So, to continue my series on the benefits of regular massage therapy, I would like to turn my attention to massage during pregnancy. Over the past couple of weeks I have looked at how regular massage therapy can benefit the body and the mind. These are benefits that can apply to most people. Over the next couple of weeks, I am going to focus on benefits for specific groups of people, in particular groups that I work with.
Prenatal massage has gained a lot of momentum over the past several years. Many women will seek massage specifically for their pregnancies even if they wouldn't have incorporated it into their schedules before. So, why is prenatal massage so important? In addition to all of the benefits outlined in the previous blog entries, prenatal massage has some benefits specific to pregnant women.
Just like with regular massage, prenatal massage can help to improve circulation. This is especially important during pregnancy because your blood supply increases to about double the amount found in non-pregnant women. The improvement in your circulation from regular prenatal massage can result in benefits such as a decrease in swelling and a reduction of numbness/tingling. This can feel especially good in the last months of pregnancy when most women experience an increase in swelling in their legs and feet.
When you are pregnant, there are many things that can hinder your ability to breathe easily. First, your growing baby displaces your organs creating less space in your belly. This can restrict the amount that your diaphragm and lungs can move, and can decrease your ability to take deep breaths. Postural changes can also cause a decrease in space for the lungs to fill impeding breathing. Regular massage therapy can help to improve your breathing by helping to relieve some of the tension caused by postural changes, which can help you to feel like there is more space, and therefore more room to breathe.
Another common complaint during pregnancy is sinus congestion or sinus pain. This is due to an increase in the hormone Progesterone, which can cause swelling of your sinuses. Massage can help to ease sinus pain through the utilization of facial massage and acupressure.
Improved Gastro-intestinal Function
During pregnancy, the increased progesterone also causes your digestive system to slow down. It does this so that your food takes longer to digest, leaving more time for nutrients to be absorbed for the baby. This slow down in digestion can also lead to constipation, heartburn, a cit indigestion, gall bladder disease, bloating, and nausea.
Receiving regular massage during pregnancy can help to decrease these negative symptoms. It help to encourage faster food absorption which can speed up digestion. This can help to ease the negative symptoms listed above.
The skin can take a bit of a beating during pregnancy. Your growing belly makes the skin of your midsection tight, dry, and can cause stretch marks. Having soothing massage with oils that are beneficial for your skin can help to put moisture back into it making it feel less tight and dry. It can also help to decrease the appearance of stretch marks.
The stimulation of your skin can also help to stimulate brain function. This can aid in the production of hormones known to improve birth outcomes.
Relieves Musculoskeletal Discomfort
The changes in your posture as you are growing your baby can cause a whole host of uncomfortable symptoms which increase the later you get in your pregnancy. Your balance changes completely and you may experience symptoms such as sciatica-like pain, ligament pain, carpal/tarsal tunnel pain, restless legs, and headaches just to name a few. Regular massage is a great way to address all of these discomforts. It can help to release the muscular tension that builds up in the hips causing the sciatica-like pain. A massage therapist trained in pregnancy massage is able to recognize symptoms of ligament pain and has special techniques to help ease the pain. Carpal/tarsal tunnel pain is often caused or exacerbated by edema or swelling. Reduction in the swelling of hands and feet can help to ease symptoms of carpal/tarsal tunnel pain. Restless legs can be caused by overly tight calf muscles. While no deep work should be done on calves during pregnancy, superficial massage can help to relax the muscles enough that you will get some relief from restless legs. To learn more about how massage can help ease headache pain, see the first blog post in this series about massage for the body.
Some women also experience what is known as Pubic Symphysis Dysfunction, where the ligament at the front of the pelvis separates. This causes a great deal of pain any time you do anything one sided such as walk, climb in and out of bed, climb stairs, etc. Massage therapy can help to correct it and has been known to even reverse it in some cases.
New mothers are under a lot of stress. Along with dealing with the regular stresses of their lives, they are also faced with growing a human baby, erratic hormones, and the fears and worry that can come along with becoming a parent. Massage is a great way to calm the mind and relax the body, helping to relieve some of the stress. To learn more, read the previous blog post about massage for your mind.
Good Preparation for Labor
Receiving regular massage therapy throughout your pregnancy can actually help prepare your body for labor. It can help to increase your flexibility and keep your joints supple and open. It can also help you to be more in tune with your body and what you are feeling by increasing your mind/body connection and creating kinesthetic awareness. Recognizing where you hold tension and learning to relax your muscles can work to your benefit when you are in labor. Massage can also help you get used to relaxing and focusing on your breath, both of which can aid you throughout labor and child birth.
Receiving regular massage therapy throughout your pregnancy can have a whole host of benefits that will hopefully make your pregnancy and birth experience a little bit better and more comfortable.
When you are looking for someone to perform prenatal massage for you, it is a good idea to make sure that the therapist is specially trained in working with pregnancy. There are several safety considerations when it comes to working with pregnant women, which therapists who aren't trained to work with them may not be aware of. It is also important to be aware that if you go to a day spa or salon for massage, the therapist may or may not have any experience working with pregnancy. Always ask about credentials and don't be afraid to cancel your session if you don't feel comfortable. Also be wary of any place that has you lie face down on a table with your belly in a hole or indentation. These tables aren't safe when pregnant. To learn more, read this blog post
Meet the Author
Amanda Tarver, (LMT, CEIM, PES, RMT) is a massage therapist and birth worker in the Chicago area. She is dedicated to using a combination of bodywork and education to help people live a better quality of life.