Looking through my previous posts I discuss massage benefits including pain relief, stress relief, and overall relaxation. I want to go more in depth regarding prenatal, or pregnancy massage, and postnatal massage. When I was pregnant I did not receive a massage, and I really didn’t think anything of it until I was in my massage school and learned about the wonderful benefits. Then, it seemed like I had truly missed something. My goal is to educate women on the importance of self-care during and after pregnancy because your body goes through monumental changes–physically, emotionally, and even spiritually–and in order to handle these changes, therapeutic massage is a wonderful way to help yourself.
A woman can receive prenatal massage from the time she finds out she is pregnant up until she delivers (some women even have a massage therapist available while in labor). The key is finding a massage therapist who is well rounded in women’s health and wellness. Prenatal massage has many benefits, most notably is assisting with sciatica. Sciatic nerve pain happens because as the uterus grows to accommodate the fetus, the pressure on the pelvic floor and muscles of the upper leg increases, causing nerve pain. Massage in the hip and gluteus areas help alleviate this pain. Massage also assists in raising oxytocin (the love hormone) levels and lowering cortisol and norepinephrine (the stress hormones) levels causing one to feel relaxed, which has been shown to decrease the chance of depression. This is especially important for a pregnant woman because if hormone levels are more stable there is a chance for fewer complications during birth and fewer complications in newborn health. Massage also stimulates blood flow, which brings more oxygen to the mother and fetus. Massage assists in better posture for the mother, reduced chances of edema (swelling in the joints), prepares for easier delivery due to massage’s sedating effect, and can even offer the mother better sleep. Massage is also a wonderful way for the expecting mother to find supportive energy since a massage therapist is someone who creates a safe and inviting space for relaxation and comfort.
After delivery, postnatal massage is just as important as prenatal massage. A woman’s body is put through an extreme amount of work, not only through the gestation process but labor and delivery. Think marathon times 100. After someone runs a marathon there is a need for recovery. The same idea applies, even more so, after a woman has a baby. Massage can help alleviate the muscle strain placed on the woman’s core (low back and abdomen) during pregnancy. If a woman had a cesarean section massage can help break down scar tissue (the incision is to be healed in order for a massage therapist to work on the abdomen). Again, massage can help regulate hormone levels, which is vital after birth. So many women suffer from postpartum depression and/or anxiety, and many feel they don’t have an outlet or a way to feel better. No, massage therapists are not counselors, but massage therapists can offer a safe space for wellness, and massage is a wonderful to relax the mind and body in order to facilitate healing. During pregnancy a woman’s body fluids increase about 50%, so the fluids need regulated after birth. Massage stimulates blood flow and the lymph system, which can help decrease the excess fluid and bring the body back into harmony. Because massage stimulates the lymph system the immune system is stimulated, which can help stimulate the infant’s immune system if breastfeeding since immunities are passed through the breastmilk.
Essential oils are also excellent during pre- and postnatal massage to stimulate relaxation and wellness. However, if you choose an aromatherapy massage make sure to specify if you’re breastfeeding because some oils (like peppermint) can decrease milk supply. Reiki is also another excellent way to encourage relaxation and allow a mother-to-be or mother to feel safe and secure. The energy is that of peace and healing, which any new mother needs.
I sincerely hope you choose massage during and after your pregnancy. I wish I had. I had sciatic nerve pain and pain in my ribs, which I now know would have ceased had I gotten regular massages during pregnancy. My prenatal clients always enjoy the herbal compresses on their hips in order to feel that relief on the sciatic and hip flexor area. For my postpartum clients I offer the choice of bringing baby to allow for skin-to-skin and nursing so that bonding can continue while mom gets her self-care in as well. Healing hands and healing energy can always bring about relaxation and wellness for you and your baby.