Giving Expectant Moms the Gift of Touch
Paula Termini wishes every expectant mother could
receive the stress-reducing benefits of massage. But those who could
really use it the most—women struggling under socioeconomic
disadvantages, with young children already at home and little support—are
usually the last ones to get it.
In August, Termini concluded a yearlong project
funded by the Massage Therapy Foundation, to provide massage therapy
to poor, mostly Hispanic, pregnant women in Holmes Beach, Florida.
“I’d like to take information from
the work I’ve done and go to the American Association of Labor
and Delivery Nurses, and report on what the experiences have been
for these women,” Termini says. “To use it as a form
of education for the doctors and the midwives and nurses, about
how beneficial massage is for [pregnant] women.”
The $4,058.50 foundation grant, awarded in 2005,
allowed Termini to provide 64 massages for her target clientele;
purchase lotions, a body cushion and pay for laundry; and to rent
a centrally located office one day a week.
Her referrals came mostly through the local Healthy
Start Coalition, which works with low-income women and their young
“Have these women ever received this much
undivided attention in their lives? No, never,” says Termini,
a former labor-and-delivery nurse who does community outreach and
maintains a full-time perinatal massage practice.
The massage recipients were each given a stress-evaluation
form at the beginning and end of their massages, indicating their
stress levels on a scale from one to five. “In the beginning
they are a four or five,” Termini says. “At the end
of the massage, they say they are a one or a two, and float on out.”
Although she originally intended to provide one
massage each for 64 different women, “Early on I found out,
first, that the moms loved it, but also the real value of repetitive
massages during pregnancy; sciatica was eased, carpal tunnel was
eased,” Termini says.
“Some [came] back over a period of two and
three months, and one woman came very two weeks for four months,”
After seeing Termini, who uses lavender oil at
the beginning her massages, one client started using lavender oil
at home. “She uses it with her son to calm him down. She says
she lets everything go now; she used to be anxious and high-anxiety.
But when she starts to feel uptight, she smells lavender [oil] and
it relaxes and calms her,” Termini says.
Another client, who wasn’t due to deliver
for two weeks and was under a lot of stress, came in for her first
massage and promptly fell asleep for two hours.
“Many of the women were quite stressed out
and had other issues—they have other children also—and
were open to trying out the massage. This made them have a more
positive outlook. It really made a big difference,” says Ingrid
Dorion, a caseworker with Healthy Start.
Termini planned to continue seeing some of her
clients through their pregnancies, even after the grant ended. She
says she’d love to continue to bring massage to this population
of women, as “there’s really a need for it.”
— Kelle Walsh