Why should you receive massage during pregnancy?

Pregnancy is a time of massive change in a woman’s body:  physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.  Hormonal shifts, metabolic, and structural changes occur in the physical body.  A woman may experience mood swings, ambivalence, and issues surrounding her self-image.  The pregnant woman is likely to feel stress from all these changes.  The effects of stress can be detrimental to pregnancy outcome.  Studies of the effects of touch on the human pregnant body have shown to directly reduce these stressors.

Massage therapy during pregnancy can:

Increase blood and lymph circulation, thereby reducing edema (swelling),
Relieve muscle spasms, cramps, and myofascial pain,
Increase endorphin levels,
Provide emotional support to assist in minimizing mood swings, and
Reduce anxiety and depression.

Labor support studies have shown that massage therapy can improve labor outcomes such as lowering the chance of prematurity, labor complications, length of labor, use of medications, and reduced number of cesarean sections (Kennell & Klaus, 1988-1991, Birch, 1986).

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) symptoms may occur in hands and arms during pregnancy due to increased fluid.    Many pregnant women notice the symptoms during the night, when gravity allows the fluid that has accumulated in the legs during the day to redistribute to the rest of the body. Amy has advanced training in repetitive use injuries, like CTS.

Most women don’t realize you can receive massage within days or weeks after birth. Post Partum massage helps with milk production, alleviates muscle strain due to labor and delivery, balances hormones which can help decrease the onset of post-partum depression, reduces fatigue and facilitates a speedy recovery.

What should you expect during your session?

Massage during pregnancy is often specific to the lower back, hips, gluteals, legs, feet, upper back and neck, but tailored to the client’s needs.  Although deep tissue techniques are never used during a pregnancy massage, a firm swedish massage can usually alleviate muscular pain.  Only light strokes are performed on the inside of the legs due to the risk of dislodging a blood clot from within the deeper veins of the legs during pregnancy.  During the first trimester, you can safely lay on your stomach provided this is comfortable.  Some women experience breast sensitivity early in the pregnancy.  A small rolled up towel placed between or above the breasts usually alleviates this discomfort.  When face-up, a small wedge is placed under the right hip to relieve pressure on the large abdominal blood vessels.  During the second and third trimesters, massage is performed side-lying or using a Prego PillowTM, which safely allows the pregnant mom to lay on her stomach.  A large foam wedge is used for the semi-reclining position during the second and third trimesters.  Massage during pregnancy should be pleasurable (not painful) and will promote feelings of calm, well-being, and relaxation.  The treatment room temperature is adjusted to your needs.  A robe is available should you need to use the restroom during your session. 

Misconceptions about prenatal massage

If the therapist touches my feet I might go into labor.  Totally untrue. While it is believed that acupressure points on the ankle, feet, shin and hands can bring on labor, it must be specific work with the set intention of stimulating the uterus, not just simply massaging the feet to relieve swelling and joint pain.   As long as the therapist has the knowledge of these points, gentle swedish massage on the feet and lower legs is perfectly safe and tremendously beneficial during pregnancy.

Massage during the first trimester is dangerous.  There is no physiological reason to skip massage in the first trimester.  Some day-spas and therapists will refuse to see a woman in her early pregnancy simply because the statistical chance of her miscarrying is greater and they wish to avoid any liability the woman may, in her distress, place on them.  Massage produces endorphins, lowers catecholamine (stress hormones) and can lower blood pressure. This is reason enough to schedule a massage during the first trimester. Begin your pregnancy with a happy and healthy mind/body!

It’s best to wait to get a massage towards the end when I feel really uncomfortable. Why? By the time you feel really miserable, it will take several sessions to unwind. Stay on top of your discomfort and start receiving massage as a part of your prenatal wellness now! You may be surprised to know that your developing baby benefits from prenatal massage as well. Research shows that pregnant women experienced reduced anxiety, improved mood, reduced back pain, and increase sleep after receiving massage. The massaged women had fewer complications in labor and fewer premature babies. While research is ongoing in this area, it may be that massage is effective in lowering the stress-related hormone cortisol, which is one indicator of premature babies.  Since massage therapy is one way to reduce stress, one could conclude that prenatal massage can have a positive effect on the development of your baby.

Massage of my belly should be avoided during pregnancy. 
Gentle massage of the abdomen is safe and beneficial to the mother and baby.  Tightness and stretching of the abdomen is common; massage can relieve some of these uncomfortable feelings.  Also, special moisturizers can help with  dryness of the abdominal tissue.

Important Note: Certain conditions may require your doctor/midwife’s approval before you receive massage. These include: undiagnosed pregnancy induced hypertension, previous pre-term labor, severe (pitting) edema, or other conditions your doctor deems “high-risk”.