Most people enjoy human touch. A touch can convey comfort, love, awareness and many other sensations. It can also help alleviate aches and pains.
All of these are of benefit, especially when you are pregnant.
Benefits of Pregnancy Massage include:
- Tranquil relaxation and reduce stress.
- Relief from muscle cramps, spasms, and myofascial pain, especially in the lower back, neck, hips, and legs.
- Increase in blood and lymph circulation, which can reduce swelling.
- Reduces stress on weight-bearing joints.
- Improves outcome of labor and eases labor pain.
- Enhances the pliability of skin and underlying tissues.
- Provides support for the new mother with physical and emotional strains of mothering.
Laura Davis, RN, CMT has been a nurse for 23 years and started doing massage several years ago. She then became certified in pregnancy and postpartum massage. She recommends that when you are looking for a pregnancy or postpartum massage therapist that you make sure the therapist is certified in pregnancy massage. "This means the therapist has taken special training and knows what is safe practice for mother and her baby. Just being a massage therapist doesn't mean they are qualified to give a massage to pregnant and postpartum women," warns Davis. "Just because a brochure offers pregnancy massage doesn't always mean everyone is qualified to perform this type of massage."
Massage during pregnancy differs from a regular massage in a couple of ways. The biggest way it differs is that the person receiving the massage is pregnant, and therefore knowledge of pregnancy and the anatomy of a pregnant woman are very important. This means that positioning during a massage is critical to the safety and well-being of both the mother and the baby she is carrying. There are also parts of the body that should not be massaged.
"The massage table will be set up so you will lie in a semi-reclining position. This is not only really comfortable, but safe for baby. Also you will turn from side to side to do your back and hips, there are body pillows, wedge pillows and extra padding to make you comfortable," Davis explains. "Never use the tables with the whole cut out for your belly, these cause undo stress to your lower back, it may seem like a great idea, but it isn't."
The room setting for a pregnancy massage is much like a typical massage, the room will have low lightening, you will lie on a warm extra padded table. Soft music will be in the background to help you relax and drift off. Some therapists will provide music with a baby's heartbeat in the background, some use candles to also set the mood and of course they smell good too. Be sure to tell your therapist if any of these disturb your senses. Sometimes there might be music or smells that don't quite agree with you and they are easily changed.
A questions I am often asked about massage is about the level of clothing one will wear. That is really between you and your therapist. Many moms choose to remove all of their clothing, though they are never uncovered, as they are always covered by the sheets. Some choose to wear their underwear or their bra and underwear. Whatever you choose to wear or remove is completely up to you and your comfort level.
Massage is beneficial for almost everyone. Even women carrying multiples babies can benefit greatly from massage. There may be certain conditions that may or may not be related to the pregnancy that would preclude massage or certain types of massage. This may include women at risk for preterm labor, women with blood clots or clotting disorders, and other ailments. Many therapists recommend that you have a written notice from your doctor or midwife before receiving massage therapy during pregnancy. Massage done during the first trimester is generally up to the therapist, the woman and her practitioner. Massage has never been associated with an increased risk of miscarriage.
Massage can also be useful for labor. Techniques can be done by your partner or a doula. Davis says, "The time to learn the techniques is while your pregnant before you go into labor. It is a great idea to take your partner or friend with you when you get your massage, any professional therapist will encourage this, they can show your partner many comfort measures he or she can use at home and will also explain why some techniques are unsafe. These hits will really help out when your in labor!"
Postpartum massage is designed to help restore the body to its pre-pregnant condition. It also addresses the stress of carrying and caring for a newborn. It can speed the recovery by bringing relief of sore muscles and help the mother to relax more easily. Abdominal massage helps shrink the uterus and relieve subcutaneous scar tissue. It may be given as early as 24 hours after delivery in a vaginal delivery but only with written permission from your doctor or midwife.
No matter where you are in the childbearing year, massage may have many benefits for you and your baby.