci, where we learned that French hospital meals come with a cheese course and that as part of my postpartum treatment I would be prescribed 10 to 20 sessions of la rééducation périnéale,” 

Compare this to the U.K. model where we are just given a 6 week GP check up and simply asked ‘how are you?’ – and given less than 10 minutes to answer – and you see why I am so passionate about giving women postpartum care. 

So how can you make your fourth trimester work for you? 

Taking inspiration from the above, I keep this simple. I have created the Fourth Trimester Treatment for the Association of Reflexology to encourage new mums to focus on their own health and wellbeing. I also run self-care workshops for new mums where I focus on the 3 N’s; nurture, nourish and naturals. 

Nurture: we need to re-programme our brains that self-care isn’t selfish; you need to be fit and mentally well to care for your child (or children). Book regular ‘you’ time; ask for reflexology sessions as postnatal gifts (we don’t need more 3 – 6 month old babygrows!); and, if possible, find your ‘village’ in your local community. Blogger Mamalina has written a brilliant article about the importance of your village to raise a child. 

Nourish: I bet you ate healthy nutritious food when you were pregnant, so why do we not take the same approach after the baby is born? Our cafes and coffee shops are set up so mums have to grab a croissant or cake each time they take the baby out. Neither of these fuel the body to feed the soul. I provide recipe advice to my postnatal clients that encourage slow releasing energy, freezer friendly batch cooking (which saves money and the environment) and makes mums feel better from the inside out. I still use some of the recipes from the First Forty Days book for friends who give birth, providing hearty stews at their door rather than clothes for the baby.

Naturals: we should all be cautious of plastics and chemicals in our house but even more so when our immune system is low. I use doTerra oils to make natural surface cleaner and immune boosting infusions for the house to stop me and my family getting ill. If you have any questions about how to use essential oils please do get in touch.  

I hope this has been helpful. If you have any questions or want to discuss reflexology treatments or workshops please do get in touch; I love a chat!

Meg Murray Jones is a MAR qualified reflexologist with over 8 years experience. She specialises in pregnancy and postnatal care as well as female burn out. 

Visit website: www.reflexologyhouse.co or follow on Instagram: reflexologyhouse

Mobile no. 07969912873

Non negotiable self care

I write this as my kids watch their ‘non-negotiable’ CBeebies; always at 3pm, always a time when I don’t wash dishes, clean the house or put on laundry; I always do something just for me. 

We have been in lockdown for over 12 weeks now which means almost 3 months of the invisible load of motherhood. Juggling working, children, housework, feeling guilty for not keeping up, feeling guilty for not schooling correctly, keeping kids quiet for calls, trying to stay sane, the list goes on. Within all these to do’s and multiple mothering roles where is the item that reads ‘non negotiable self care’? I bet that does not feature on your list often, if at all, during this time. 

Self care is not selfish and I wish us mothers could change the narrative around our own needs. As a reflexologist I specialise in self care for mums, running workshops (now online) to give women the confidence to say what they need and ignore the mental load society has put on us. 

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If there is one thing I urge all mums to do today it is to create a daily ‘non-negotiable’; an activity that is just for you and is sacred every day. This could be daily yoga, learning to draw or making yourself a delicious coffee and drinking it hot (not cold as we always tend to do!). To give you an example, mine are: an early walk in nature every morning (my husband does the kids breakfast); a delicious smoothie that I make every morning; and Joe Wicks PE (my kids kind of join in but also know that it is part of our daily routine).

All of these require carving out time and my family understanding that it is my time. 

Getting the family on board might take time but if you are consistent and also committed to yourself you will be able to make positive adjustments to your routines. 

What will yours be? 

If you want to chat about anything written here or find out more about reflexology and my self care workshops, feel free to get in touch. I am currently running online reflexology sessions and self care workshops during lockdown. Self care

This article was published on The Mothership.

Fourth Trimester Treatment

You may have seen my article on the Fourth Trimester Treatment in the AOR magazine Reflexions. If you haven’t, here is the article in full and I hope you enjoy it.

Meg Murray Jones specialises in postnatal reflexology with her Fourth Trimester Treatment. Here she shares why postnatal reflexology is so important – and so widely ignored – and what you can do to encourage selfcare in new parents. 

We are offered support, love and care throughout pregnancy but as soon as we give birth all that focus is diverted to the baby. Whilst our baby is worthy of all this attention, our society has forgotten how to nurture the postnatal mum; this leaves her exhausted from birth, sleep deprived and sometimes physically or emotionally traumatised.

