So you're expecting to birth a new family member sooner than you're probably ready. And maybe you already know the benefits of a soothing massage from your pre-pregnancy days. But now you’re being inundated with list after list of things that you can and can’t do during your pregnancy; things that are good for your baby’s development, and things to avoid to keep your baby healthy.
Suddenly, every part of your routine, and everything you do is in question: Is this healthy for my baby?
Pregnancy can be a tiring job-- your body is legitimately working overtime. And you totally deserve some pampering to relieve those aches and pains and to just unwind. But is massage the best way to do that? Can you get a massage while pregnant? Are you putting your baby at risk, or are you benefiting your baby by taking care of yourself?
Benefits of Massage During Pregnancy
Some women experience nerve pain, especially in their sciatic nerve, during pregnancy, known as sciatica. This is a sharp pain that starts in your buttocks and can run all the way down the back of your leg. Some of this is due to weight gain and fluid retention, and also due to the pressure of the weight of your growing baby on your sciatic nerve.
Massage therapy can address this pain through attention to the inflamed muscles around your nerves. Because massage can also help relieve some of the discomfort caused by fluid retention, this may also help your nerve pain as well.
Regulation of Hormones
At no other time in your life will you experience the swell of hormones like you do when you are expecting. Not just your levels of estrogen and testosterone, but also your levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) levels too.
Women who received massage therapy during their pregnancy reported feeling less stress and anxiety in addition to the physical benefits they experienced. They produced less cortisol. These decreased levels of cortisol also meant less excessive fetal activity, and lower premature birth rates.
Here’s the kicker: These same women also reported significantly less labor pain, and shorter labor (by an average of three full hours), with less need for medication. You can’t beat those facts; prenatal massage can help make your labor and delivery process much, much easier.
During your pregnancy, the amount of plasma in your blood increases by 40% by weeks 24 to 34. This can mean all kinds of discomfort, especially uncomfortable swelling in the legs and ankles. Skilled prenatal massage can stimulate circulation and lymphatic drainage, therefore reducing swelling.
...And SO Much More
What else may you experience as a result of prenatal massage?
- Reduced back pain
- Less joint pain
- Improvements in muscle tension and headaches
- Better sleep (while you still can!)
Your Positioning During a Massage
With prenatal massage, there’s a lot to consider. You can’t apply too much pressure to your abdomen, so what’s the best position for you to be comfortable during your massage and still protect your baby?
Maybe you’ve seen those special tables with the cut out in the middle - one for your growing bump. However, these may still apply extra unnecessary pressure to your abdomen, and may not provide enough support for you or your baby. Your abdomen can end up dangling, which can cause unnecessary strain and discomfort in your uterine ligaments.
Instead, the best position for you and your baby? Laying on your side. Like sleeping, in your second and third trimester, the best position for massage is on your side.
Laying flat on your back can cause excess strain on your body - exactly when you don’t want to place excess strain on yourself. Laying flat can place the entire weight of your baby on the main vein that carries blood into your lower body; the vena cava. That can cause a drop in blood pressure and dizziness.
So in addition to the cozy side-lying options, I’ll prop you recliner-style with your head and torso raised up and cozy pillows under your legs to keep you and baby comfortable through the massage.
Talk to Your Doctor
As with anything else during your pregnancy, you should always consult your OB/GYN or midwife about your plans to get a massage. Your provider may advise against massage if you have certain high-risk pregnancy conditions, especially if you have pre-eclampsia or high blood pressure, and as your massage therapist I will want to know of any concerns or limitations your provider may have.
Additional reasons to talk to your doctor before booking an appointment for a massage:
- Previous pre-term, early labor
- Severe swelling or sudden headaches
- Pregnancy-induced hypertension
Other than speaking with your doctor though, are there any other limitations for prenatal massage? Believe it or not, no! Some may tell you to avoid too much massage on your feet or ankles, claiming this will bring on labor. This may be because of reflexology’s connection between the feet, and the ovaries and uterus.
However, pushing on these areas isn’t going to start contractions. If this were the case, think of how many more overdue women would just get a foot massage instead of being induced in a hospital. Your body really has to be already READY for those acupressure and reflexology points to facilitate anything.
So, once you have the okay from your doctor. You’re good to go! Schedule now!
Benefits of Massage for Postpartum
Benefits For You: Massage is well-known for its benefits for stress and anxiety relief, but did you know that massage can help treat postpartum depression? Massage can also ease fatigue, and alleviate residual body aches in your abdomen, hips, shoulders, and legs, and can even help you heal after a C-section.
You may also find reduced swelling and better sleep, as well as improved breastfeeding and hormone regulation. It is an ideal, holistic way to cope with the major adjustment you are making when you enter the realm of motherhood.
Benefits For Your Baby: If you have chosen to breastfeed your baby, you know it can be a great gift, and a major stressor, all at once. However, relaxation in the shoulders through massage can improve your circulation and milk production. Some studies have also shown massage boosts levels of prolactin, a lactation hormone.
Additionally, your baby has a mother who is happier, calmer, and less stressed. And what could be a better gift for the two of you than the gift of serenity?
You can get a massage after birth as soon as you are comfortable doing so, or after getting the OK from your OB post-cesarean birth. You may find that you have to adjust your positioning to find the right position for you. Laying on your stomach may not be that comfortable if you are nursing, but laying on your side can be a great way to focus on healing discomfort in your hips, legs, and shoulders.
Pregnancy is no joke. It can be one of the most profound experiences in a parent’s life. And it can also be an extreme physical challenge. But with massage, it can be a little easier, and you can focus a little more on the profound experience part.
Ready to book your prenatal or postpartum massage? Schedule today!