Emma Bartley finds out what it's like to really relax during pregnancy with a trip to see osteopath Avni Trivedi
This week in Pregnant Land, I took in a show. How lovely, you’re thinking: Cats? Wicked? Whistle Down the Wind?
Unfortunately, this was not that kind of show. When you are pregnant, “a show” means that the mucus plug that keeps the top of your cervix shut has come away. I found mine in the shower. There was really no mistaking it, so don’t worry, I’m not going to give any details: if it happens to you, you will know.
I knew that this was an early labour sign, so I checked What to Expect When You’re Expecting, which said that a show meant my labour would start in anything from the next few days up to a couple of weeks. At which point I hit the roof, because I was only 31 weeks pregnant, my bag was not packed, the baby’s room still needs a new ceiling and we don’t even have a pram or car seat to bring it home in (I’ve been nervous of preparing too early.)
There followed an anxious morning of phoning the midwife query line and failing to get through. But they finally called me back for the following memorable conversation:
Midwife: Was there any blood in it?
Midwife: Did you do anything vigorous at the weekend?
Me: I had sex if that’s what you mean.
Midwife: Er no, I meant walking, that sort of thing.
Me: Oh. Sorry. A bit of cycling, nothing out of the ordinary.
Midwife: Well, I wouldn’t worry.
It was a relief that they didn’t want to see me, since a) that makes it seem less serious and b) I didn’t have to face them having volunteered way too much information about my bedroom activities. But I went out and bought some nappies and industrial-strength post-birth sanitary towels just in case. There is disappointingly little difference between these two products, a fact I am choosing not to contemplate in depth.
My main birth preparation of the week was actually a session with Avni Trivedi, an osteopath, at her lovely peaceful practice on South Molton Street. Avni, a former doula who specialises in treating pregnant women and babies, reads Get the Gloss and suggested I come in for treatment even though I have been really lucky so far and couldn’t present her with any specific aches and pains.
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For her, pregnancy is a time when the body should be supported in order to prevent problems developing in the first place. “My treatment has different focuses according to the stage of pregnancy,” she says. “In the first trimester it might be more gentle cranial work to help the body settle and rest, the second trimester is about enhancing movement and balance and the third trimester is birth preparation.”
We start with a chat in which Avni takes a detailed medical history; then she asks me to stand up so she can see my posture. Apparently my spine is still relatively straight for a pregnant woman’s – perhaps it helps that I’m tall. In pregnancy it’s important that weight is balanced evenly, with left and right, front and back aligned, so that no one area becomes overused and painful.
Next, I lie on either side on the treatment table as Avni applies pressure to different points around my body. Each one is quite stiff and painful, and as she performs her ‘soft tissue work’, massaging the tension away, she wonders aloud how I manage to live inside such a ball of physical stress without even noticing.
The thing is, I’m used to it. I work six days a week, work out three days a week and have my own brand of Tourette’s that seems to make me say the worst possible thing in any given situation (see midwife conversation above). Muscle tension has become a way of life.
Avni is mildly disapproving of all my spin classes and birth-prep squats, however. “In the third trimester, I would slow down. This is a time for preparing mentally and physically for birth, so yoga is preferable to spinning. She herself practises yoga and takes 20 minutes to meditate every morning. I explain that I’ve tried yoga (OK, I went twice) and I’m persisting with my pregnancy hypnotherapy CD, but inevitably end up focusing on whether I’m getting the movement right, or struggling to select the details of the imaginary beach I’m supposed to visit under hypnosis.
“That’s OK,” says Avni. “Sometimes if I have a lot on my mind, I only get about a minute of true relaxation during meditation.” A minute is better than nothing, and it’s always important to take the time to try. Taking time out is another reason to see a professional such as an osteopath, she explains: “Relaxing treatment is nurturing, which has a positive hormonal impact, releasing the birth hormone oxytocin, and it’s a good opportunity to offload any anxieties.”
With which she cracks my neck back into alignment, recommends a couple of yoga teachers and releases me back into the sunny London morning. I do feel amazingly relaxed – smug, even – as I walk to work. It’s great to have time to really focus on and be “in” my body in a way I’m not during a ten-hour day munching snacks in front of a computer screen. That feels important now in a way it never did before. And I really liked and trusted Avni: she didn’t make any extravagant claims about osteopathy, but made me feel she was there to help. Which is sometimes all you want.
Book an appointment with Avni Trivedi at the Osteopathic Consultancy, 58 South Molton Street, London W1K 5SL (020-7706 1997); www.osteopathuk.com
Vital statistics, week 32:
Bum 42in (gaining on bump again, sigh)