PREGNANCY AND POST NATAL MASSAGE
Pregnancy massage is relaxing and stress relieving but I also address the common problems of pregnancy by correcting structural and pelvic alignment and muscular imbalance. Massage is available throughout all trimesters of pregnancy. Therapeutic massage has been used for centuries to improve overall health, reduce stress, and relieve muscle tension. Massage and pregnancy has often received ambivalent responses from the health community regarding the safety and purpose of massage during pregnancy. Modern investigation and research is proving that prenatal massage therapy can be a very instrumental ingredient in women’s prenatal care and should be given careful consideration. It is commonly used in many Far and Middle Eastern countries as a matter of course.
Pregnancy and Massage: Is prenatal massage safe throughout the entire pregnancy?
Women can begin massage therapy at any point in their pregnancy – during the first, second, or third trimester.
Pregnancy and Massage: Prenatal Massage as part of Prenatal Care
The benefits of massage can improve overall prenatal health for many pregnant women. Along with the guidance and advice of a prenatal care provider, massage therapy can be incorporated into routine prenatal care as an emotional and physical health supplement proven to improve pregnancy outcome, and maternal health. Consult with your midwife or obstetrician before beginning any new therapeutic practice.
Massage and Pregnancy: Benefits of prenatal massage
Studies indicate that massage therapy performed during pregnancy can reduce anxiety, decrease symptoms of depression, relieve muscle aches and joint pains, and improve labour outcomes and the newborn baby’s health. Massage therapy addresses different needs through varying techniques, which aim to relax muscle tension and improve lymphatic and blood circulation through mild pressure applied to the muscle groups of the body. Pregnancy Massage is the recommended prenatal massage method during pregnancy because it addresses many common discomforts associated with the skeletal and circulatory changes brought on by hormone shifts during pregnancy.
Studies done in the past 10 years have shown that hormone levels associated with relaxation and stress are significantly altered, leading to mood regulation and improved cardiovascular health, when massage therapy was introduced to women’s prenatal care. In women who received bi-weekly massages for only five weeks, hormones such as norepinephrine and cortisol (“stress hormones”) were reduced and dopamine and serotonin levels were increased (low levels of these hormones are associated with depression). These changes in hormone levels also led to fewer complications during birth and fewer instances of newborn complications, such as low birth weight. The evidence points strongly to maternal and newborn health benefits when therapeutic massage is incorporated into regular prenatal care.
Reduction of swelling
Swelling of the joints during pregnancy is often caused by reduced circulation and increased pressure on the major blood vessels by the heavy uterus. Massage helps to stimulate soft tissues to reduce collection of fluids in swollen joints, which also improves the removal of tissue waste, carried by the body’s lymph system.
Improvement of nerve pain
Sciatic nerve pain is experienced by many women in late pregnancy as the uterus rests on muscles of the pelvic floor and lower back. The pressure of the uterus spreads tension to the muscles of the upper and lower leg, causing them to swell and put pressure on nearby nerves. Massage therapy addresses the inflamed nerves by helping to release the tension on nearby muscles. Many women have experienced significant reduction in sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy through regular massage. Other potential benefits of prenatal massage:
- Reduced back pain
- Reduced joint pain
- Improved circulation
- Reduced swelling
- Reduced muscle tension and headaches
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Improved oxygenation of soft tissues and muscles
- Better sleep
Pregnancy and Massage: Precautions for prenatal massage?
As with any therapeutic approach to pregnancy wellness, women should discuss massage with their prenatal care provider. The best way to address the risks of prenatal massage is to be informed and to work together with knowledgeable professionals.
Body position during prenatal massage
Many professionals consider the best position for a pregnant woman during massage is side-lying. Tables that provide a hole in which the uterus can fit may not be reliable and can still apply pressure to the abdomen, or allow the abdomen to dangle, causing uncomfortable stretching of the uterine ligaments. Clients are placed on their side with appropriate pillow support. Any woman who has experienced pre-term contractions or consistent Braxton-Hicks contractions should alert her therapist to that fact so that pressure points can be avoided completely. Women with the following conditions should speak with a health care provider prior to receiving a massage:
- High risk pregnancy
- Pregnancy induced hypertension (PIH)
- Previous pre-term labour
- Experiencing severe swelling, high blood pressure, or sudden, severe headaches
- Recently gave birth
During the postnatal period, your body is going through big changes and you need to be careful not to overstimulate it. The time it takes for your body to return to normal differs for different women, but usually around 6 months, and depends on factors such as your general health, the type of pregnancy you experienced, the type of birth, how well you are bonding with your child, the kind of baby you have and how easy you are finding breastfeeding. It is important that you take care of yourself as well as your baby in the months following childbirth.
Benefits of Postnatal Massage
Emotionally and physically the postnatal period can put a great deal of strain on mothers and massage during this time can help to:
- Give nurturing and emotional support
- Alleviate the muscle strain of pregnancy and childbirth
- Promote pelvic floor healing and rebalance the spine and pelvis
- Restore and normalise abdominal structures
- Facilitate healing after a Caesarian section
- Restore normal walking patterns
- Prevent and reduce back and neck pain caused by newborn care
- Can aid breastfeeding
Can I bring my baby?
You are welcome to bring your baby to the session so that they can lie next to you while you are being massaged. Alternatively, you are welcome to bring a friend or partner to help care for your baby while you enjoy your massage. Please let us know if you do plan on bringing your baby so that we can make sure you are both very comfortable. Thank you.
The above has been compiled for you using information from the following sources: Field, T. (1999). Pregnant Women Benefit From Massage Therapy. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Mar;20(1):31-8. Field, T. (2004). Massage Therapy Effects on Depressed Pregnant Women. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Jun;25(2):115-22. Heimlich, Patti, RMT, CD, ICCE, The Benefits of Massage During Pregnancy, Labor & Postpartum. www.expectantmothersguide.com/library/houston/massage/htm. Article accessed online 10/18/2007. Howell,Julie, NMT, PMT, Prenatal Health Through Massage Therapy: For Women and Their Babies. www.newlifejournal.com/decjan03/howell/01/03/full.shtml. Article accessed online 10/18/2007. )