Floating Away Troubles and Pain
-By Julia Dodge
Drifting in still, warm water, Jessica Scott is detached from the world. No more traffic, no more projects at work, no more worries about how to decorate her soon-to-be born baby’s room… just her body and mind, suspended weightlessly in the peaceful, warm darkness.
After a few slow stretches she gently eases into a tranquil sleep-like state, her pregnant belly bobbing on the surface of the water, which is so salt-saturated it makes it impossible to sink. Before she knows it, there’s a soft knock on the door. It’s time to get up and greet the world.
Pregnancy can cause terrible strain on a woman’s body, and for a mother-to-be, finding time to relax can be difficult. Recently, some pregnant women have turned to “flotation therapy,” or sometimes called “sensory deprivation,” which offers the opportunity to experience complete relaxation in a calm, quiet environment. Used for soothing the physical strain of pregnancy, one hour in a tank can also float away anxieties and stress, and can give mom a chance to bond with the little one.
In complete darkness and surrounded by soundproof walls, pregnant women, businesswomen, or anybody else in need of a timeout can say goodbye to the outside world and, say fans of flotation, experience much-needed moments of clarity and rejuvenation.
Once inside, visitors float on the surface of more than ten inches of water, which is saturated in900-1000 lbs. of Epsom salt solution, making the water so dense that sinking is not an option. Set at 36.5 degrees – similar to our body’s skin temperature floaters often lose track of time as they waft in a weightless atmosphere.
“During the past few months I haven’t been able to relax and I’ve had a hard time sleeping,” says Jessica Scott, 22, whose first child is due in four months. “I had heard really good things about flotation therapy for pregnancy, and I thought I’d give it a try.” She took her first dip in a flotation tank when second trimester symptoms, which for her took the form of intense sciatic nerve pain, became too much to bear. “It’s so hard to get comfortable when you’re pregnant,” she says.
“Pregnancy is the most stressful thing that can happen to your body,” says Allison Walton, co-owner of the Float Center in Oakland. “When you’re carrying all this weight and you’re so uncomfortable, all the benefits of floating are so important.”
Walton claims that in addition to relaxing muscles and clearing minds, floating can produce positive effects including vivid dreams and solid nights’ sleep that may last for days. She also says it increases the level of endorphins released from the brain, which aids in pain relief. “A great massage is a great way to get the toxins out of your body,” she says. “But floating stays with you.”
Another possible perk of floating while pregnant is the “mirror effect” of the baby suspended in the womb while the mother is floating in the “womb” of the tank. Although there’s no scientific evidence, this quality time could generate an emotional connection between mother and baby.
Physicians generally advise women not to take baths in water over 100º because the heat could possibly be hazardous to the baby’s health. However, Walton insists that no tank should ever reach 100º, and if mom finds it too warm, she’s able to leave the door cracked open to cool down.
As Scott eagerly awaits the arrival of her little boy, she’s looking forward to utilizing the flotation tank for relief from upcoming third trimester aches and pains. “Once you let everything go it’s so awesome,” she says. “Anything that makes you that comfortable is definitely worth it.”