Naked Mother & Baby
Hands on her belly
| Perinatal Touch
Here are excerpts from articles/books/media related to the importance
of touch in pregnancy, birth and in the first year of birth.
The Primal Touch... by Kara Maria Ananda
Adapted from 'The Primal Touch of Birth: Midwives, Mothers and Massage' by Kara Maria Ananda (Midwifery Today, first published 2004, accessed online 18 October 2019):-
- Sheila Kitzinger, a social
anthropologist of birth, differentiates the types of touch used in childbirth:
comforting, therapeutic, blessing, greeting (of the newborn), physically
supportive, diagnostic, manipulative, restraining and punitive. This spectrum
of touch encompasses the variations of touch from compassionate to invasive.
The compassionate elements of touch are the foundation of traditional midwifery
care all over the world.
- Compassionate touch is
overwhelmingly lacking in the medical model of birth, in which doctors and
nurses have emphasized diagnostic, manipulative, restraining and punitive
- Obstetrical diagnostic
tools have not been proven safer than traditional midwives’ diagnoses through hands-on
- Before Western medical practices displaced traditional
midwifery, the touch and massage of a midwife or birth attendant was a central
component of prenatal care around the world. Honed by constant
practice, the midwife’s senses of observation and intuition were finely tuned.
Today, traditional healers and midwives skillfully integrate the ancient healing
arts of massage and midwifery, as they have for thousands of years.
- Prenatal massage and compassionate touch during the
childbearing year are more than a primitive practice or luxurious pampering;
they are an essential and vital part of holistic maternity care.
- The medical model of birth ignores and trivializes the
therapeutic value of touch during pregnancy and childbirth. In the medical
model, childbearing is analyzed from a pathological and intellectual
perspective. Obstetrical and gynecological practices support the
deprivation of human touch, pathologize the female body, increase childbearing
morbidity [adverse effects] and place women in a subservient role to the
- However, pregnancy is not a pathological event or an
intellectual construct; it is a healthy, primal and life-giving process.
Compassionate touch of the mother during pregnancy and childbirth is essential
for the development of maternal touching of the infant. Tactile stimulation of
the newborn is necessary for healthy development and immunological resistance.
- Traditional midwives serve
birth through their touch and intuition, holistic ways of learning that respect
and nurture the ecology of birth. Interventions, questions and exams induce
neocortical activity and the production of catecholamines (stress hormones)
that interrupt the labor process. Intuitive touch and
massage allows for midwife and mother to communicate without stimulating the
neocortex and intervening in the natural rhythm of birth. Touch is the primal
language of life; the language that speaks to the deep mind of a laboring woman and the awakening senses
of an infant. Massage and healing touch enhance the body’s natural ability to
sustain health and give birth. The integrity of midwifery care depends upon
compassionate communication that respects the primal process of birth and
- Traditional midwives
trained in healing touch can diagnose and manipulate without mechanical tools.
The ability to receive and interpret information through touch is profound. Awareness
of tension, movements, vibrations and warmth can provide information on the
state of health in the body. Through pressure on the fundus, compresses on the
perineum, pelvic rocking and external rotation of the fetus, traditional birth
attendants are able to perform hands-on manipulations. Traditional birth
attendants’ hands-on skills integrate valuable health care techniques with
- Comforting touch can take
place as hand holding, back rubs, a gentle touch on the forehead, hugs or
- Every woman and labor is
unique. Some women desire constant touch and massage throughout the entire
labor, others only during specific stages or times, and other women desire to
labor alone without touch. Each woman’s preference must be respected, and
laboring mothers may change their minds. However, the knowledge that healing
touch is available, should they so choose, is a vital assurance and benefit to
- The art of massage is an
ancient tradition of health care that is compassionate, empowering and
holistic. Midwives, doulas and other birth attendants who massage mothers reap
the benefits of increased comfort, closeness and communication with their
clients. A calm, soothing, female touch during the intense challenge of labor
assures that women’s bodies are sources of strength and power. It is not
necessary to be a professional massage therapist to reach out and touch
Culture of Touch