Pregnant mothers would likely agree that along with the privilege of pregnancy come many challenges–most of them physical. They tend to discover that with their growing baby their center of gravity has changed and they have a lot more pressure on their back, neck, abdominal muscles and shoulders than they are used to. Since pregnancy can also cause a relaxation of ligaments, the pelvic joints can become less firm and stable than is normal, which can result in a change of posture in order to compensate. All this, along with the gradually increasing extra weight one has to carry throughout their pregnancy, means that one may very well experience a variety of aches and discomfort in their back, neck, abdominal muscles, and shoulders. Fortunately, this is not something that pregnant mothers simply have to suffer through, especially since they can partake of the many benefits afforded by a prenatal massage.
Benefits of Prenatal Massage
Prenatal massage techniques are very similar to regular massage techniques in that they are both directed at relaxing tense muscles, easing sore spots and improving circulation and mobility. However, prenatal massage does go a step further in that it is customized to the specific needs of a pregnant woman’s changing body and is designed to help relieve many of the physical discomforts that are often associated with pregnancy. Some studies into the many benefits afforded by prenatal massage have indicated that this therapy can:
- Improve a pregnant woman’s mood.
- Lower a pregnant woman’s stress levels.
- Reduce a pregnant woman’s anxiety issues.
- Reduce a pregnant woman’s leg and foot swelling.
- Relax a pregnant woman’s mind so that she is better able to rest well.
- Allow a pregnant woman to experience a smoother labor.
One of the most noticeable discomforts related to pregnancy is edema or swelling of the joints. This is normally caused by both reduced circulation as well as increased pressure on major blood vessels. Prenatal massage can help to stimulate the soft tissues of the body, which will allow for the release of excess fluids held in swollen joints. Massage stimulation can also help the lymph system carry away the tissue waste that can contribute to swelling and discomfort in joints. Also, with the growing uterus resting on the muscles of the pelvic floor and lower back, sciatic nerve pain is often experienced later in pregnancy. This uterine pressure can affect the muscles of the upper and lower leg, which causes them to swell and put pressure on other nerves. With massage therapy, muscle tension is relaxed so inflamed nerves experience relief. Needless to say, this can make movement more comfortable and allow for better rest.
The techniques used for prenatal massage are borrowed from other massage techniques, primarily Swedish massage. In Swedish massage, the aim is to relax muscle tension while also improving lymphatic and blood circulation through the application of mild pressure to various muscle groups. This therapy is highly recommended for use during pregnancy because it directly addresses many of the common physical discomforts of pregnancy.
Obviously, a prenatal massage cannot be delivered in the same exact way that most regular massages are delivered. Even at the very beginning of pregnancy, women often find it incredibly uncomfortable to lie face down, and once their belly begins to grow they definitely cannot safely lie face down. Additionally, some women are uncomfortable lying flat on their backs, even if they are slightly elevated, and in fact, this is not a recommended position for a pregnant woman since the weight of the uterus can put excessive pressure on the vein responsible for returning blood from the legs to the heart. For these reasons, most prenatal massages are delivered with the woman lying on her side and using various pillows, wedges or even body pillows to help support this position comfortably. It is vitally important that one takes the time to ensure they are in a comfortable position prior to receiving their prenatal massage, and immediately tells their therapist if they become uncomfortable at any time during their massage.
A professional prenatal massage therapist not only knows exactly where pregnant women often experience the greatest discomfort, she also knows which areas and techniques must be avoided in order to preserve the comfort and safety of the woman and her baby. In most cases, a professional prenatal massage therapist will ask a woman to check with their doctor or their midwife prior to receiving a prenatal massage in order to ensure that this is a safe therapy to receive. It is certainly not recommended to receive prenatal massage if one has a blood clot, bone fracture, burn, open wound, infection, eczema, or allergy to massage oils. In many cases, prenatal massage is perfectly safe and can provide many desirable benefits. That said, it is important to speak up both before and during a prenatal massage, telling the therapist which areas of the body are uncomfortable and need attention and whether anything that occurs during the massage is uncomfortable.
For more information about the many benefits of prenatal massage or to schedule your prenatal massage, contact Botanica today.