Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 07/28/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
A woman with her feet spread apart in stirrups -- sweat dripping from her brow -- moans in pain while the doctor urges her to breathe and push.
It's the popular image that comes to mind when thinking about a woman in labour.
The births that registered massage therapist Jenna McMahon has witnessed are different.
In the hospital delivery rooms the Winnipegger attends, lights are often dimmed, voices are calm and McMahon asks the patient where she needs a massage -- perhaps some decompression work on the lower back to help ease labour pain.
McMahon might even put the patient on a exercise ball to help her find the right positioning to make giving birth easier. (Exercise balls, the large, beach-ball type of equipment used at gyms, offer a cushioned, mobile surface helpful in between woman's labour contractions, she says).
"I really just move with them moment to moment and offer them all that I can in order to support their bodies," says McMahon, who owns Equilibrium Massage Therapy and Wellness Centre on Pembina Highway.
The centre's staff offers acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine and massage therapy. McMahon specializes in general massage therapy as well "labour and delivery support" massage.
McMahon recommends her pregnant clients see her for three months prior to delivery so she can get to know their physical vulnerabilities. "They need to be comfortable with my physical presence," she says.
She charges $85 for each prenatal treatment. A mandatory pre-labour orientation class, in which McMahon spends an hour or two with the pregnant woman and her partner in their homes, costs $95. She is also "on-call" for delivery and has been known to spend many hours at the hospital. That service costs $475.
The service is not new to Winnipeg; other massage therapists throughout the city offer labour and delivery massage. (Doulas, non-medical birthing professionals, offer similar services).
McMahon has attended numerous births since 2006, when she started specializing in the area. "I've lost count of how many," she says.
She says obstetric nurses and doctors have come to accept the practice of patients hiring alternative professionals like herself to coach and comfort women giving birth.
"Medical staff is more exposed. It doesn't seem as foreign now," says the Exchange District resident.
McMahon, 33, grew up in North Kildonan and graduated from River East Collegiate before attending University of Manitoba on a music scholarship. Hours of playing and practising the flute led to neck and jaw pain. Her music accompanist, who happened to be a massage therapist, introduced her to the world of massage therapy.
She decided to pursue massage therapy even though, at the time, the profession didn't have the widespread respect it does today. (Many people, she says, didn't differentiate between sketchy parlour-type massages and therapeutic massage designed to treat physical ailments).
This May, it became obvious just how much respect she has earned from the medical profession.
That's when she was invited to travel to the Dominican Republic with Shine the Light Initiative, a charity -- founded by a Winnipeg dentist -- that takes medical care to developing countries. Volunteers pay for their own trips with Shine the Light. Along with providing medical care, volunteers help build houses.
The Winnipegger arrived in Central America with her massage table in her hand.
"We weren't entirely sure where I would fit in," she says.
Shortly after arrival, her teammates made contact with a local hospital where youth pregnancy was common. A doctor there invited her to accompany her on an obstetrics round.
"I was moved and honoured by that invitation," says McMahon, who worked with a 15-year-old Dominican girl in labour.
"It was a completely inspiring and beautiful experience."
Heather Finlay has no regrets about hiring McMahon to help with the birth of both her sons, now 5 and 2.
"I don't remember a lot of what she did. She had me moving around. She massaged my lower back," says Finlay, a French immersion science teacher at Kelvin High School.
What Finlay does remember: McMahon helped alleviate her intense pain, especially during her first labour. (She chose to have a drug-free delivery without an epidural).
"It was a long, drawn-out process. I wouldn't have lasted six hours of intense labour and pushing...without Jenna."
Have an interesting story idea you'd like Shamona to write about? Contact her at email@example.com.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 28, 2014 D3
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
Marin to release report on unlicensed daycares
Ebola victim's sister says hospital denied request
US journalist to head home after Ebola recovery
U.S. Cameraman Treated for Ebola 'Free' of the Virus
Experimental Infertility Treatment Seems Effective, Cheaper
Mosquito-borne virus infects Cdn travellers
Use Chia Seeds With Caution, Researcher Warns
Study finds drugs still in recalled supplements
Five hospitals to assess, treat Ebola in B.C.
Teen Sisters Develop Ways to Measure Lung, Heart Damage
Ebola Vaccines May Be Deployed in West Africa by January, Officials Say
Binge Drinking May Boost Blood Pressure in Young Men
Research Shows No Link Between Vaccinations, Risk for Multiple Sclerosis
Tall, Heavy 1-Year-Olds May Be at Risk for Obesity Later, Study Finds
Black Women Fare Worse With Fertility Treatments, Study Says
Health Highlights: Oct. 21, 2014
CDC releases revised Ebola gear guidelines
Gene May Help Shield Hispanic Women From Breast Cancer, Study Says
Ebola Anxiety: A Bigger Threat Now Than the Virus Itself
Traffic Pollution May Be a Risk While Pregnant
Living With a Smoker Like Living in a Polluted City: Study
Health Tip: Dish Up Healthier Halloween Goodies
Health Tip: Snacking After School
Smart blade to measure figure skaters' force
CDC Tightens Rules on Caring for Ebola Patients
NBC's Snyderman faces credibility issues
Passengers From Ebola-Affected Countries Must Land at Designated U.S. Airports
New Ebola gear guidelines: head-to-toe coverage
Feds kick off new anti-drug campaign
America's Ebola jitters felt far and wide
Ebola: Why virus kills some, other people survive
Pricey Hepatitis Drug a Good Bet in U.S. Prisons, Study Says
Some Lung Patients Buy Cigarettes Along With Meds at Pharmacies: Study
Herceptin Boosts Survival for Breast Cancer, Study Reports
Parkinson's Drugs May Spur Compulsive Behaviors
Mouse Study Suggests Antibiotics May Aid Salmonella's Spread in Animals
Regular Doctor Visits Help Control Blood Pressure, Study Says
No medics without evacuation plan: Ambrose
For Infertility Treatment, Should He Drink Less Coffee, More Booze?
Medication Errors Occur Every 8 Minutes in U.S. Children