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Watsu: water and wellbeing during pregnancy

Birth preparation classes help many women feel reassured and less alone during pregnancy. With Watsu, you also become at one with your baby and better prepare for the forthcoming birth.

Watsu wellbeing
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Birth preparation classes help many women feel reassured and less alone during pregnancy. With Watsu, you also become at one with your baby and better prepare for the forthcoming birth.

Watsu (abbreviation and combination of the words ‘water and ‘Shiatsu’) is a gentle therapy performed in 35°C water, created in the 1980s in northern California. Shiatsu master and Watsu founder Harold Dull developed these cradling, relaxing, stretching and acupressure movements (according to the meridians of Chinese acupuncture) to promote deep relaxation.

The Watsu method optimises birthing conditions for expectant mothers by working on breathing techniques, eliminating muscle tension and releasing anxiety.

Watsu: a unique aquatic experience

Debby, 8 months pregnant, has been to a Watsu session. “I felt totally relaxed all day, and until the following day. I was so calm and relaxed compared with everybody else while doing my shopping. It was difficult to regain the feeling of gravity.”

This deep relaxation technique performed in warm water pools, spas or private swimming pools is attracting more and more expectant mothers for its lightness and reassuring ‘cocoon’ effect.

Watsu is more like a gentle ‘dance’ lasting almost an hour, cradled by a qualified practitioner, physiotherapist, midwife or sports trainer. The pregnant mum lies on her back, supported by the Watsu therapist at the base of the back and behind the head, with her legs supported by small floating devices.  The session includes cradling movements, stretches to release muscle and joint tension, and acupressure to stimulate internal energy.

Watsu is however, not recommended for people who suffer from circulatory or cardiac problems, herniated discs, fear of water, infections/open wounds or epilepsy.

Watsu and wellbeing

For Watsu practitioner and physiotherapist Silvia Bélléi, the benefits of birth preparation in water are tenfold compared to traditional ‘terrestrial preparation.

"At a temperature of 35°C, breathing and heart beat can slow down and the body’s heating mechanisms can rest. Movements are much freer and less painful in water than out of the water. The pelvis is mobile, so hips can stretch more,” explains Bélléi.

Watsu can be performed at any time but many pregnant women come only when their back has started to suffer from the tension caused by the weight of the baby or when breathing has become more difficult, around the 6th month of pregnancy. Often a single session is enough to get relief.

A fan of relaxation techniques, Shiatsu massage and yoga, Debby admits that she has never experienced anything so powerful in terms of muscle relaxation and mental calm.

“My body's weight disappeared, I was at one with my baby, and I imagined it floating just as blissfully in my womb. I really enjoyed the sensation of deeper breathing during the session and I felt closer to my baby.”

For the arrival of her first child, Debby plans to use this experience (relaxation-visualisation-connection with baby) during the birth, with the aim of not just submitting to labour pains but in fact trying to better understand what is happening and play a proactive role.

The Watsu way of letting go

Watsu is also a technique for releasing emotions through muscle relaxation and deep breathing. A relationship of trust is essential between the pregnant mum and the practitioner; nothing is imposed, the practitioner just accompanies the person.

“Expectant mums can let go of their anxiety and worries in the water,” explains Bélléi. “There are many things that happen during a Watsu session. Some people relive their own birth, emotions rise to the surface, as do quite special feelings. By definition, a mother is never carried or supported. but with Watsu, she really is. People often have a lot to say after their session, many people write about it afterwards. It’s a journey, often a therapeutic one.”

Additional information about Watsu

  • A Watsu session usually lasts for one hour
  • A Watsu session costs around £80, with some discounts available if you book multiple sessions.
  • For further information, UK session bookings and testimonials, visit the Hydro Health website 

Posted 12.07.2011

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