Studies indicate that massage therapy performed during pregnancy can reduce anxiety,
decrease symptoms of depression, relieve muscle aches and joint pains, and improve labor outcomes and newborn health.
Massage therapy addresses different needs through varying techniques, one of which is
called Swedish Massage, which aims to relax muscle tension and improve lymphatic and blood circulation through mild pressure applied to the muscle groups of the body. Swedish Massage is the
recommended prenatal massage method during pregnancy because it addresses many common discomforts associated with the skeletal and circulatory changes brought on by hormone shifts during
Studies done in the past 10 years have shown that hormone levels associated with
relaxation and stress are significantly altered, leading to mood regulation and improved cardiovascular health, when massage therapy was introduced to women’s prenatal care. In women who received
bi-weekly massages for only five weeks, hormones such as norepinephrine and cortisol (“stress hormones”) were reduced and dopamine and serotonin levels were increased (low levels of these hormones
are associated with depression). These changes in hormone levels also led to fewer complications during birth and fewer instances of newborn complications, such as low birth weight. The evidence
points strongly to maternal and newborn health benefits when therapeutic massage is incorporated into regular prenatal care.
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 tissues to reduce collection of fluids in swollen joints, which also improves the removal of
tissue waste, carried by the body’s lymph system.
Sciatic nerve pain is experienced by many women in late pregnancy as the uterus 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 leg, causing them to swell and put pressure on nearby nerves. Massage
therapy addresses the inflamed nerves by helping to release the tension on nearby muscles. Many women have experienced significant reduction in sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy through regular
benefits of prenatal massage:
- Reduced back pain
- Reduced joint pain
- Improved circulation
- Reduced edema
- Reduced muscle tension and headaches
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Improved oxygenation of soft tissues and muscles
- Better sleep
should be taken when seeking prenatal massage?
As with any therapeutic approach to pregnancy wellness, women should discuss massage with
their prenatal care provider. The best way to address the risks of prenatal massage is to be informed and to work together with knowledgeable professionals.
during prenatal massage
Many professionals consider the best position for a pregnant woman during massage is
side-lying. Tables that provide a hole in which the uterus can fit may not be reliable and can still apply pressure to the abdomen, or allow the abdomen to dangle, causing uncomfortable stretching of
the uterine ligaments. Consult your massage therapist before your first appointment to verify what position they place
their clients in during the massage.
appropriate massage therapist
It is important to seek care from a certified prenatal massage therapist. Certified
therapists have received training beyond the national standards for massage therapists and know how to address specific pregnancy needs and sensitive areas of the body.
Be aware of
sensitive pressure points
Trained prenatal or pregnancy massage therapists are aware of pressure points on the
ankles and wrists that can gently stimulate pelvic muscles, including the uterus. Certified prenatal massage therapists are trained to avoid very specific and intentional pressure to these areas
during pregnancy. Any woman who has experienced pre-term contractions or consistent Braxton-Hicks contractions should alert her therapist to that fact so that pressure points can be avoided
Women with the following conditions should speak with a health care provider prior to
receiving a massage:
- High risk pregnancy
- Pregnancy induced hypertension (PIH)
- Previous pre-term labor
- Experiencing severe swelling, high blood pressure, or sudden, severe headaches
- Recently gave birth
Massage Into Your Prenatal Care
Women can begin massage therapy at any point in their pregnancy – during the first,
second, or third trimester. The benefits of massage can improve overall prenatal health for many pregnant women. Along with the guidance and advice of a prenatal care provider, massage therapy can be
incorporated into routine prenatal care as an emotional and physical health supplement proven to improve pregnancy outcome, and maternal health. Consult with your midwife or obstetrician before
beginning any new therapeutic practice.
Source: Massage Therapy