Massage can be a restorative and healing treatment at any time in life, but when you’re pregnant there is a lot more that can be gained from a single session. Prenatal massage works specifically with the body of a pregnant woman and can help make the pregnancy journey that much smoother for both mother and baby.
The miracle of pregnancy and birth is certainly a wondrous one, but for the expectant mother, it can also be a time of pain and discomfort. Our bodies do an amazing job of shifting and stretching to meet the needs of the life growing inside of us, however, these shifts can certainly take their toll on the mother’s body.
Massage has been known for centuries to be a great relief and healer of many physical and emotional issues. Prenatal massage is a special category of this treatment that has been designed to soothe the aches and pains of expectant mothers and help to relieve any other conditions that might be related to the process.
As a pregnant woman comes with their own set of rules and guidelines about what is safe or recommended, so too does prenatal massage. Although these treatments can be relaxing and soothing for our aching bodies, there are things to consider like potentially unsafe positions or pressure points that need to be avoided. Therefore, this extensive subcategory of massage often needs a lot of thought.
What Is Prenatal Massage?
Prenatal massage is a special type of massage that takes into account the special needs of the expectant mother. It’s much the same as a regular massage in that it hopes to achieve the same things – relieve sore spots, providing relaxation, improving circulation, and giving you some time out to focus on yourself.
A typical prenatal massage will usually be done with the mother laying down on her side and with support between her legs, knees, and behind her back. Other times, there may be a special table that’s been designed to meet the needs of the mother, sometimes with a space for the belly to go into as they lay down.
During pregnancy, most women gain quite a bit of weight and the severe impact this has on the joints can be a lot for the body to bear. A prenatal massage can target these areas and help to reduce the swelling and discomfort that a woman might be feeling, and they’re a great form of complementary care to use during the pregnancy.
How Is A Pregnant Body Different?
In order to better understand the prenatal massage, we need to understand the pregnant woman’s body and how it might differ. Carrying the extra weight of a baby means that your center of gravity is off and many will experience sore backs and necks due to this, so extra pressure may be needed.
A pregnant woman’s body must be in the right position to receive a massage, which includes not laying on their belly without the correct table. After 20 weeks of gestation, it can be extremely dangerous to lay on your back as it can put pressure on the baby, and so side laying massage is generally recommended.
The pressure of a pregnancy massage will usually be lighter than a regular one, except for trouble areas like the neck and shoulder which need more force. Usually, a Swedish style massage using effleurage or long, gliding strokes is the best approach as it can target the problem areas while also being relaxing.
When you go for your appointment, you can let the massage therapist know of any ailments you’ve been having whether it’s morning sickness or swollen ankles. They will usually be able to tailor the massage to relieve these problems or just soothe and provide some relaxation.
The Areas Targeted During Prenatal Massage
All women are different and every pregnancy is different too, so there’s no one set prenatal massage that will work for everyone. If you have problem areas or just want extra attention somewhere, this is something your therapist will gladly assist with. Here are some common areas targeted in a prenatal massage:
As there are many pressure points in your feet, it’s best to stay on the ankles and above to be safe. Women experience a lot of swelling in this area so massage can be great for boosting circulation.
Backs take a lot of the weight that you might carry in pregnancy and it can be a great relief to have this taken care of.
With our center of gravity off, most of the strain occurs in our neck. This area is usually done with more pressure to relieve the tension, but if you’re not comfortable with it you can always say something.
With the increased weight in our bellies, we tend to lean forward into them which can pull down on the shoulders and create discomfort.
Our legs get more easily tired under the new load that we’re carrying and may even experience some swelling which can be reduced with massage.
There are some great points in the arms that can relieve tension elsewhere and give a relaxing feeling when massaged in the right way.
Benefits of Prenatal Massage
Besides the obvious need to treat yourself when you’re going through such a dramatic change in life, both physically and mentally, there are other benefits to be found with prenatal massage. These are just some of the ones you might be able to enjoy, according to the American Pregnancy Association:
Studies have proven that hormone levels change during pregnancy which can bring new bouts of anxiety and depression for expectant mothers. Prenatal massage is known to reduce both.
Improve newborn health
Boosting circulation and calming the stress of the mother means a healthy newborn and better outcomes for your birth, all achievable with prenatal massage.
Relieve aches and pain
The most common reason women get a prenatal massage is to relieve certain aches, pains, discomfort, and swelling that all occur during the different stages of pregnancy.
Any form of massage, whether prenatal or not, is a great way to focus on yourself and take some time to relax and get a sense of overall wellness.
Things to Remember With Your Prenatal Massage
When you’re pregnant, there are certain things to take into consideration that might not otherwise be important. For prenatal massage, these are the points you need to know in order to make it a safe experience for yourself and baby.
The risks of prenatal massage are real, and a qualified massage therapist will be the only one who knows the areas that are safe to target. It’s always worth getting a professional who knows what they doing with the unique body of an expectant mother.
If at any time during the massage you feel uncomfortable or any pain, tell your massage therapist immediately so that they can help you feel better. If there are any areas you want your therapist to target or any specific pain or illness you’ve been suffering with, let them know.
To try massage at home with a friend or partner, be sure that you’ve checked safety guidelines and instructional videos that will show you what areas are safe to massage. Safe places to target are back, neck, and shoulders, with just gentle rubbing of the feet.
If you experience things like an allergy to essential oils, blood clots or bone fractures, or skin conditions, mention this to your therapist before you begin.
Most massage therapists won’t perform any treatments during the first trimester due to the risk of miscarriage. If you know or suspect you are pregnant during this time then you should avoid prenatal massage.
Pregnancy can make even the calmest woman feel a little stressed, and there are always so many things running through your head. Use this short amount of time to completely shut off and enjoy some ‘me’ time before the arrival of your little one.
Soothing and Rejuvenating Relief for Pregnancy
Prenatal massage can be a godsend for expectant mothers, and in addition to its ability to completely relax you, there are numerous health benefits as well. The most important thing to remember is that these massages should only be performed by qualified professionals, as the risk is far too high.
Pregnancy is a very special time for women but one that can put our bodies through a lot of stress and strain. The studies that have proven just how beneficial prenatal massage can be for both body and mind, so there’s no reason that women shouldn’t be using it as a form of complementary care from their second trimester and beyond.
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