Many people I have met think massage is only a luxury service and have no idea of the many benefits it can bring you once you try it. On top of just having a nice rejuvenating break from every day stressful life, massage is so much more. In fact, massage has been used for thousands of years for effective relief from soft tissue pains, stiffness of joints, increased range of motion just to name a few. Today I want to focus on the benefits of Pregnancy Massage as this is also often unknown territory for many but could be such a great help during experiencing pregnancy aches and pains. I will also list some common fears and concerns around pregnancy massage which can prevent women seeking help from a therapist.
Benefits of massage during pregnancy:
• Improved blood circulation gets fresh nutritious blood into your tissues while assisting removal of cellular waste by increasing lymphatic flow. In pregnancy this helps to decrease non pathological edema, reduce blood pressure, and relieve headaches. With this improved circulation the occurrence of edema and muscle spasms related to poor circulation can be reduced.
• Musculoskeletal pain reduction: massage helps decrease strain on joints and muscles that are impacted by the extra weight gain of pregnancy, reducing muscle tension and back pain
• Improved posture: opportunity to teach body correction, relieving related musculoskeletal complaints such as low back pain, headaches, neck and shoulder pain, foot discomfort, and sciatica
• Enhanced lactation and increased prolactin production: nurturing touch stimulates prolactin production, enhancing mother’s “nesting” instincts and abilities to nurture her infant
• Improved emotional wellbeing: studies indicate that massage can reduce stress hormones, reduce depression and anxiety, and increase serotonin production, increasing one’s sense of well-being. All those benefits will also improve outcomes for the baby in utero.
• Increased immunity and decreased intra-uterine stress. Touch enhances the immune system function by reducing stress. Reduced maternal stress means a decrease in the possible detrimental effects of intrauterine stress on the baby.
• Perineal ease: massage of the perineal area, before and during labor can help facilitate stretching of the tissues during birth. This massage technique is usually explained to the mother.
• Improved relaxation skills and self-connection: massage enhances a woman’s body-awareness by bringing her attention to areas of muscular tension that can relax with bodywork and focused breath. Associating touch with relaxation before birth facilitates natural relaxation with touch during birth.
• Increased energy: massage can reduce or relieve some of the common complaints of pregnancy including fatigue, stress, and insomnia – concerns that sap a woman’s energy.
• Increased ability to nurture others: massage provides an experience of nurturing, healing touch, which increases a woman’s ability to touch her infant similarly. This is particularly important for women with a history of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse.
Fears and issues:
• For some women, body image can become a source of concern that prevents them from seeking out massage. A healthy woman typically gains at least 28 pounds during a normal pregnancy, some of which is naturally deposited in the thighs and buttocks. Without this extra weight, the baby would not thrive, the mother would not be able to adequately nourish her fetus, and the mother’s body would not withstand the stresses of pregnancy.
• Another major concern of expectant mothers and their partners is the fear of miscarriage. They may view the mother as “fragile” and the whole pregnancy unstable and believe that if she is touched the “wrong” way or the “wrong” place, the mother or fetus could be harmed. Many women have heard that certain acupressure points are dangerous or massage to the ankles is contraindicated during pregnancy. Some women have experienced more than one miscarriage, and massage might, in their minds, seem risky for stimulating another. Receiving a massage from a knowledgeable therapist who has learned appropriate and safe ways to touch pregnant women throughout the childbearing cycle, may help to ease some of these concerns.
• Violation of personal boundaries. Pregnant woman might find that people reach out and lay a hand on her belly – the mother’s belly has suddenly become public property, where strangers practice no restraint and normal boundaries and privacy has diminished.
• A lack of knowledge among massage therapists about how to massage during pregnancy can be another issue that pregnant women encounter. Many women have found that their regular massage therapist suddenly becomes unwilling to see them, as she/he is concerned about doing something “wrong” or creating a problem for which they are legally liable. There certainly are contraindications for massage during pregnancy. Finding a knowledgeable therapist who has had training in pregnancy massage and is fully aware of the contraindications would be the best way to go while looking to relieve pregnancy related complaints.
“Nurturing Massage for Pregnancy” by Leslie Stager
“Pre- and Perinatal Massage Therapy” by Carole Osbourne