Prenatal massage focuses on the needs of the mom-to-be and baby. While similar therapeutic massage techniques are used, many are modified or are specific to prenatal massage. From the earliest weeks of pregnancy, and all the way through postpartum, the female body goes through a series of consistent changes. From shifting pelvic bones and a growing belly all the way to swollen ankles and a strong sense of smell. Every day the body does twice the work inside and out. Prenatal Massage Therapy allows for a balance of hormones, specifically cortisol, the stress hormone. Stress is not good for mom or baby. It derails sleep cycles, healthy habits such as eating right and exercising, and changes brain chemistry. As different things in life cause stress to change and progress, regular massages can help keep cortisol surges at bay.
Benefits of Prenatal Massage Therapy
Research shows that massage therapy can significantly reduce stress hormones in your body and relax and loosen your muscles. It can also increase blood flow, which is so important when you’re pregnant, and keep your lymphatic system working at peak efficiency, flushing out toxins from your body. It reconnects your mind with your body, a connection that is comforting.
During pregnancy, regular prenatal massages may not only help you relax, but may also relieve insomnia, joint pain, neck and back pain, leg cramping and sciatica. Additionally, it can reduce swelling in your hands and feet (as long as that swelling isn’t a result of preeclampsia), relieve carpal tunnel pain, and alleviate headaches and sinus congestion — all common pregnancy problems. Massage may also lift depression without the use of medication, according to some scientific studies.
- Provides an emotionally supporting and nurturing environment
- Provides relaxation
- Decreases stress levels
- Stimulates circulatory and lymphatic systems
- Reduces edema
- Increases energy
- Reduces muscle tension
- Relieves stress on weight bearing joints (back/hips/knees/ankles)
- Promotes posture realignment
How Does Prenatal Massage Differ From a Regular Massage?
Prenatal massages are adapted for the anatomical changes you go through during pregnancy. In a traditional massage, you might spend half the time lying face-down on your stomach (which is uncomfortable with a baby belly) and half the time facing up (a position that puts pressure on a major blood vessel that can disrupt blood flow to your baby and leave you feeling nauseous).
But as your shape and posture changes, a trained massage therapist will make accommodations with special cushioning systems or holes that allow you to lie face down safely, while providing room for your growing belly and breasts. Or you might lie on your side with the support of pillows and cushions.
And don’t expect deep tissue work on your legs during a prenatal massage. While gentle pressure is safe (and can feel heavenly!), pregnant women are particularly susceptible to blood clots, which deep massage work can dislodge. That, in turn, can be risky. On other body parts, the pressure can be firm and as deep or as gentle as you’d like. Always communicate with your therapist about what feels good — and if something starts to hurt.
Is Prenatal Massage Safe Throughout The Entire Pregnancy?
Women can begin massage therapy at any point in their pregnancy – during the first, second, or third trimester. Many facilities will refuse to offer massage to a woman who is still in her first trimester, because of the increased risk for miscarriage associated with the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
In comparison to the standard relaxation or therapeutic massage, some techniques are avoided in a prenatal treatment to ensure mom and baby’s health and safety. Your massage therapist will also take special care to ensure safe and proper positioning for each stage of pregnancy. Please communicate with your massage therapist if extra support is needed for your comfort during your treatment.
Prenatal Massage is recommended for women in their second trimester (around 12 weeks) and received regularly up until birth.
For prenatal massage, it is recommended that your appointments coincide with your doctor visits. This means once a month until 27 weeks, and twice a month until 36 weeks. After that, it is recommended that you transition to weekly appointments until you give birth. At 39-40 weeks we can begin working labour stimulation into the massage as well.
Just as the OB/GYN wants to see you through important milestones, your massage therapist will want to keep your changing body in physical and mental alignment.
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