When utilized during pregnancy, massage therapy can be extremely beneficial for your emotional and physical well being. In addition to the stress your body will undergo during those nine months, you may be under significant mental and emotional stress as well as you prepare to welcome a new life to yours. Some women swear by having regular massage during pregnancy, while others can only have it once or twice during their pregnancy. Studies have shown that stress can be harmful for a pregnant mother or her baby, because it affects the mother’s blood pressure, and the baby’s development.
Massage during pregnancy is especially helpful because of the unique transformation a woman goes through to accommodate a growing baby. A rapidly enlarging belly puts stress on the back and spine, neck, hips and knees. Load bearing joints take extra abuse, as they are carrying more weight than usual.
Massage during pregnancy can be beneficial to a woman for the following reasons:
- Relaxation and Reduction of Stress: The stress that many women feel during pregnancy can have detrimental effects on her and the baby. Massage during pregnancy can give a woman a time to relax and unwind while the massage therapist works out the tension in targeted areas. If you have massage throughout your pregnancy, you may be better able to handle the rigors of labor and delivery.
- Improve Circulation: Muscles that are tense restrict blood flow, contributing to poor blood circulation to mother and baby, as well as swelling. Massage during pregnancy can significantly improve lymph and blood circulation, promoting better drainage and less swelling.
- Sciatic Nerve: Many pregnant women suffer with sciatica, or pain along their sciatic nerve in their buttock and upper thigh. This can be debilitating, but can be helped with correct massage technique.
- Muscle Cramps and Spasms: Massage therapists can work out muscle cramps and spasms caused by tight, stiff muscles in the back, hips, legs and neck.
- Joint Pain: Your load bearing joints take a lot of stress during pregnancy. Pregnancy massage can help take the stress off the joints by working the joint and the surrounding muscle.
Don’t go to just any massage therapist for a massage during pregnancy. Be sure that he or she is specifically licensed or certified in pregnancy massage — this is important, as there are certain areas of the body, such as the abdomen, which should not be massaged. The massage therapist you choose should be very familiar in the anatomy and ailments of pregnant women.
You will not be positioned like you would be in a regular massage. Instead, you will sit in a semi-reclining position, and will be moved from side to side, staying in no one position for more than 15 minutes. Although there are some massage tables with a cut out for the belly, designed specifically for pregnant clients, most certified massage therapists will advise against them due to the stress it puts on the woman’s back.
Just as with any other massage, be vocal about the setting of the massage. If you are particularly sensitive to smells, ask the massage therapist not to have any scented candles or incense burning during your massage. Speak up if you feel uncomfortable, or do not like a particular technique, or how intense the massage is.
Some pregnant women should not have a massage during pregnancy, including those who are at risk for premature labor and clotting disorders. Any woman considering massage during pregnancy should consult their doctor first — some massage therapists actually require a doctor’s consent before the session.