Why You Should Schedule Regular Massages During Pregnancy
Massage therapy has been used for centuries to improve overall health, reduce stress and relieve muscle tension. One of the times in a woman’s life when this could not be more crucial is during pregnancy. Pregnancy causes a woman’s body to undergo significant physical changes, not to mention the affect it has at a hormone and emotional level.
Benefits of pregnancy massage
Carrying a baby changes your centre of gravity and puts lots of stress on your back, pelvis, neck, abdominal muscles and shoulders. Pregnancy also relaxes your ligaments, so that your pelvic joints are less stable. These changes can lead to muscular and joint pain that worsens as the pregnancy progresses. Studies have shown that massage during pregnancy relieves muscle aches and joint pain, reduces anxiety, decreases symptoms of depression, and improves labour outcomes and newborn health.
The list of what ‘symptoms’ of pregnancy can be relieved by massage is long, but includes the following:
- hormone regulation;
- reduction of swelling;
- reduction of sciatic nerve pain;
- reduction in back, pelvis and hip pain;
- reduction in joint pain;
- improved circulation;
- reduction in muscle tension and headaches;
- reduction in stress and anxiety;
- improved oxygenation of soft tissues and muscles; and
- improved sleep – which is so important!
What about massage in the first trimester?
There is a misconception that it is unsafe to receive massage during the 1st trimester, a myth which is often reinforced my massage therapists that are not qualified to provide pregnancy specific massages. As the risk of miscarriage is greatest during the first trimester, many therapists avoid putting themselves in a position of potential liability unnecessarily. Yes there are acupressure points on the body that should be avoided during pregnancy, and it therefore important that you find a massage therapist that has been professional trained to provide pregnancy massage so they can provide a safe and tailored treatment to you. We will be discussing acupressure points in a later post so keep an eye out for that.
The benefits of receiving massage in the first trimester are extensive. Massage:
- helps with headaches associated with a change of hormones during the 1st trimester;
- reduces hip, back, shoulder and neck pain (some which can be pre-existing prior to pregnancy and treatment should not stop just because of pregnancy);
- stabilises and reduces nausea from morning sickness;
- improves sleep patterns and reduces fatigue;
- reduces stress and anxiety; and
- begins to facilitate the mother-baby connection.
The only instance in which you would not be able to receive massage in your first trimester is if you are experiencing a high-risk pregnancy and your doctor or caregiver has not given you clearance to have a massage. This is the case whether it is the first trimester or beyond.
Can I lie on my front?
Most women find it uncomfortable to lie facedown right from the start of pregnancy because of their breasts are more tender. It is also difficult to lie facedown on a traditional massage table once your belly has started to grow. It isn’t recommended that you lie flat on your back either, particularly once you’re past 20 weeks (due to the risk of the uterus putting pressure on the vena cava – the vein that carries blood back to your heart from your lower body).
For these reasons, once you are no longer comfortable on your stomach, or you are midway through your pregnancy (whichever comes first), we have you lie on your side with pillows and wedges for support. This position provides the optimum position for your spine and pelvis for receiving massage (as well as being the ideal position for sleeping on your side during pregnancy). Don’t worry, you will find the position to be deeply relaxing and incredibly effective.
Note that we don’t use a table with a hold for your belly for the reason that these tables don’t provide any support to your belly or the ligaments supporting it.
How often should I have a massage?
As often as possible! But seriously, if you are having an uncomplicated pregnancy with no aches or pains or negative symptoms of any kind, a monthly massage would see you through your pregnancy. By having regular massage during pregnancy you are setting yourself up for an easier labour and healthier baby.
If you are suffering aches and pains, lack of sleep, or any of the other ‘symptoms’ listed above during your pregnancy, you may benefit from more regular massage treatments. Clients suffering severe lower back or pelvic pain often will book a weekly appointment, particularly during the second and third trimester. Towards the end of the pregnancy we can also begin to incorporate acupressure points that help to get things moving in the right direction (but more on that in a future post).
Massage can be extremely beneficial at any stage of your pregnancy, when given from a fully qualified Pregnancy massage therapist. If you would like to book a pregnancy massage with us, please head to the Contact page on our website. We look forward to seeing you soon!