Pregnancy is an astounding, miraculous event that is often a testament to a woman’s strength. It is also challenging, physically demanding and fatiguing. While a tremendous amount of care is given to health of the baby, it is also a critical time for moms-to-be to learn about the importance of self care.
One of the best things I did during my second pregnancy was prenatal massage and not just when I felt I needed it but regularly to support the health of my body as it changed through each trimester. While my monthly regimen may not be feasible for everyone, I hope these five benefits will make you consider prenatal massage as an investment in a healthy pregnancy.
- Improved circulation and lymphatic drainage: For many women swollen joints, varicose veins and a general feeling of heaviness are symptoms of pregnancy. Massage can help reduce these symptoms by increasing resting blood flow and increasing lymph return.
- Decreased muscle and ligament tension: Carrying an extra 25 – 35 pounds (the recommended weight gain for healthy body mass index (BMI)) can put considerable strain on our muscles and ligaments. Combined with lax joints, this often causes muscle soreness and increased ligament tension. Massage helps to restore normal muscle tone and releases lactic acid for tight muscles.
- Positive effect on Stress, Anxiety and Depression: Healthcare studies have demonstrated a positive effect between massage and stress, anxiety and depression. Massage can contribute both physically and mentally to evoking a relaxation response in new mothers challenged by the stress of pregnancy as well decreasing levels of stress hormones in the blood stream.
- Improves Outcomes for Labour and Delivery: Maintaining good mobility and muscle strength can not only prepare you for labour and delivery, it can also contribute to better postnatal recovery. Massage can help labouring mothers maintain the flexibility required for birthing positions and can teach partners techniques to make delivery more comfortable.
- Benefits to the Baby: Aside from reducing stress hormones, maintaining good circulation and creating a healthy body for the mother, all of which have a positive impact on the baby, massage can also improve bonding between the baby and mother. Babies who are moving in the womb will often respond to touch with their own movement to create connection.
Despite the known positive effects, not every patient is appropriate and it is important to know the cautions associated with prenatal massage.
- Make sure you visit a practitioner with training in women’s health and pregnancy techniques
- Your practitioner should be familiar with proper positioning and women beyond 16 weeks of pregnancy should avoid lying
- If your pregnancy is considered high risk or complicated, it is best to be cleared by your midwife or physician before having a massage
- Always choose a registered massage therapist and make sure you have completed a full health history
Once you have welcomed your little one, massage can still play an important part in your recovery and your new journey into motherhood. Some types of massage you may want to consider postnatally may include:
- Breast Massage: This type of specialized massage can be helpful to lactating mothers who suffer from blocked ducts to prevent mastitis. It may also be useful for women who have difficulty with supply and helps to alleviate tight chest musculature associated with poor positioning from breastfeeding.
- Abdominal Massage: Labour and delivery can often leave tissues damaged, stretched and weak. Abdominal massage helps to reduce scar tissue, increases oxygen rich blood to healing tissue and improve swelling.
- Cesarean Scar Massage: Whenever an incision is made in the body, all the tissue involved tend to fuse together to form a scar. It is important that our muscles move independently of our skin and connective tissue so it is essential to break up the scar tissue with massage. This type of massage also contributes significantly to the overall appearance of the abdomen post surgery.
- Infant massage: Infant massage has been shown to help babies’ digestion and gas, improve sleep, decreases collick, restore normal muscle tone, ease growing pains and support neurological development through touch. Perhaps the most important benefit though is that it strengthens and baby parent bond.