Pregnancy is a wonderful, magical event! However for many women, the changes in a woman’s body during pregnancy can produce some unpleasant side effects, such as swelling (edema) in the legs, nerve pain (sciatica) in the hips or legs, anxiety and stress, and muscular tension throughout the body. Massage can improve the overall prenatal health for many pregnant women. Massage therapy can be incorporated into routine prenatal care as a supplement to emotional and physical health. Prenatal massage improves pregnancy outcomes, the health of the mother and the health of the child.
Prenatal massage shares many of the goals of regular massage – to release tense muscles, improve circulation, increase mobility and joint functioning, and to just make you feel good. But it’s also tailored specifically to the needs of pregnant women and their changing bodies. Therapists trained in prenatal massage adjust their techniques accordingly.
Research indicates that massage therapy performed during pregnancy can reduce stress and anxiety, decrease symptoms of depression, increase circulation, decrease swelling in the limbs, and relieve muscle aches and joint pain throughout the body. By applying a variety of techniques, a massage therapist can address the specific needs of the pregnant woman. Swedish Massage is the recommended style of massage method used during pregnancy because it addresses discomforts often associated with the changes in the body brought on by hormone shifts during pregnancy. Swedish massage aims to enhance relaxation by reducing muscle tension, improve circulation in the body, and increase the lymphatic flow in the body (which assists in removing toxins and metabolic waste from the tissues).
During pregnancy, the hormone Relaxin causes the ligaments in the body to relax. This causes instability in the joints and changes in posture, thus putting pressure on nerves. The pelvis tilts forward, shoulders drop, the neck becomes strained, and mobility is compromised. Added to the increasing weight of the baby and the uterus, this can cause aches and pains in muscles and joints. Many women experience sciatica, or nerve pain in the hips and legs. Massage can help relax the muscles, reduce inflammation, and soften tight muscles to relieve the tension held in joints, thus relieving nerve pain.
Edema, or swelling in the tissues, is a common occurrence in pregnancy. It is often caused by reduced circulation and an increase of pressure on the major blood vessels in the pelvis. As the uterus expands, it puts pressure on the major blood vessels, muscles, and nerves in the pelvis. Circulation in the lower limbs becomes restricted and fluids collect in the tissues. Massage can help to remove the fluid and the tissue waste by stimulating the flow of circulation in the body.
Women who receive regular prenatal massage sessions will often notice a decrease in anxiety, stress, and depression. Research done over the past 15 years has shown that massage can alter hormone levels associated with stress and relaxation. Stress hormones, such as cortisol and norepinephrine are reduced and levels of dopamine and serotonin are increased. These changes in hormone levels can lead to fewer complications during birth, can improve the overall health of the woman during pregnancy, and can help to provide a better outcome for the newborn.
The most comfortable position for pregnant women during massage (and the one most recommended by professionals) is side-lying in which the head, chest, and leg are supported by pillows. Most pregnant women find this is the same position in which they sleep at night. Tables or body pillows that have cut-outs for the uterus and breasts do not fit every woman’s body-shape and can still apply pressure to the abdomen. Ask your prenatal massage therapist before your first appointment to find out which position they place their clients in during the massage session. Also, communicate with your therapist if you feel discomfort at any time during the massage session. Whether it’s needing lighter pressure or a change in the room temperature, your comfort during the massage is most important.
It is important to seek a massage therapist who is trained specifically in prenatal massage. While many massage schools teach massage therapy for pregnant women, it is recommend that you find a massage therapist who is certified in prenatal massage.
You should consult with your OB-GYN or midwife before beginning any new therapeutic treatment. Some prenatal massage therapists will require a written note or letter from your midwife or obstetrician. Your prenatal massage therapist will have you complete a detailed health questionnaire and will discuss with you any concerns that you may have regarding prenatal massage. Prenatal massage is NOT recommended if you have any serious complications to the pregnancy (such as pre-eclamsia, high risk pregnancy, high blood pressure, or severe and sudden swelling during the pregnancy).
Make the most of your pregnancy! Receiving regular massage sessions during pregnancy can assist to alleviate a lot of the unwanted symptoms of pregnancy and can help you have a happier, healthier pregnancy and delivery. Pregnancy is a wonderful event and prenatal massage can be a well deserving compliment to this joyful time in your life!
Jo Bunny has been a Massage Therapist since 1996. Jo received her prenatal & postnatalmassage training from Kate Jordan, one of the leading experts in pregnancy massage in the US and trained as a doula through Doulas of North America in 2000. Trained in Swedish Massage techniques for relaxation and stress reduction, Jo also incorporates therapeutic deep tissue work (such as myofascial release techniques and trigger point therapy) into her massage. Jo draws from her extensive education in massage and bodywork to create a massage that is as unique & individual as her clients’ needs. Jo’s office is located in downtown Northampton. Contact Jo Bunny at (413) 320 7690 or [email protected]. You can also “like” her page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jobunnymassage
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