How Prenatal and Postpartum Massages Are Great for You and Your Baby
You’re having a baby. Maybe you already know the benefits of a soothing massage from your pre-pregnancy days, but now you’re being inundated with list after list of things you can and can’t do during pregnancy. These include things that are good for your baby’s development and things to avoid to keep your baby healthy.
Suddenly, every part of your routine and everything you do is in question: Is this healthy for me and my baby?
Pregnancy can be a tiring job- your body is working overtime; you deserve some pampering to relieve those aches and pains and to unwind. Can you get a massage while you are pregnant? Are you putting the baby at risk, or are you benefitting your baby by taking care of yourself?
Rest assured; massage with a knowledgeable therapist can be a safe, helpful part of your pregnancy wellness plan.
What are some of the benefits of massage during pregnancy?
Decreased Nerve Pain
Some people experience nerve pain in their hips or legs during pregnancy, known as sciatica. This is a sharp pain that starts in your buttocks and can run all the way down the back of your leg. This can be caused by weight gain and fluid retention. The pressure of the weight of your growing baby on your sciatic nerve can also contribute to this pain.
Massage therapy can address this pain through attention to the inflamed muscles around those nerves. Because massage can help relieve some of the discomfort caused by fluid retention, this may help your nerve pain, as well.
Regulation of Hormones
When you are expecting a baby, you will experience a swell of hormones. Not just estrogen and testosterone, but cortisol (the stress hormone), too.
People who received massage therapy during their pregnancies reported feeling less stress and anxiety in addition to the physical benefits they experienced. They produced less cortisol. These decreased levels of cortisol also meant less excessive fetal activity, and lower premature birth rates.
These same people also reported significantly less labor pain, and shorter labor (by an average of three full hours), with less need for medication. Prenatal massage can help make your labor and delivery process easier.
Relief of Swelling
During your pregnancy, the amount of plasma in your blood increases by 40% by weeks 24 to 34. This can mean all kinds of discomfort, especially uncomfortable swelling in the legs and ankles. Skilled prenatal massage can stimulate circulation and lymphatic drainage, thus reducing swelling.
And SO Much More
What else may you experience as a result of prenatal massage?
● Reduced back pain
● Less joint pain
● Improvements in muscle tension and headaches
● Better sleep (while you still can!)
Your Positioning During a Massage
With prenatal massage, there’s a lot to consider. You can’t apply too much pressure to your abdomen, so what’s the best position for you to be comfortable during your massage and still protect your baby?
Generally, the best position for you and your baby during massage: Laying on your side supported with pillows or bolsters. Like sleeping, in your second and third trimester, the best position for massage is on your side.
Laying flat on your back can cause excess strain on your body - exactly when you don’t want to place excess strain on yourself. Laying flat can place the entire weight of your baby on the main vein that carries blood into your lower body; the vena cava. Too much pressure for too long can cause a drop in blood pressure and dizziness.
So in addition to the cozy sidelying options, I’ll prop you recliner-style with your head and torso raised up and cozy pillows or bolsters under your legs to keep you and baby comfortable through the massage.
Talk to Your Doctor or Midwife
As with anything else during your pregnancy, you should always consult your OB/GYN or midwife about your plans to get a massage. Your doctor or midwife may advise against massage if you have a high-risk pregnancy, if you have preeclampsia, or high blood pressure. Your massage therapist will want to know of any concerns or limitations your provider may have.
Additional reasons to talk to your health care provider before booking a massage appointment are if you have or have had the following:
● Previous pre-term, early labor
● Severe swelling or sudden headaches
● Pregnancy-induced hypertension
Once you have the okay from your doctor or midwife, you’re good to go!
Why should you make time for postpartum massage therapy? You may be tired, entirely focused on caring for your new baby, and you may not feel like even showering to get out of the house in the first few weeks after giving birth. But it’s worth the effort!
Benefits For You
Massage is well-known for its benefits for stress and anxiety relief, but did you know that massage can help with postpartum depression? (Massage therapy is not intended to be a stand-alone treatment for postpartum depression or other mental health issues, but an adjunct to care from a qualified mental health professional. Please reach out to your health care provider if you are experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression. You can find additional resources through Postpartum Support International.)
Massage can also help ease fatigue and alleviate residual body aches in your abdomen, hips, shoulders, and legs. It can even help you heal after a C-section.
You may also find reduced swelling and better sleep, as well as improved breastfeeding and hormone regulation. It is an ideal, holistic way to cope with the major adjustment you are making when you enter the realm of parenthood.
Benefits For Your Baby
If you have chosen to breastfeed your baby, you know it can be a great gift, and a major stressor, all at once. However, relaxation in the shoulders through massage can improve your circulation, which may help with milk production. Some studies have also shown massage boosts levels of prolactin, a lactation hormone.
Additionally, your baby has a parent who is happier, calmer, and less stressed. What could be a better gift for the two of you than the gift of serenity?
You can get a massage after birth as soon as you are comfortable doing so. You may find that you have to adjust your positioning to find the right position for you. Laying on your stomach may not be comfortable if you are nursing, but laying on your side may be a great way to focus on healing discomfort in your hips, legs, and shoulders.
Pregnancy, birth, and welcoming a baby into one’s life can be some of the most profound experiences in a parent’s life. It can also be an extreme physical, mental, and emotional challenge. With massage, it can be a little easier, and you can focus a more on the profound experience part.
Ready to book your prenatal or postpartum massage? Schedule today!