I personally experienced postpartum burn out after the birth of my first child so I know why and how new parents ignore their own bodies when it needs nurture and nourishment the most. This also inspired me to develop my Fourth Trimester Treatment; treating a client in their first three months postpartum (the Fourth Trimester). We talk a lot about conception and prenatal reflexology but there was not the same emphasis on postnatal. Why? 

Firstly, because it is assumed that post birth the hard work is done. But for a woman labour is one of the biggest traumas our body will go through. Our hormones are spiking. From the time the placenta is birthed to when breast milk comes in, a woman’s estrogen and progesterone levels plummet to the levels of a menopausal woman. The process of hormonal rebalancing goes on for months causing mood shifts and extreme highs and lows. And our brains change. That is right; activity increases in regions that control empathy, social interaction and, crucially, anxiety. It is interesting to know that a man’s brain also changes when he is involved in caregiving so this isn’t just for new mums!

Secondly, because it is hard to get postnatal clients. Their focus has shifted to their new baby (for all the reasons above!) meaning that their health and wellbeing takes a back seat. At new parent collaborative Takes A Village I have seen baby weaning workshops sell out whilst parent nutrition courses are cancelled due to lack of interest. 

However, parents need and deserve care in those first few months. New parents stress response is heightened; they sense danger and want to protect their newborn. This means that the smallest thing can cause stress in the body. Reflexology can help to reduce the effects of stress which in turn stimulates the body’s own self healing process. Here, I will share the basics of the Fourth Trimester Treatment to help you better support your postnatal clients. 

The first point to make is that the Fourth Trimester Treatment isn’t just a reflexology treatment. It is how you make your client think, feel and be in the moment. So unravel all you think you know about how to treat your client and think about it from their point of view. 

  1. If you have any pregnancy clients make sure you talk about the importance of postpartum selfcare, including reflexology. Offer a treatment in that first month and book it in before the baby is born.
  2. Always treat at their house, on their terms. Bring your Lafuma but be prepared to leave it at the door if the client would prefer to be treated in bed, on the sofa, anywhere else! 
  3. Let them hold and feed their baby during the session. Parents release oxytocin looking at their baby and a Lafuma also allows a pretty easy feeding position for parents. I have also found (from my clients and my own personal experience) that the relaxing energy you release in a reflexology session calms a baby instantly. 
  4. Allow the treatment to stop and start if needed. The client may need to answer the door, comfort a crying baby, go to the loo… and all of that is OK. 
  5. Use unscented creams or balms. Babies are acutely aware of their parents smell and you do not want to affect this. 
  6. Your treatment should be primarily focussed on relieving anxiety and promoting relaxation. Keep the pressure at a comfortable range; do not overstimulate the head area and work on the endocrine balancing points with care and healing power. 
  7. Finally, do not talk to the client about sensitivities or imbalances. This will be obvious given what they are going through. Use the treatment to silently heal. 

Your main purpose should be to give the parent something they need but don’t think they deserve; to nourish them in a time of fundamental physical and emotional turmoil. I personally do not recommend offering any sort of baby reflexology unless you are fully trained; focus on the parent as they deserve the treatment so much more!

Most importantly, remember that you are doing something amazing to help and heal a new parent, giving them the strength to care for others. So enjoy the treatment and make sure the client knows that by looking after themselves they are in turn improving their ability to look after their baby. 

Meg is running Fourth Trimester Treatment CPD courses in 2020. Get in touch if you are interested. 

Meg is also conducting research into how reflexology can reduce stress in postnatal mums in the Fourth Trimester. She is looking for reflexologists to take part in the study.  If you are interested please get in touch at megsreflexology@gmail.com

Instagram: reflexologyhouse

Website: reflexologyhouse.co

Being Mum festival: October 12th & 13th

In 2018 there was more than 78,000 Google searches monthly for ‘pregnancy’ and ‘pregnant’ in the UK (Source: Google adwords)

So Kate and Emma created Being Mum festival. A weekend for those trying to conceive, mums-to-be and new mums designed to educate, inform and nurture. As Kate and Emma say:

‘Our aim is to save you from falling down the Google black hole by providing a safe space where trusted experts can answer all your questions on all things pre & post natal.

In our day jobs we work in branding, advertising, marketing communications & strategy. BEING gives us a chance to put everything we learn in our day jobs towards a worth while mission – looking after the mental and physical health of other mummas.’

