Does this woman hold secret of happy birth in her hands?
Tyrone woman Maria Rafferty tells Stephanie Bell why she quit accountancy to become a therapist
A staggering 10,000 women in the UK suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after difficult births. And according to the Birth Trauma Association as many as 200,000 more will be left feeling traumatised by childbirth and develop some of the symptoms of PTSD.
With such startling statistics it’s hardly surprising demand is high for a new service in Northern Ireland helping couples achieve and enjoy a peaceful birth.
Combining a range of holistic therapies, Maria Rafferty has been helping minimise the risk of trauma in childbirth as well as relieving the fears of mums-to-be.
So passionate is the 35-year-old about helping pregnant women that she gave up a career as an accountant to train as a holistic therapist.
Maria specialises in pre-pregnancy and pre-natal care using a combination of traditional Chinese acupuncture, Arvigo techniques of Mayan Abdominal Therapy and yoga.
Her approach doesn’t just address fears and anxiety but using natural techniques such as acupuncture and acupressure she also helps increase the woman’s stamina, ripen the cervix, prepare pelvic ligaments for easier birth as well as reduce the pain of labour.
With a firm mantra that couples are responsible for their own birth and that delivery can be stress free, Maria educates mums and dads-to-be on the holistic options they can choose both throughout pregnancy and during delivery.
Her aim is to complement the work of midwives and consultants.
Originally from Dungannon, Maria spent years studying to become an accountant and worked as an accountant for seven years before giving it all up.
She explains: “After finishing all the accountancy exams I wanted to keep learning so trained as a yoga teacher. Then I started to learn acupuncture and the more I learned the harder my job became and I realised it wasn’t what I wanted to do.
“I had a chance to take voluntary redundancy a couple of years ago and after that I started pregnancy and baby yoga classes while continuing to train in different holistic therapies.”
It was during her yoga classes that Maria came across a number of pregnant women who shared with her their anxieties about giving birth.
Their heartfelt fears had a profound effect on Maria who has since dedicated herself to making the experience as easy and pain free as possible.
“Just seeing what they were going through and how worried they were made me want to help them,” she says.
“I started with acupuncture and the women were just blown away by the difference it made to them and how it helped their labour go so smoothly.
“It then became a passion for me and although I help people with a whole range of conditions, pregnancy is where my heart is.
“I decided to study fertility yoga and Mayan therapy as I felt very strongly that they worked and I can honestly say I have never looked back.”
Maria works with couples and her experience has been that after just a few sessions they become empowered to take |control of pregnancy and birth, enjoy a sense of peace and are no longer frightened.
A major part of what she does includes giving partners a role in the birth by teaching them to do acupressure to relieve pain. Acupressure is applied during every contraction and helps to release endorphins that ease the pain. It also helps move the baby down the birth canal.
Also a trained doula she is on call to attend a birth, accompanying the medical and midwifery teams, to help calm the mother, birth partner and baby and provide support. Doula is a Greek word meaning “woman servant or caregiver” and refers to an experienced woman who offers emotional and practical support to a woman (or couple) before, during and after childbirth.
Maria says: “If a woman is physically and emotionally unprepared for her delivery and is scared or nervous, she produces adrenaline, the body then registers danger and makes it more difficult to give birth into this stressful situation, so it is my role to prevent this stress; both through pre-birth preparation and the option of having me there at birth to calm both mother and baby.”
This talented therapist also helps people with a whole range of medical issues.
She is one of a small number of people who have been taught Maya Abdominal Therapy, a technique which has been handed down from generation to generation,
She uses it to help treat digestive, fertility, menstrual and menopausal problems with Mayan massage.
He says: “So many people are crippled physically, mentally and socially by problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, fertility issues or menstrual pain and helping people to help themselves reclaim their lives from these debilitating difficulties inspires me every single day.”
One client who had endured three very traumatic births and who employed Maria as a doula and for pre-birthing acupuncture treatments as well as teaching her birth partner how to administer pain relief says: “When my partner used acupressure throughout labour, it numbed the pain, giving me the confidence that I could cope through the contractions with my partner’s help.
“I felt my son’s birth was the most empowering experience and it has brought my husband and I closer as a couple.”