What is prenatal massage?
Prenatal massage is therapeutic bodywork which focuses on the special needs of the mother-to-be as her body goes through the dramatic changes of the childbirth experience. It is a fast-growing field in the United States that has attracted the interest of labor and delivery nurses, nurse-midwives, childbirth educators and obstetricians. Massage therapy enhances the function of muscles and joints, improves circulation and general body tone, and relieves mental and physical fatigue.
The popularity of prenatal massage is the result of a trend toward a higher level of wellness, especially during pregnancy. Many women are postponing childbirth until they have achieved other goals, such as careers and relationships. Because of this, pregnancy is anticipated and enjoyed to its fullest for the wondrous experience it is. Today’s pregnant women – along with other health care consumers – are looking for alternative approaches to support traditional health services.
Benefits of prenatal massage include:
- emotional support and nurturing touch
- relaxation and decreased insomnia
- stress relief on weight-bearing joints, such as ankles, lower back and pelvis
- neck and back pain relief caused by muscle imbalance and weakness
- assistance in maintaining proper posture
- preparing the muscles used during childbirth
- reduced swelling in hands and feet
- lessened sciatic pain
- fewer calf cramps
- headache and sinus congestion relief
Pregnancy massage can be done in different ways. Pregnant women may lie on their sides to be massaged, and they can actually lie on their bellies, since a specifically designed pillow has made it possible for expectant moms, no matter how far along they are, to lie flat on their stomachs. It accomplishes this with a deep center cutout in the pillow, so that bellies are accommodated and moms-to-be are relaxed and comfortable.
After the first 22 weeks of pregnancy, lying flat on your back can cause pressure on deep blood vessels, due to the growing baby, thereby reducing circulation to you and your baby. To avoid this problem, pillows can be used to ensure that you are lying down and looking at the wall rather than the ceiling. Body pillows are especially effective for the side-lying position.
In addition to the fact that massage during pregnancy just plain feels good, there are many other benefits for the mom-to-be and her baby, too. A study conducted by Dr. Tiffany Field at the University of Miami School of Medicine showed that massage actually reduces stress hormones in the body. Touch is vital to the mother’s physical and emotional well-being as she adapts to her new body image. Regardless of individual circumstances, a pregnant woman’s body is challenged, changed and stressed in many ways. Massage gives special attention to the mother-to-be, which in turn nurtures the new life that grows within her.
Is prenatal massage for you?
Massage during pregnancy is usually safe for most mothers. Your massage therapist will want to know if you are having any problems or complications with your pregnancy before you begin. If you are, then your therapist will require approval from your primary health care provider before proceeding with any bodywork. The following are circumstances in which massage should not be performed:
- heavy discharge (watery or bloody)
- contagious illness
- fever vvomiting
- unusual pain
- high blood pressure
- morning sickness
- abdominal pain
- any malignant condition