A More In-Depth Look at Postpartum Massage

I want to go over postpartum massage since I touched on it in my previous blog discussing prenatal and post-natal massage. Post-natal massage has an array of benefits ranging from assisting with relaxation and depression, pain relief, hormone regulation, a decrease in swelling, better sleep, and help with breastfeeding.

Relaxation Benefits:

As in any massage, not just post-natal, relaxation is a well-known benefit of massage. This is especially essential for a new mother who is learning how to adjust to motherhood, navigating life on little sleep, and working through hormonal changes. “Postpartum Blues” affects about 80% of women and postpartum depression affects about 10% of women, which can cause a new mother to feel anxious, worthless, depressed, and, in some cases, not attached to her new child. I recommend all new mothers seek a psychotherapist after giving birth because of the impact it has on her emotions, the impact it has on her relationships (things change; it’s not bad but it does change), and because motherhood can feel overwhelming and even lonely. A psychotherapist can help with these feelings of sadness and hopelessness. A massage therapist can offer a place of comfort and self-care. In addition, massage releases endorphins and oxytocin, which can help with feelings of depression because these “feel good” hormones bring about relaxation and ease anxiety. Combining both types of therapy is a wonderful way to learn how to navigate parenthood and offer oneself wellness so the new mother can be at her best for her family.

Pain Relieving Benefits:

Massage is also known for pain relief and this holds true for the post-natal client. Due to the uterus contracting down to its normal size, there can be some pain associated with that, so abdominal massage is indicated for post-natal clients to assist with the cramping. It may feel intense but this type of massage helps the uterus go back to its normal size. Massage can also help with diastasis recti (splitting of the abdominal wall at the lineal alba) because the therapist can tell if there is splitting of the wall and if so can recommend wearing a belly band to bring the abdominal walls back together. Diastasis recti can also cause low back pain since the core is weakened. The massage therapist can address the low back pain and offer advice on self-treatment to help strengthen the core muscles.

Because of the postural changes that take place in pregnancy–pelvic tilts, swaying in the low back, hip discomfort–massage helps the new mother regain her posture and relieve pain that may have come to pass in pregnancy. Massage can help alleviate hip and low back pain. And because of the increase in breast tissue from milk production, massage can help relieve upper back strain the larger breasts may be causing. Pectoral massage can also help with discomfort in the breasts especially in the early stages of breastfeeding when the new mother is feeling tenderness and engorgement (Stillerman 382).

Hormone Regulation:

Massage can help regulate hormones because it helps lower cortisol (the stress hormone) and reduces dopamine and serotonin, which are related to depression. Massage is wonderful way to offer emotional support to a new mother.

Decreased Swelling:

After birth it can take several weeks for all fluid retention to subside, but massage can help move the lymphatic system to drain and reduce swelling. Because of “tissue stimulation” fluid will move and swelling will go down.

Better Sleep:

Massage stimulates the delta brain waves associated with sleep, which can help a new mother fall asleep faster. This is essential because labor and delivery taxes a woman’s body causing exhaustion and then that is compounded by round the clock care of an infant. Massage is a magnificent way to allow a mother to get some sleep (while on the table) and fall asleep faster so she can have a few hours before the baby needs changed or fed again.

Breastfeeding Help:

A massage practitioner can help a new mother learn proper body mechanics during breastfeeding to decrease pain and discomfort (Stillerman 382), and can help relax the body which is essential to breastfeeding. Sometimes breastfeeding can be difficult for new mothers–it can be frustrating, tiring (at first), and sometimes painful (if the latch isn’t right or if there is engorgement)–but massage can help ease and relax the body. Breast massage (massaging the pectoralis muscles) can help stimulate milk flow and ease with newborn suckling. Plus, some massage therapists can help a new mother learn better latching techniques or point them in the direction of lactation consultants (a wonderful asset when I breastfed). La Leche League is another valuable group to help breastfeeding mothers.

Final Thoughts:

Postpartum massage can start immediately. I offer different positions depending on my client. Those who had cesarean sections can have massages as well; I just avoid abdominal massage until the incision has healed and I don’t encourage laying on the stomach until healed. Some mothers like to take a break from the little one and come to the massage alone, but I do offer mothers the option to bring baby. If need be she can breastfeed during the massage or partake in skin-to-skin. These appointments can last a little longer because the little one does need her/his care, but it is an option to bring the baby. I highly recommend post-natal massage. Motherhood can be intimidating and having that time for you and your healing not only helps you feel better but it helps you be at your best for your new little one. You can book online today and enjoy wellness as you learn this new thing called parenthood.

 

Stillerman, Elaine. Prenatal Massage: A Textbook of Pregnancy, Labor, and Postpartum Bodywork. Mosby, Inc. 2008.

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