Pregnancy is a time of great joy and excitement. It’s also a time of many physical, mental and emotional changes for a woman. Some of these changes, such as a growing belly and hormonal shifts, can create discomfort for the mother-to-be. Getting massages during and after pregnancy can help to alleviate some of these discomforts by relaxing tense muscles, increasing circulation and soothing the nervous system.
During pregnancy, many women experience aches and pains in their hips, lower backs, legs and feet due to the added weight of their growing baby and some women experience tension headaches due to stress and hormonal changes.
Studies have shown that by relaxing tense muscles, massage can:
- reduce soreness
- ease tension headaches
- reduce joint pain
- reduce sciatic nerve pain
- reduce and eliminate back pain
Studies have also shown that by increasing the circulation of the blood and lymph systems, massage can help reduce swelling/edema and lower blood pressure while strengthening the immune system.
Additionally, the soothing strokes used in pregnancy massage are calming to the nervous system and have been shown to improve sleep quality, which is often an issue during and after pregnancy. Many pregnant women suffer from sleep issues due to discomfort and frequent urination during the night. After the baby is born women have interrupted sleep from frequent feedings. Massage therapy can be helpful to the mother after the baby is born by soothing the nervous system, helping to reduce stress and improving sleep.
It is important that pregnant women find a therapist who is trained in pregnancy/prenatal massage and knows how to correctly position the mother-to-be (on her side or propped up with a wedge or reclining table after 22 weeks) and what areas to avoid during the massage (acupressure/reflex points on the hands and ankles). Massage should be avoided in high-risk pregnancies and in cases of diabetes, thrombosis/blood clots, cramping or vaginal bleeding. Healthy pregnant women can receive relaxing Swedish-style massage therapy from the third trimester of pregnancy until the birth of their child with the approval of their healthcare provider.
The American Pregnancy Association asserts that modern investigation and research has shown that prenatal massage therapy can be an instrumental ingredient in women’s prenatal care and should be given careful consideration. It also states that 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 shown to improve pregnancy outcome and maternal health. Consult with your midwife or obstetrician before beginning any new therapeutic practice.
Find a licensed local therapist or therapeutic spa to set up your appointment for nurturing, relaxation and relief from sore muscles and stress!
Karen G. Hardison is a licensed massage therapist and certified in Pregnancy Massage, at Larchmont Sanctuary Spa in Los Angeles.