I am thrilled to be part of the Being Mum team. I will be providing reflexology treatments on both days: for pregnant and post-natal women. If you want to ask any questions or reserve a space before the event just email me at megsreflexology@gmail.com

And for more information on the event and how to book, go to the Being Mum website.

Being mum

You can watch the teaser to the festival here

2-day Health and Wellness Festival for those trying to conceive, mummas-to-be and new mummas

HKX Building, London Kings Cross, 12-13th October 2019

Designed to enhance the wellbeing of mummas

Finding the U in Mum

We are offered support, love and care throughout pregnancy, but as soon as we give birth all that focus is diverted to the baby. Whilst our baby is worthy of all this attention, our society has forgotten how to nurture the post-natal mum; this leaves her exhausted from birth, sleep deprived and sometimes physically or emotionally traumatised.

I was one of those mums. I experienced postpartum burn out after the birth of my first child. Whilst it was an emotionally and physically exhausting time, it also made me realise that new mums need more than the Western world offers. I now focus on pre and postnatal self care, encouraging mums to think about themselves; the U in mum.

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I am excited to announce the start of my self care series for new and expecting mums. This self-care workshop will equip you with knowledge around how to use natural tools to combat post-baby burn out, whether you are preparing for birth or post-partum.

This 1.5 hour session will include:

  • Understanding self-care and the barriers to looking after you
  • How to use the 3 N’s: Nuture, Nourish and Naturals to deactivate your nervous system, heal from the inside and create a safe environment for you and your baby.
  • A personalised self-care plan to take home
  • Optional reflexology taster sessions are available after the workshop (top up £10 for 30 minutes)

The workshops will take place at Takes A Village in Dulwich at Aneto Cafe. The first will be on Wednesday 12th June 1pm – 3pm. If you have any questions just email me at megsreflexology@gmail.com.

 

The value of you

How much time do you get for you in a day? I don’t mean eating lunch in front of your desk, putting on a wash, calling a friend you have not spoken to in a while. I mean genuine you time; time in solitude to get to know yourself.

If this sounds like a scary concept to you then you are not alone. Solitude, in this modern technological age, can be at best impossible; at worst terrifying. Moreover, the world has confused ‘you time’ for ‘time to get stuff done’. In this article, TV.bed.com seems to suggest that you time is making a list, cleaning the house and going shopping… I am resisting the temptation to spend the rest of my time writing about how wrong this article is…

Why is genuine you time so important?

“We live in a very tense society. We are pulled apart… and we all need to learn how to pull ourselves together…. I think that at least part of the answer lies in solitude.” —Helen Hayes

You Time allows you to understand yourself, trust your instincts, tap into your genuine needs and follow your intuition. The more time you spend with you, the better you will be at dealing with the world around you. You wouldn’t spend all day with a stranger, so why would you do the same with yourself?

Spending time with yourself allows your body to process all the connections and content thrown at you. We like to brush pain under the carpet but, by doing so, we are allowing this pain to fester inside us.

“All men’s misfortunes spring from their hatred of being alone.” – Jean de la Bruyere

So how do we carve out genuine time for ourselves?

Check in with yourself: My sister used to set an alarm every hour on the hour. When this alarm went off she had to look at what she was doing and question herself; what was she doing? Was it something she chose to do? Had she found anytime for herself in that hour? This made my sister more mindful and understanding of how she spent her day, allowing her to make small changes every hour.

Shut the door: We are now expected to communicate with everyone all the time; walk through a modern office to see how booths and cubicles have been replaced with open plan offices and casual meeting spaces. My husband gets his much needed time by taking himself to Foyles in Charing Cross whenever he wants to sit on his own but you can also get this time by simply shutting the door behind you and being in one space alone. Find a room in the house you rarely use, an empty meeting room or take my husband’s advice and find a bathroom (can you tell how much he values his own time?).

Be, don’t do: We have been trained to believe that success is based on accomplishment rather than acceptance but the value of simply being enables you to accomplish more in the long-term. So when you have shut the door just sit with yourself and revel in the nourishment of doing nothing. “Constantly being ‘on’ doesn’t give your brain a chance to rest and replenish itself,” Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D. wrote in Psychology Today. “Being by yourself with no distractions gives you the chance to clear your mind, focus, and think more clearly. It’s an opportunity to revitalize your mind and body at the same time.”

So take some time today for YOU. Solitude isn’t something to be afraid of; it is good for you mentally, physically and emotionally.

