Did you know that massage has been considered a therapeutic solution for relieving muscle tension, reducing stress, and improving the general health of pregnant women since ancient times? The Mayans even used something called the Arvigo technique of abdominal or uterine massage, which is said to make the entire prenatal experience more pleasant.
Modern investigation and research has proven massage therapy to be a beneficial ingredient in many women’s prenatal care. Studies have shown that pregnancy massage can reduce the risks of prematurity, low birthweight and postpartum depression and that anxiety, and leg and back pain, can be effectively eased through pregnancy and labor massage therapy.
Benefits Delivered by Prenatal Massage
Studies have been conclusive on the different ways massage can help a pregnant woman. They have shown that massage therapy addresses various needs through different techniques. For instance, Swedish massage is particularly effective in relaxing muscle tension as well as improving lymphatic and blood circulation by applying mild pressure on the muscle groups of the body. That’s why this technique is often recommended for prenatal massage. It addresses many discomforts commonly associated with pregnancy due to the skeletal and circulatory changes elicited by hormonal shifts.
What are the different ways in which massage benefits the pregnant woman?
Hormone regulation – Studies done in the last decade show that hormone levels linked to relaxation and stress go through a significant shift when massage is included in a woman’s prenatal care. With hormones altered, mood is regulated and cardiovascular health is improved.
These studies indicate that women who receive massages twice a week for a little over a month will experience a reduction of norepinephrine and cortisol levels, lowering their stress, and an increase of dopamine and serotonin levels, lifting their spirits.
They also suggest that hormonal modification leads to lower risks of birth and newborn complications, signifying that both the mother and the baby benefit from prenatal massage.
Reduction of swelling – Edema is common among pregnant women, especially those in the third trimester. This is the swelling of the joints caused by reduced circulation due to the heavier uterus’ increased pressure on the major blood vessels. Through massage, the soft tissues are stimulated, reducing the fluid collecting in the swollen joints as well as helping remove tissue waste in the lymph system.
Improvement of nerve pain – Pregnant women often suffer from sciatic nerve pain as the uterus presses down on the muscles of the lower back and pelvic floor, spreading tension to upper and lower leg muscles. This causes swelling and pressure on nearby nerves. With massage, tension on nearby muscles is eased, taking care of the affected nerves.
In effect, the above benefits elicit even more benefits, including reduced back and joint pain, reduced muscle tension and headaches, improved circulation, reduced stress and anxiety, improved oxygenation of muscles and soft tissues, better sleep, as well as improved labour outcomes and newborn health.
Precautions for Prenatal Massage
While many modern prenatal care providers accept that massage can be advantageous to pregnant women, they definitely caution against the risks it may pose. For one, it’s absolutely paramount that you go to a knowledgeable and certified professional for prenatal massage.
What are the factors that would contribute to a massage going wrong?
Body position during massage – The best position for a pregnant woman to get a massage is lying on her side. There are tables that come with a hole through which the tummy can fit, but this can be uncomfortable to use. Besides this, the belly could dangle, causing stretching on the uterine ligaments. There could also be pressure on the abdomen. If you want to include massage in your prenatal care, consult different prospective therapists first to verify the position in which they have their clients during the massage.
Appropriate massage therapist – Nothing less than a certified prenatal massage therapist will do. Compliance with the national standards for massage therapists isn’t enough. This involves a special situation that has specific needs and risks, hence the need for correct training. Your massage therapists need to know safe positioning, symptoms to watch out for, and any possible restrictions that may apply.
There are various conditions that may make a prenatal massage therapist refuse to provide service. Some of these are high risk pregnancy, pregnancy-induced hypertension, and preeclampsia. Massage may also be discouraged if you’ve recently experienced bleeding and pre-term contractions, if you recently gave birth, if you have severe swelling or high blood pressure, and if you suffer from sudden, severe headaches.
Prenatal Massage Safety
You can take advantage of massage therapy at any time during your pregnancy, although many facilities tend to refuse clients who are only in their first trimester on account of the higher risk for miscarriage associated with this time.
Pregnancy massage promotes not only physical but also mental wellness. If you’re after a more pleasant and wholesome pregnancy experience, you can incorporate massage therapy into your routine prenatal care. Make sure to consult your prenatal care provider before starting any new therapeutic practice.