by Julia O'Farrell LMT
A lot of people have asked me what pregnancy massage is and how is it different from a regular massage. I have found the most difficult task in answering this question is where to start!
While a woman is pregnant her body undergoes numerous changes physically as well as physiologically and spiritually. The physical changes can cause stress and or discomfort to the mother. Massage is a wonderful way to help alleviate many of these discomforts, as well as promotes a sense of well-being.
What is pregnancy massage?
Pregnancy massage is beneficial throughout the entire nine months of the pregnancy; however, if you are having a high risk pregnancy it is best to discuss your condition with your midwife or physician before seeking a therapist. After doing so you may be able to receive massage work with a written release.
Pregnancy massage can include anything from a full body Swedish massage to light massage work that might include other modalities such as circulatory work, reflexology or cranial sacral therapy. Most massage therapists are trained not only to do massage but various other modalities as well.
It is best to seek out a therapist who is certified in pregnancy massage because it is important to know and understand what is and is not safe for the mother and her baby as well as having knowledge of pregnancy and the anatomy of a pregnant woman. Proper positioning of the mother changes as her pregnancy progresses; for example, after a woman is 22-weeks-pregnant it is no longer safe for her to lay on her back. There are deep blood vessels that can be restricted due to the weight of the baby, causing decreased circulation for both the mother and her unborn child. Also, there are certain areas on the mother that are best to be avoided during massage. One such area is the space between her heal and the ankle bone -- an area that represents the uterus and vagina. It is thought by many reflexologists, those who practice acupressure and massage therapists that a lot of pressure to this area might cause early labor.
What to expect
A typical massage session takes at least 60 minutes and can go on up to 90 minutes. The mother will be supported with pillows as she lies on her side. She will be draped with a sheet and only the body part that is being worked will be exposed. Most massage therapists like to keep their room quiet and at a comfortable temperature for the mother, sometimes playing quiet music in the background. It is best to avoid eating a large meal before the massage or drinking large amounts of liquids.
Benefits that a mother may experience:
- Reduces swelling in hands, feet and ankles
- Lessens sciatic pain
- Eases muscular discomforts in areas like the low back & neck, calf cramps, it also helps with tension and tightening that can be experienced throughout the body
- Tones lose muscles relaxes tense muscles and can help increase flexibility.
- Helps with relaxation which in turn can decrease insomnia
- Increases blood and lymph flow which can help increase the elimination of toxins through the circulatory and lymphatic systems, this can also help with fatigue.
- Increases oxygen in the blood, sometimes on up to 10-15% after a massage.
- Strengthens the immune system
- Stimulates the release of endorphins, the body's natural pain killers, into the brain and nervous system.
- Helps relieve anxiety or depression
- Helps increase blood circulation, which in turn delivers more oxygen and nutrients to the mother and baby.
- Can be used during the birth as well as after making both experiences easier and more comfortable
- Eases stress mothers often feel after the birth
There are many more benefits! This list will hopefully give you an idea of how beneficial massage can be during pregnancy.
Julia O'Farrell is a licensed massage therapist and she is the mom of four magical little men, a fairy princess and wife to Jeremy.
Copyright © Julia O-Farrell. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.