Prenatal massage, like any other massage, aims to provide a comfortable environment, bring a sense of peace and fulfillment to the recipient, and prevent and relieve pain and stress. However, prenatal is specifically tailored for the needs of pregnant bodies. Massage therapists practicing prenatal massage work to accommodate changes that the body may be experiencing, and is sensitive to the baby that is growing within.
During prenatal massage, your body must be properly supported in order to protect the growing baby, and to ensure the comfort and safety of the mother. This can be done with padding and pillows, or with a specially designed massage table.
For a face-up massage, pillows will be placed underneath the shoulders and knees to create a semi-sitting, or semi-reclining position. In order to perform a back massage, your massage therapist may ask you to lay on your side, and place pillows under your head and between your legs. Or, you may be asked to lay face down on a specially designed padded table with cutouts that will allow a safe, comfortable face-down massage.
Prenatal massage meets the needs of pregnant women by relieving stress, alleviating pain, and improving bodily functions.
1. Improve Blood Flow
Massage techniques can bring blood circulation to congested areas. This improves oxygen flow throughout the body, invigorates strained muscles, and enhances organ performance.
2. Get Rid of Toxins
Massage can improve the flow of lymphatic fluids, which overall enhances the performance of the lymphatic system. This is essential for the safe removal of toxins from the body, and a healthily functioning immune system. During pregnancy, a healthy immune system is crucial, and so your lymphatic system must be in top shape.
3. Relieve Muscle Tension
During pregnancy, your muscles may feel more strained than usual because they have to accommodate a growing body. By encouraging blood flow to affected areas, prenatal massage can reduce swelling and strain on aching muscles. Prenatal massage can also help improve the flexibility of certain muscles, helping prepare them to bear a heavier burden.
4. Headache Relief
By focusing on areas around the neck and head, prenatal massage can provide relief to the headaches that so often accompany pregnancy. The overall relaxing effect of massage can also reduce occurrence of stress migraines and tension headaches.
5. Reduce Swelling
Swelling in the hands and feet is common during pregnancy. Foot and ankle swelling can occur due to increased pressure from the growing baby and water retention, especially later in the pregnancy; swelling in the hands and wrists also occurs, sometimes leading to carpal tunnel. Massage helps reduce swelling and the accompanying cramps by increasing circulation to the area.
6. Emotional Boost
Many studies have shown that receiving massage decreases incidence of the stress hormone cortisol and increases the presence of the “happiness” hormone serotonin – in other words; massage can induce feelings of happiness and reduce anxiety. It has been suggested that massage is a good option for those who experience stress, anxiety, and depression along with their pregnancy.
7. Improve Sleep
A stress free mind sleeps better. Often, pregnancy brings restless nights due to stress and anxiety. In reducing the incidence or severity of these negative emotions, prenatal massage has been found to improve sleep patterns in pregnant women.
Prenatal massage is especially beneficial during the second and third trimesters, when added weight can strain muscles – especially the back and leg muscles, which bear the heaviest burden.
However, as with all specialized massage, it’s always important to check with your doctor before booking a massage, especially during the critical third trimester. Prenatal massage might not be the right choice for you if you have diabetes, intense morning sickness accompanied by violent vomiting and stomach pains, preeclampsia, or high blood pressure.
Remember not to lie on your back during the second half of your pregnancy – the weight of your baby and uterus may put too much pressure on your placenta, which can cause damage.
Be kind to your body, especially when it’s under strain. Prenatal massage has numerous benefits that can promote health and relieve stress during your pregnancy. The better of you are during your pregnancy, the better of your baby will be!