Therapeutic massage has been used for centuries to improve overall health, because it’s known to reduce stress and relieve muscle tension. However when it comes to massage during pregnancy the medical community has remained fairly ambivalent regarding there safety and efficacy. However, new research has shown that prenatal massage therapy can play an instrumental part in woman’s prenatal care and should be given some series consideration.
Benefits of prenatal massage
Massage during pregnancy can significantly reduce stress and anxiety, can enhance mood, and decrease symptoms of depression. It can also relieve muscle tension, and joint aches and pains, improve labour outcomes and newborn health.
Swedish massage is the type of massage recommended during pregnancy because it addresses many discomforts associated with skeletal, and circulatory changes brought on by the shift in hormones. This type of massage aims to relax muscle tension and improve lymphatic and blood circulation using mild pressure.
Studies done in the past ten years have shown that hormone levels associated with relaxation and stress are significantly altered when massage therapy is introduced to a woman’s prenatal care. This leads to mood regulation and even improved cardiovascular health. In woman who received bi-weekly massages for only five weeks, hormones such as norepinephrine and cortisol (hormones related to stress) were reduced,and dopamine and seratonin levels were increased.
These changes in hormone levels also lead to fewer complications during birth, and fewer instances of newborn complications, such as low birth weight. The evidence strongly suggests there are 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 tissue to reduce collection of fluids in swollen joints. This 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 woman in late pregnancy, as the uterus grows it 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 legs, causing them to swell and put pressure on nearby nerves. Massage addresses the irritated nerves by helping to release the tension on nearby muscles. Many woman have reduced sciatic nerve pain by getting a regular massage.
More benefits of prenatal massage
- Reduced back pain
- Reduced joint pain
- Improved circulation
- Reduced edema (swelling)
- Reduced muscle tension and headaches
- Improved oxygenation of soft tissues and muscles
- Better sleep
Body position during prenatal massage
Many professionals consider the best position for a pregnant woman during massage is side-lying. Tables that have a hole in which the belly can fit, may not be reliable, and can still apply pressure to the abdomen, and having the belly dangle causes uncomfortable stretching of the uterine ligaments.
A word of caution.
Woman who have recently experienced bleeding, pre-term contractions, or have any of the following should speak to there health care provider prior to receiving a massage
- High risk pregnancy
- Pregnancy induced hypertension
- Previous pre-term labour
- Experiencing sevre swelling, high blood pressure
- Recently gave birth
Woman can begin massage therapy at any time during there pregnancy. Many facilities will refuse to offer massage to a woman who is in her first trimester because of the increased risk of miscarriage associated with the first twelve weeks of pregnancy.
Precautions for prenatal massage
As with any other therapeutic approach to pregnancy wellness, woman should discuss massage with there prenatal care provider. Be informed and work together with knowledgeable professionals.