Further reading:

Huffington Post

Why you must have time alone

 

How can your feet help you on holiday?

It is holiday season and I hope you are have been treating yourself to some sun, sea and sand!

I have just returned from a blissful week away in Kefalonia. The picture below was taken on the top of a hill looking down onto the beautiful Myrtos beach – one of the best beaches in the Med.

What you can’t see on the top of the hill is that the beach is pebbled. Whilst this makes getting in and out of the sea slightly less like Ursula Andress, barefoot walking is one of the easiest ways to give yourself your own reflexology treatment!

Our feet are full of reflex points, so by stimulating them through walking on sand, grass and even pebbles you are applying pressure to all the right places. You are essentially working on your body’s most sensitive areas without even realising it! You may notice that gradually you get better at walking on pebbles once you have spent enough time walking barefoot? So by getting your feet used to experiencing different mediums you are actually relaxing the feet, and therefore the body. And this also means being able to get out of the sea gracefully – even on a pebble beach!

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For more information on why walking barefoot is surprisingly good for you – including reducing depression and relieving stress – visit MindBodyGreen and the article on going barefoot outside.

All it takes is 10 mindful minutes

How often do we take time to ourselves to just be in the moment? Research from Harvard University discovered that we spend 47% of our time lost in thoughts. Wouldn’t it be good, emotionally and physically, to be able to re-connect with the mind?

Mindfulness expert Andy Puddicombe describes the transformative power of doing just that: Refreshing your mind for 10 minutes a day, simply by being mindful and experiencing the present moment. Watch his talk here. Andy Puddicombe talks at Ted Global.

You can also find inspiration for how to find those 10 mindful minutes on my Instagram Page. Just search for ReflexologyHouse or click here.

 

10 female habits we should try to avoid

I do not usually read the Yahoo articles, but this one caught my eye. The top 10 worst female habits documents what us women are doing to ourselves on a day to day basis, and how these can damage our health.

What interested me was not the standard heel warnings, although as a reflexologist I can really notice who crams their feet into too small too high heels everyday! What interested me was the recognition of our emotions on our long term health. Suddenly under ‘wearing the wrong bra’ and ‘drinking as much as men’ were the intuitive ‘habouring regrets’ and ‘putting themselves last’.

Our emotional state plays a much bigger role on our internal workings than we thought possible. Any negative emotional response can have a big impact on our hormonal balance and even affect how our organs work. Take stress at work for an example. When stress hits, your body goes into fight or flight mode. Adrenaline is released causing the whole of your body and mental capability to shut down whilst your heart works to ‘keep you alive’. It is a primitive function that works on the most primitive level, and should rarely be used on a day to day level. However, we are frequently playing with our hormonal levels to survive deadlines and social arrangements.

And the result? Pressure on the heart, a body full of hormones and our systems shutting down to ‘survive’.

The solution? Look after yourself. Understand that your external affects your internal, and vice versa. Eat well, live well and you will be well!

Fertility focus: A £30 billion clean up bill for the effects of the pill

Within my reflexology I am specialising in pre-conceptual care, pregnancy and fertility. This article, therefore, really made me look at the impact our actions are having on our own ability to conceive, as well as our own wellbeing in general.

Britain faces a £30 billion bill to clean up rivers and water supplies contaminated by synthetic hormones from contraceptive pills, an article in The Observer said.

It is potentially a very important move – and will no doubt cause controversy with drugs firms.

3.5 million women in Britain take the contraceptive pill, something that has helped prevent pregnancy and in some cases helped regulate hormones and prevent acne. It has become a big part of our lives, but has its impact really been communicated properly?

We all know that what goes out our drains will eventually end up back in our taps, and this includes any hormones from our medication. The contraceptive pill contains ethinylestradiol (EE2), a chemical that can trigger gender mutation in fish, the male sperm production and thus drops in population. In a recent test in Canada this ingredient was shown to have a huge effect on the fish there. Moreover, researchers in Britain have found that 80% of the 50 water sites tested here contained noticeable levels of the chemical.

The solution? Many people are saying the £30 billion bill is a small price to pay, but pharmaceutical and water companies dispute the science, its link to humans and the cost involved. The most emotive response as been from Exeter University’s Professor Owen who said:

‘But do we want to wait until we see effects in humans, as we did with thalidomide, or do we act before harm is done?’

 What do you think?

To find out more about how reflexology can help support your hormonal balance and fertility, get in touch here.