Pregnancy is one of the best times for a woman to use massage. Although expecting a baby is a joyous time as you wait for the new family member to arrive, pregnancy also puts a number of strains on the body and is also responsible for emotional fluctuations. The use of massage, during every stage of pregnancy and after the baby is delivered is a wonderful way to keep the body healthier and stronger and facilitate the birth process. Expectant mothers should make certain that their massage therapist has been certified in prenatal massage.
Is Pregnancy Massage Safe?
Massage, by a qualified massage therapist, is perfectly safe during the entire period of gestation. It was previously thought that massage during the first three months, the first trimester, was to be avoided as it might increase the chance of miscarriage. However, this has been disproved and massage during this stage of pregnancy is safe as long as undue pressure is not applied to the abdomen.
While the abdomen is still relatively flat, massage can be conducted while the mother lies on her stomach as well as her back. Later, as the child grows and the stomach increases, changes will have to be made so that the woman is comfortable. Some massage therapists use pregnancy tables that allow the abdomen to hand down through an opening in the table, while others will use bolsters to elevate the rest of the body from the table so that no pressure will be applied to the abdomen. This will allow the mother to benefit from a back massage, but questions have arisen as to whether too much strain is put on the abdominal ligaments when using a pregnancy table.
Most massage therapists will simply have the mother-to-be lie on her side for her massage. This will provide support for the abdomen and make the mother more comfortable. Lying on the side is generally more comfortable during the later stages of pregnancy than lying on the back.
The Benefits of Massage Therapy During Pregnancy
The hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy, coupled with the physical aspects that pregnancy brings about can make the expectant mother uncomfortable. Under the hands of a skilled massage therapist, many of the discomforts of pregnancy can be minimized and even eliminated.
- Stress and pregnancy go together, and receiving a massage regularly during this time can help to relax and soothe the mother-to-be. Most expectant mothers who receive massage therapy also find it easier to sleep at night. Endorphins are released during massage to promote an overall feeling of well-being.
- Muscular cramps are common during pregnancy, but massage is great at working out these cramps. While deep tissue massage will be used on the back and arms, lighter massage is generally used on the legs in case impaired circulation is causing blood clots.
- Women who have received massage during pregnancy often experience easier deliveries, as their muscles are in good condition.
- It’s easy for fluid to accumulate in the lower legs during pregnancy as the enlarged abdomen tends to restrict circulation. Massage is useful in helping fluid drain out of ankles and calves, although massage in these areas must be light, as mentioned above.
- Massage therapy is also a good idea after the baby has been born. Massage can help to return stretched skin to its original condition and also helps to restore muscle tone. Sore muscles will definitely be a problem if no anesthetics were used during delivery, and massage will ease the pain and bring more blood and oxygen to problem areas. And, as always, massage helps to relax and calm the new mother.
- Those who are nursing their baby will appreciate that massage releases more oxytocins. Oxytocins help to release more milk. For those who are experiencing hard spots in the breast or who are having difficulty nursing, a breast massage is often the answer.
A Word of Caution
Any pregnant woman who is considering massage therapy should always speak with her obstetrician first – he or she will be the one best qualified to determine whether massage will be safe. There are some conditions that will prevent a pregnant woman from receiving massage therapy during her gestation and these include preeclampsia, pre-term labor during a previous pregnancy, vomiting and severe morning sickness, and if the pregnancy is considered to be high risk. And, when getting a pregnancy massage, never, ever hesitate to tell your massage therapist if something is uncomfortable or hurts.