The benefits of pregnancy massage can be powerful. Not only can it keep you stress-free, but it can also be effective at relieving a range of physical ailments pregnant women can experience.
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To get the lowdown on the benefits of pregnancy massage, we chatted to Cath Stuart, a certified pregnancy massage therapist, of Damara Massage.
What are the physical benefits of pregnancy massage?
During pregnancy, a woman’s body is constantly undergoing change. “Some of these changes can lead to significant physical discomforts, which often impact their daily life,” says Cath. “Massage during pregnancy, with a certified pregnancy massage practitioner can be of great benefit. It helps to support the many changes that occur each week, allowing the body to adapt to pregnancy, but also relieving many of the common causes of discomfort during this time.”
According to Cath, here are some of the common benefits:
- Insomnia is eased through improved sleep patterns.
- Pain relief management for areas such as groin pain referred from the uterus, lumbar, back, pelvic and hip pain.
- Relief of rib pain common in the third trimester.
- Shoulder and neck massage helps to relieve tension and discomfort, which is very common during pregnancy as a woman’s posture changes.
- Hormonal headaches can be reduced.
- Oedema, swelling and discomfort in the legs and arms are eased – this reduces the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Leg cramps are minimised due to improved circulation.
- Massage soothes and calms the parasympathetic nervous system. This can have a beneficial effect on anxiety and stress in the pregnant woman. These changes will also have a positive effect on the developing foetus.
- Massage assists in improving and maintaining muscular strength and flexibility. This is especially helpful during the last trimester and the birth itself.
- Massage can be used during the birth to make it easier and more comfortable for the mother, and after the birth as well, to help her regain her strength more quickly and ease postpartum stress.
What are the emotional benefits of pregnancy massage?
“We focus on the mother-baby connection creating a warm, safe, secure nurturing environment where mum can rest, relax and recharge,” says Cath. “This nurturing environment allows the mother-to-be to focus on herself and her baby. In a sense, it gives her permission to leave behind the stresses of daily life and to focus on the changes to her body and the new life she is creating.”
Since massage promotes a sense of relaxation, it can help to reduce stress and anxiety levels. “This is especially important as we know stress and anxiety can have an adverse effect on both mother and baby,” says Cath. “As massage helps to soothe and relax nervous tension, it also helps the mother sleep more easily and more deeply.
Why is it important to see a certified prenatal massage therapist?
“As therapists, there are many considerations we need to be aware of prior to commencing a pregnancy massage,” explains Cath. “We need to consider physiological changes occurring in pregnancy to both the mother and baby and adapt the massage to suit these changes.”
What type of pregnancy massage techniques can be used on pregnant women?
“I use NurtureLife®, a holistic perinatal massage therapy method, developed by Pregnancy Massage Australia that supports women who are nurturing new life,” says Cath. “Nurturelife® practitioners deliver specialised massage treatment that focuses on nurturing both mother and baby. The NurtureLife® massage experience has a natural, comprehensive approach to perinatal care.”
What precautions should be taken with pregnancy massage?
Firstly, always go to a qualified pregnancy massage practitioner. “This means you need to look for a therapist who has a clear understanding of the many complexities of pregnancy,” explains Cath. “You need a therapist who recognises when massage is appropriate and when it is contraindicated.”
If you have a high-risk pregnancy, it is important to have clearance from a medical prenatal carer provider before having a massage. But once you get this clearance, Cath says, a Nurturelife® Practitioner can offer you a massage.
“It is important to find a therapist who understands how to best position you and support your body during each treatment,” says Cath. “Someone who recognises how this will change as the pregnancy progresses. This means your therapist must have the right equipment, including table pillows and bolsters.”
Are there any body position you shouldn’t be in during a pregnancy massage?
“Many pregnancy pillow systems are designed for physiotherapy, chiropractics, and osteopathy, where the client only lies in position for 10-15 minutes but these pillow systems, whilst adequate for these short periods of treatment, are not appropriate for pregnancy massage,” says Cath. “Lying face down for an extended period can have adverse effects on pregnant women so it’s best to avoid it.”
There are also safety concerns for pregnant women lying on their back, face upwards,” says Cath. “The growth of the foetus, and increased size of the uterus and its increasing weight, can compress vital blood circulation in both the mother and baby when lying in this position.”
With this in mind, Cath says, the side-lying position is definitely a much safer and more comfortable option. “It maintains a connection between therapist/client/baby and supports the physical changes that occur due to the pregnancy,” says Cath. “It prevents increased pressure within the uterus, minimises strain on uterine ligaments and musculoskeletal structures, prevents an increase in sinus pressure and an increase in mucus and potential nosebleed.”
When shouldn’t you get a massage?
“If you are experiencing bleeding or have had any recent bleeding that has not been checked out by your prenatal care provider, massage is contraindicated,” says Cath. “You should not have massage until the bleeding has stopped and the cause determined, and you have received clearance from your prenatal carer.”
Always see your GP or prenatal medical carer before having a pregnancy massage.
Did you turn to massage to relieve any physical or emotional ailments during pregnancy?