Fertility Enhancing Massage: An interview
Has anyone ever suggested you "get a massage" so you can "just relax" and get pregnant? I detest that advice, too. But - I've since learned that there's such as thing as The Fertility Enhancing Massage (or the FEM) Protocol. Maybe this is the best of both worlds?
I had the privilege of learning about The FEM Protocol through one of its creators, Meredith Nathan. Meredith is the Director of Massage at Pulling Down the Moon in Chicago. The Protocol offers relaxation as well as proven benefits for your fertility. There are pages of success stories attributed to the technique.
For those of you in Chicago, Meredith will be the guest speaker at the Shine Fertility support meet up on March 13. She'll not only explain The FEM Protocol in more detail, she'll also demonstrated some techniques you can try at home. And there will be a 20% off discount coupon for all attendees to try the Unwind the Mind massage! For details and to RSVP, click here.
What is Fertility Enhancing Massage (FEM)?
Fertility massage is a cutting edge field, with far-reaching benefits that are still being explored. At Pulling Down the Moon, we’ve developed specific techniques for working with the body after seeing thousands of fertility clients for over a decade. We've striven to be pioneers of this emerging healing art, blending the best of ancient modalities with cutting edge massage techniques.
The Fertility Enhancing Massage Protocol ™, or The FEM Protocol ™’, is a five-part series using massage and related techniques to enhance the health and functioning of the pelvic and abdominal organs, and to promote the client’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being. The five parts of the protocol focus on cleansing and detoxifying the body, increasing reproductive blood flow, clearing pelvic stagnation and promoting organ oxygenation, and combating stress. Each 75 minute session is timed to a specific part of a woman’s cycle (whether natural or assisted), and includes 10 - 15 minutes of assessment, education, and self-care techniques.
What are the benefits of FEM?
Each session has its own unique benefits, though the five sessions fall into three categories. Cleanse the Body™ is our Detoxifier session. Enhance the Blood™ and Open the Breath™ are the Blood Builders, encouraging an increase of blood flow to the reproductive organs. Relax & Integrate™ and Unwind the Mind™ are our Stress Busters. Unwind the Mind™ is unique in that it is the one session designed specifically for the two week wait (and can also be used throughout the first trimester of pregnancy). A more specific list of benefits session by session can be found here.
I think most people struggling to conceive don’t totally understand how three dimensional our bodies are, and that there are options to explore before accepting the ‘infertile label’.
What do you want people to know about FEM?
I think most people struggling to conceive don’t totally understand how three dimensional our bodies are, and that there are options to explore before accepting the ‘infertile label’. I wish more people knew about holistic options, including but not limited to the FEM Protocol™, earlier on in their fertility journey.
How do you recommend someone incorporate massage into their fertility plan - and when?
Since the lifespan of the egg is 90 days, receiving these sessions can benefit your fertility up to 3 months before trying to conceive. However, not everyone becomes aware of The FEM™ that far in advance. Each of our sessions were created for a specific timing in a woman’s cycle, as well as to address a specific fertility challenge. If someone is in an active IVF cycle and is in the stimulation phase, we will start her at the appropriate session given her timing, and create a treatment plan moving forward. Likewise, if someone is just coming out of a failed cycle, we will start her at the appropriate session and create a treatment plan moving forward. So really it is never too soon, or too late, for these sessions to help encourage a successful outcome.
Can male factor infertility be improved with FEM?
The FEM Protocol™ was created for women. That being said, the sessions correlate to male factor infertility as well, and I had my husband receive these sessions the month that we conceived our son (after 18 months of unsuccessful attempts). Detoxifying, increasing reproductive blood flow, and combating stress can be issues for men as well as women. Fertility Massage, in combination with nutrition, supplements, herbs, and acupuncture, can all be incredibly supportive to male fertility.
How can people find a FEM practitioner?
In Illinois, Pulling Down the Moon has FEM practitioners located in Chicago and Highland Park. In Maryland they can be found at the Wellness Center at Shady Grove Fertility located in Rockville. We have continuing education programs rolling out later this month and hope to have FEM practitioners available all across the USA within the next few years. However, in the meantime if someone is interested in fertility massage but does not live in Illinois or Maryland, they can also receive massage beneficial to fertility from a Mayan Abdominal Massage Therapist trained in Arvigo Techniques, or someone trained in Mercier Therapy.
What compelled you to focus your career on fertility and to create The Fertility Enhancing Massage Protocol?
I myself was a ‘fertility baby’. My mother suffered from endometriosis; she experienced two painful surgeries and two miscarriages before having my brother and myself at age 40. As such, working in the field of fertility always felt right - like I was ‘paying it forward’ to other would-be-parents that were so hopeful to conceive. When I started working at Pulling Down the Moon, fertility massage wasn’t really a thing…Mayan Abdominal Massage Therapy existed for overall abdominal health, but people weren’t really talking about fertility massage. My first mission at PDM was simply to provide relaxation massage to women and couples undergoing fertility, that would be aware of special considerations and contraindications: basically, to do no harm while massaging people during this sensitive time. But over 5 years of working on clients in this way, I couldn’t help but notice patterns of infertility that kept coming up, and started making connections to massage techniques that could help address these issues. In 2008 after working with thousands of women trying to conceive, The FEM Protocol™ was born. Since then, our techniques have continued to evolve and we’ve seen amazing success working with these methods.
In your experience, is there an ideal “mix” or “formula” for those trying to conceive?
I think those that have to fight for the family they are trying to create have such a deep appreciation for the process of conception, as well as the privilege of being a parent.
Every situation is unique. But I love to see clients who are not only receiving Fertility Massage but also Acupuncture and Nutritional Counseling (and if the client isn’t undergoing ART, herbs can also be very powerful). Some may find this holistic blend does the trick, and for others, western medicine and Reproductive Endocrinology will be a necessary component to their treatment. I love working with clients on the front end of their fertility journey, but have also found incredible results as a part of a client’s wellness team, partnering with their doctors for the most successful outcome.
What has been your biggest “lesson learned” thus far in your work with FEM?
I think my respect for the role of western medicine and holistic therapies has grown. It is amazing to see how they can complement each other in serving our clients. Conception and life is such a miracle, and I think so many take it for granted because it happened naturally for them. I think those that have to fight for the family they are trying to create have such a deep appreciation for the process of conception, as well as the privilege of being a parent.
Do you have some favorite success stories you can share?
I think the early success stories are some of my favorites, only because those were the days we were still testing the water, and it was so confirming to see hypothesis turn to reality. I remember a client who hadn’t had her period in a year (after being on the birth control pill for 12 years). She had one Cleanse the Body™ session and was pregnant one month later when I saw her. Another client hadn’t been able to get her lining over 6mm and hadn’t been able to proceed to transfer in 3 failed IVF cycles. She had one Enhance the Blood™ session and her lining shot up to 8.5mm, and she was able to proceed. I remember another client whose left ovary wasn’t producing at all, but after clearing congestion on that side during an Open the Breath™ session it suddenly started producing viable follicles.