Women struggling to conceive will try just about anything – fertility drugs, IVF, ‘fertility-boosting’ diets, and acupuncture or hypnotherapy.
Rebecca Chisholm, 38, had attempted all these methods but to no avail.
After five years of desperately trying for a baby with her husband Tom, 40, she was still child-free and began to despair that she might never have a family.
But then Rebecca heard about a revolutionary new type of therapy: fertility massage.
‘I had almost given up at that point,’ Rebecca, from Edinburgh, Scotland, tells Metro.co.uk. ‘But I reasoned that even if it didn’t work, it couldn’t do any harm, so why not give it a try?’
The therapy, simply called fertility massage, was created by natural health practitioner Clare Blake. Mother-of-one Clare, 44, devised it after working as a doula for several years, supporting women through pregnancy and childbirth.
What is Fertility Massage Therapy?
Fertility massage therapy is a deep massage that focuses on improving circulation to the abdominal area.
It can involve reflexology, acupressure, flower remedies, abdominal massage, pulsing, Reiki, and the Rebozo technique, which uses a shawl to massage the abdominal area in a gentle rocking motion.
‘I came across a lot of women who’d struggled to fall pregnant or had suffered miscarriages and wanted to do something to help them,’ she explains.
A qualified massage practitioner, Clare learned how to administer deep abdominal massage to help improve the function of the womb during a trip to Belize.
She decided to combine this with pulsing (a type of Tai Chi that involves applying pressure while swinging and moving parts of the body simultaneously to boost circulation), and Rebozo, a traditional Shamanic binding practice, which involves using material wrapped around the abdomen to enable ligaments to relax.
‘The three together help bring harmony and balance to the reproductive system and help women ‘reconnect’ with her womb,’ Clare says. ‘The idea is to bring the organs within the abdominal area back into alignment, releasing pressure and strengthening the surrounding muscles and ligaments.
‘This in turn improves blood flow and nerve signals to and from the reproductive organs, as well as helping to flush out toxins and balance hormones, all of which can enhance chances of conception.’
There is a psychological element to the treatment, according to Clare.
She believes women sometimes subconsciously prevent conception due to ‘mental blocks’, so she uses visualisation techniques and special meditation as part of the therapy too.
‘If a woman has suffered a miscarriage or lost a child, or even if she’s afraid of childbirth, it can create a lot of stress and tension which can affect the reproductive system too,’ she says.
Since launching the therapy three years ago Clare has, she says, successfully helped around 150 women get pregnant, including Rebecca.
‘She literally made my dream come true,’ Rebecca says. ‘I’d had two failed pregnancies before I went to see her and needed to restore my faith in my own body.’
Rebecca first fell pregnant at the age of 28 but, five weeks in, doctors discovered her pregnancy was ectopic and had to remove her right fallopian tube, along with the foetus to save her life. It was then that they discovered she had scar tissue on her left fallopian tube too, reducing her chances of conceiving naturally.
‘Despite all that, we never gave up hope,’ says Rebecca. ‘Tom and I wanted a child of our own more than anything so we just kept on trying.’
The second time it took the couple a full year to fall pregnant again but that baby was also sadly not meant to be. The 12-week scan revealed that the foetus had developed into a cluster of cysts, a condition known as a partial molar pregnancy.
‘We were advised to have a surgical evacuation which once again left us emotionally and physically scarred,’ recalls Rebecca. ‘It was such an awful time. I began wondering whether I’d ever be a mother.’
The couple had to wait a further six months before they could start trying again, to ensure Rebecca’s body was clear of molar cells. But then she was struck by crippling abdominal pains and doctors suspected she had endometriosis.
‘It was at this point I decided to seek out alternative means of treatment as the doctor’s only solution was to go on the Pill, which is not great when you are trying to conceive,’ she says.
Rebecca had already tried acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, reflexology along with adapting her diet. Then a friend told her about Clare.
‘She said she’d helped a couple of women she knew who’d been struggling to have children for years,’ Rebecca says. ‘I looked at her website and liked the idea behind the treatment – that it combined holistic physical therapy with psychological.’
Rebecca travelled to London for the treatment in January 2013 and had two sessions.
‘I knew instantly this was a treatment for me,’ she says. ‘I am used to receiving massages, but there was something so powerful and different about Fertility Massage Therapy. I felt so nurtured and cared for, and Clare used techniques that I hadn’t heard of or experienced before.
‘When she left me at the end of the session all wrapped up in cloths, I had this intense sense of calm and I felt so safe.
‘I didn’t want to be unwrapped, or get off the bed, but when I did, I still felt whole, strong and empowered, like I had reconnected with my body.
‘For the first time in years instead of thinking, “I wish I could have a baby”, I began thinking, “I look forward to welcoming my baby”. Every ounce of doubt had gone.’
On Clare’s recommendation, Rebecca continued to perform self-massage exercises at home and returned for three more one-to-one treatments with her. In May that year, she was amazed to discover she was pregnant again. And this time, there were no problems.
How to do self-massage:
It’s important to get advice from a professional before attempting self-massage techniques, as you could end up injuring yourself.
Clare teaches clients ways they can massage themselves at home. Some techniques won’t be doable on your own, such as Rebozo, while others can be adapted.
Self-massage will involve gentle motions around from the pubic bone up to the rib cage, using relaxing oils and meditation.
The idea is to reduce stress and improve the digestive system, which it’s believed to be linked to fertility.
Rebecca gave birth to her daughter, Elle, in January 2014. She and Tom were over the moon.
A few months later, the couple decided to try for another baby, so she began practicing the self-massage techniques Clare had taught her. She fell pregnant once more ‘really easily’ and brought their daughter, Pippa, into the world this September.
Rebecca was so impressed by the therapy, she trained as a Fertility Massage therapist herself so she could help other women.
‘We think of our wombs almost as something separate from us and don’t think to look after them in the way we look after our hearts or lungs,’ she adds. ‘It just goes to show that a little womb TLC can make all the difference. It did to me.’
This story is part of Fertility Month, a month-long series covering all aspects of fertility.
For the next four weeks, we will be speaking to people at all stages of the fertility journey as well as doctors, lawyers and fertility experts who can shed light on the most important issues.
If you have a story to tell or a question to ask, please do get in touch at email@example.com.
Here is a selection of the stories from Fertility Month so far - and you can find all Fertility Month content here.