There is no doubt that pregnancy comes with some unique physical changes, and some of those changes can cause discomfort. Prenatal massage is a great way to relieve some of the most common physical symptoms associated with pregnancy, especially in the second and third trimester.
Prenatal massage is a type of body work that uses a number of techniques and modalities to relieve some of the complications associated with pregnancy. It can relax or energize the body, depending upon what the expectant mother is looking for. Prenatal massage has been shown to improve circulation, reduce muscle aches, and overall provide a sense of wellbeing. It has also been shown to help postpartum recovery and reduce the chances of developing postpartum depression, a serious condition that affects many women to some degree.
Prenatal massage is typically performed with the woman lying on her side to keep pressure off of her growing baby and provide maximum comfort. Pregnant women should avoid lying flat on their back to keep pressure off of the major blood vessels in the body. Women will often be positioned at an incline instead.
Anyone who has ever had a massage, whether pregnant or not, knows how wonderful they can be. There are scores of studies that demonstrate all of the benefits of massage, and it can be particularly beneficial during pregnancy, because it aids both mother and child. Some of the more bothersome pregnancy symptoms and side effects such as back pain, muscle aches, and swelling of the extremities can be easily relieved by massage.
According to the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, mothers who received massage throughout their pregnancies and during their labor experienced less anxiety and a decrease in depressed mood. These mothers also had significantly shorter labors, shorter hospital stays and experienced less pain.
Another study showed that women who used acupressure massage during pregnancy, specifically points LI4 and BL67, experienced less pain and shorter labors than those who didn't. Acupressure massage is similar to reflexology, another modality that is effective for managing symptoms of pregnancy. Acupressure point LI4 is located in the webbing of the hand between the thumb and forefinger. Acupressure point BL67 is located on the outside of the little toe, next to the toenail. For maximum effectiveness, this point on both feet should be used.
Postpartum mothers can also find benefits from massage. The birth process is a serious physical ordeal, and the body needs to recover from all the changes that it's been through. There are specific techniques that can aid in the recovery of the body from childbirth. Mother and child massage is available in some areas as well that not only provide the healing benefits of massage to the mother, but massage also benefits the baby and gives mother and child quiet time to bond with each other.
There are a number of physical and emotional benefits of prenatal massage during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum. Massage can help:
There are a number of techniques used in prenatal massage, depending upon the benefit that the expectant mother is looking for. While it is commonly assumed that massages are primarily relaxing, some techniques used are anything but. Some of these techniques are safe during pregnancy and some are not. A licensed massage therapist who is qualified to perform prenatal massage will be able to advise a pregnant woman as to what technique will be safest while still providing the desired result. More than one technique can be used during the massage.
Overall, massage has been proved to be very safe throughout the entire pregnancy, though many massage therapists won't work on a pregnant woman if she is in the first trimester. There are a number of reasons for this, but most of them are founded more in fear than in actual danger. However, there are certain situations in which women should not get massage.
Prenatal massage can be great during pregnancy and labor, and is considered to be relatively safe. There are even classes available that teach partners how to use massage techniques during labor to help ease pain, allowing the mother to enjoy the birth process and welcome her new bundle of joy into the world.