Relaxing massage tailored to meet the special needs of pregnancy. Massage during pregnancy not only makes a woman feel pampered, but offers undeniable physical benefits as well.
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 labor outcomes and newborn health. Massage therapy addresses different needs through varying techniques, one of which is called Swedish Massage, which aims to relax muscle tension and improve lymphatic and blood circulation through mild pressure applied to the muscle groups of the body. Swedish 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
Edema, or 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 edema
• Reduced muscle tension and headaches
• Reduced stress and anxiety
• Improved oxygenation of soft tissues and muscles
• Better sleep
Massage and Pregnancy: Are There 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.
Awareness of Sensitive Pressure Points
There are specific pressure points on the ankles and wrists that can gently stimulate pelvic muscles, including the uterus and surrounding area. I am trained to avoid very specific and intentional pressure to these areas during pregnancy. Any woman who has experienced pre-term contractions or consistent Braxton-Hicks contractions should convey this information to me so that these pressure points can be avoided completely.
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.
How Will I Receive My Massage?
When receiving pregnancy massage, you are positioned on your side to give the therapist access to your back or in a semi – reclining position for massage on the front of your body. Your body will be supported with pillows or special cushions. You will be properly draped while the therapist is working, except for the area being massaged.
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. We also offer massage utilizing a specially designed pillow which supports the abdomen while allowing you to lie on your stomach. However, the final choice of position is yours and we will adjust throughout your session to insure you are comfortable and your baby is safe.
What Techniques Will Be Used?
Many pregnancy massage specialists integrate a variety of techniques into their work. Depending on where you are in the pregnancy, the therapist may utilize reflexology, Swedish massage, or very light shiatsu.
Are There Times When Massage During Pregnancy Should Be Avoided?
Women with normal, low – risk pregnancies can benefit greatly from massage by a trained pregnancy massage therapist. However, women in high – risk pregnancies should consult with their doctor or midwife before beginning a massage therapy program.
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 labor
- Experiencing severe swelling, high blood pressure, or sudden, severe headaches
- Recently gave birth
What About Massage After Delivery Of My Baby?
Massage during the weeks after delivery helps to restore muscle tone in the abdomen and reposition the pelvis. And remember, touch is a very important part of bonding with your baby. Ask about receiving instruction in massaging your baby.
Use Of Essential Oils
The massage therapist may use essential oils during your massage. Since many have physical effects on the body, you should be aware of the oils the therapist may use. Oils that have stimulating effects should be avoided, such as basil, cinnamon, cedarwood, and peppermint. Clary sage should also be avoided as it can initiate labor. The following are recommended as safe for use during pregnancy: lavender to relieve nausea, headaches, and constipation; neroli and ylang – ylang may help reduce stretch marks.
It is very important you obtain approval from your obstetrician before receiving any form of massage during pregnancy.