Benefits of Prenatal Massage
Massage and Pregnancy
Therapeutic massage has been used for centuries to improve overall health, reduce stress, and relieve muscle tension. Massage and pregnancy has often received ambivalent responses from the health community regarding the safety and purpose of massage during pregnancy. Modern investigation and research is proving that prenatal massage therapy can be a very instrumental ingredient in women’s prenatal care and should be given careful consideration.
Although most massage training institutions teach massage therapy for women who are pregnant, it is best to find a massage therapist who specializes in prenatal massage. Before you schedule a massage appointment, make sure to ask about qualifications.
Massage and Pregnancy: Benefits of prenatal massage
Studies indicate that massage therapy performed during pregnancy can reduce anxiety, decrease symptoms of depression, relieve muscle aches and joint pains, and improve labor outcomes and newborn health. You can read more about the research by clicking here.
There are different massage techniques that can be helpful during pregnancy. Myofascial release lengthens and relaxes muscle tension, active-resisted stretches, reflexology and just good ole swedish massage can all be excellent techniques that will soothe and calm the nervous and muscular systems.
Reduction in depression and anxiety
Studies done in the past 10 years have shown that hormone levels associated with relaxation and stress are significantly altered, leading to mood regulation and improved cardiovascular health, when massage therapy was introduced to women’s prenatal care. In women who received bi-weekly massages for only five weeks, hormones such as norepinephrine and cortisol (“stress hormones”;) were reduced and dopamine and serotonin levels were increased (low levels of these hormones are associated with depression).
These changes in hormone levels also led to fewer complications during birth and fewer instances of newborn complications, such as low birth weight. The evidence points strongly to maternal and newborn health benefits when therapeutic massage is incorporated into regular prenatal care.
Reduction of swelling
Edema, or swelling of the joints during pregnancy, is often caused by reduced circulation and increased pressure on the major blood vessels by the heavy uterus. Massage helps to stimulate soft tissues to reduce collection of fluids in swollen joints, which also improves the removal of tissue waste, carried by the body’s lymph system.
Improvement of nerve pain
Sciatic nerve pain is experienced by many women in late pregnancy as the uterus rests on muscles of the pelvic floor and lower back. The pressure of the uterus spreads tension to the muscles of the upper and lower leg, causing them to swell and put pressure on nearby nerves. Massage therapy addresses the inflamed nerves by helping to release the tension on nearby muscles. Many women have experienced significant reduction in sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy through regular massage.
Other potential benefits of prenatal massage:
Reduced back pain
Reduced joint pain
Reduced muscle tension and headaches
Reduced stress and anxiety
Improved oxygenation of soft tissues and muscles
Body position during prenatal massage
Many professionals consider the best position for a pregnant woman during massage is side-lying. Tables that provide a hole in which the uterus can fit may not be reliable and can still apply pressure to the abdomen, or allow the abdomen to dangle, causing uncomfortable stretching of the uterine ligaments. I have several options for you to help you be as comfortable as possible. My sidelying postioning system allows you to comfortable lie on your side without placing pressure on your shoulder and hip, making the massage much more comfortable and free of pain associated with laying on your side. I also have the cushions to allow you to lie face down if you wish. I also have a variety of pillows to ensure you are able to fully relax. You can even lie on your back safely with my table and strategically placed bolsters. My goal is your complete relaxation.
Seek an appropriate massage therapist
It is important to seek care from a Massage Therapist that specializes in Prenatal Massage. These therapists have received training beyond the national standards for massage therapists and know how to address specific pregnancy and massage needs. They are aware of how to position you safely and prevent strain to the uterine ligaments. They are also able to watch for symptoms of blood clots and varicose veins. I have received extensive training in Prenatal Massage and continue to take classes to learn as much as I can including new techniques.
Massage and Pregnancy: Precautions for prenatal massage?
As with any therapeutic approach to pregnancy wellness, women should discuss massage with their prenatal care provider. The best way to address the risks of prenatal massage is to be informed and to work together with knowledgeable professionals.
Women who have recently experienced bleeding, pre-term contractions, or have any of the following conditions should speak with a health care provider prior to receiving a massage:
High risk pregnancy
Pregnancy induced hypertension (PIH)
Previous pre-term labor
Experiencing severe swelling, high blood pressure, or sudden severe headaches
Recently gave birth
Pregnancy and Massage: Is prenatal massage safe throughout the entire pregnancy?
Women can begin massage therapy at any point in their pregnancy – during the first, second, or third trimester. Many facilities will refuse to offer massage to a woman who is still in her first trimester because of the increased chance of miscarriage associated with the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. I will not turn you away just because you are in your first trimester. We will work together to find the perfect position and pressure to ensure your comfort.
Pregnancy and Massage: Prenatal Massage as part of Prenatal Care
The benefits of massage can improve overall prenatal health for many pregnant women. Along with the guidance and advice of a prenatal care provider, massage therapy can be incorporated into routine prenatal care as an emotional and physical health supplement proven to improve pregnancy outcome, and maternal health. Consult with your midwife or obstetrician before beginning any new therapeutic practice.
Article taken from American Pregnancy Association's website (www.americanpregnancy,org)
Last Updated: 01/2014
Compiled using information from the following sources:
Field, T. (1999). Pregnant Women Benefit From Massage Therapy. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Mar;20(1):31-8.
Field, T. (2004). Massage Therapy Effects on Depressed Pregnant Women. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Jun;25(2):115-22.
Howell ,Julie, NMT, PMT, Prenatal Health Through Massage Therapy: For Women and Their Babies. http://www.newlifejournal.com/decjan03/howell/01/03/full.shtml. Article accessed online 10/18/2007.