Everything you need to know about pregnancy massage
What is pregnancy massage?
Pregnancy massage refers to all massage therapies designed specifically for new and expecting mothers.
Pre-natal and post-natal massages focus on soothing and alleviating the physical strains placed on the body during pregnancy. A combination of a range of techniques is used to soothe and relax the added pressure on muscles in the back, legs and shoulders.
Pregnancy and childbirth are both incredible physical and spiritual experiences, but symptoms can also be extremely stressful and uncomfortable for many women; pregnancy massages provide a unique therapy for mums and/or mums-to-be, helping them to feel pampered and rewarded with a well deserved massage.
What Makes Pregnancy Massage Different?
Pregnancy massage is different from other massage therapies because it is designed especially for women who are either pregnant or have recently given birth.
Techniques (such as Swedish, Deep Tissue, Indian Head Massage and Lymphatic Drainage) are adapted to treat the tender and sensitive areas of the body.
Therapists adapt their treatments for pregnancy massages with the changes a pregnant women is experiencing in mind, for example:
- Your therapist will ask about any areas of particular sensitivity and will be extremely careful and gentle when massaging these areas
- Only very light pressure will be applied on the legs to aid in circulation
- Each massage is tailored to each individual women and her experience of pregnancy; make sure to discuss with your therapist your ideal massage for your body.
Pregnancy massages also offer more diverse positions on the massage table to accommodate your bump; lying on your side is the most popular and comfortable position, but ask your therapist for more options to find the one that’s best for you.
Is Pregnancy Massage Safe?
Yes, pregnancy massage has been practiced by therapists for many years, in both the ancient and the modern world.
Many people are surprised to learn that pregnancy massage is even available for women, as well as safe. This is probably because people think that a massage with a baby bump may be too awkward, but it is also because there are some rumours and advice columns that discourage getting a massage whilst pregnant.
There has been little research studies into pregnancy massage, but there is no evidence that it is harmful; in fact, most of the studies show that having regular massages whilst pregnant is enormously beneficial for you and your baby.
Most therapists advise against massages in the first trimester (first 12 weeks of pregnancy), but regular massage appointments throughout and after pregnancy should be practiced and encouraged. Pregnancy is an amazing physical journey, but can also be exhausting; pregnancy massage is designed to benefit the physical, mental and emotional health of new and expecting mothers.
We encourage all women to consult their GP before having a pregnancy massage for safety and assurance.
Will Certain Pressure Points Induce Labour?
Naturally, many people have reservations about pregnancy massage because of the potential for early or induced labour.
There is evidence to suggest that being massaged during labour have helped to shorten the process, but not that having a massage will induce an early labour.
As stated above, most therapists do not offer pregnancy massage during the first trimester to avoid any early complications in the pregnancy and some therapists avoid massaging the abdomen too much. You should always inform your therapist of how many weeks along you are and of all areas of sensitivity caused by your pregnancy.
Pregnancy massage takes into consideration the changes a women’s body goes through during pregnancy and extreme care is taken when massaging pressure points to guarantee comfort and safety.
Will Essential Oils Affect Your Pregnancy?
Aromatherapy is most often avoided in pregnancy massage for two main reasons:
- Many women experience heightened senses of smell and touch and essential oils could cause irritation and discomfort during the massage
- There are ingredients in essential oils that are more likely to cause an allergic reaction.
Even though many choose to avoid essential oils in pregnancy massage, there is little evidence suggesting the use of them is dangerous. According to Dr. Jane Buckle, author of Clinical Aromatherapy:
The use of essential oils in pregnancy is a contentious subject, especially during the vital first 3-month period. It is extremely unlikely that a nightly bath containing a few drops of essential oils will cause any problems for the unborn child… There are no records of abnormal [births]…due to the ‘normal’ use of essential oils, either by inhalation or topical application.
Buckle’s insight is reassuring, yet when considering the risk of allergic reactions (especially since allergies greatly vary from person-to-person) we encourage you to have an allergy test with your GP before using essential oils in your massage treatment.
Do You Need Special Equipment?
During a pregnancy massage, most people lie-down sideways on a regular massage table to take the weight off of their legs and lower back and this position helps to enhance comfort and focus on key areas that may normally be difficult to reach.
Some women find lying down quite uncomfortable in the later stages of their pregnancy and so prefer to sit-up or even semi-recline in a massage chair.
Special massage pillows are provided in plenty for additional support and comfort.
Pregnancy massage offers more diverse positions as the therapy treats women of various stages of their pregnancy; your therapist will help you find the position(s) that give you the best support.
What Are The Benefits Of Pregnancy Massage?
Relieves Aches & Pains
Making a new baby in your body over nine months is beautiful and miraculous; it’s exhilarating and empowering, and it’s a lot of hard work!
Pregnancy places a high physical demand on your body: as your baby grows, your body grows too. These changes can be very uncomfortable and many women can have great difficulty being able to relax during their pregnancy.
The most common areas pregnant women experience aches and pain are:
The added pressure on these parts of the body can quickly become tight knots of tension that restrict movement and lead to aching pains.
Studies have shown that getting a pre-natal massage will reduce pain in pregnant women. Regular massage treatments can help alleviate these aches and pains, help you to relax and ease the demands being made on your body.
Everyone knows that women often experience dramatic mood swings during pregnancy.
This is because levels of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone are greatly increased in the body and remain elevated throughout the pregnancy.
Estrogen and progesterone are extremely important to the development of your baby; however, drastic increases in hormones can affect your neurotransmitters (brain chemicals that affect your mood). The significant changes in hormones can cause many women to experience low mood, fatigue, insomnia, fevers, and headaches.
There is a huge amount of evidence that supports pregnancy massage having a direct and positive impact on your mood. A study at the University of Miami School of Science found that some of the most important benefits for mood are:
- Increased levels of the famous feel-good hormones serotonin and dopamine
- Decreased levels of the stress hormones cortisol and norepinephrine
- Improved and more regulated sleep patterns
- More regular appetite
- General improved mood.
Regular pregnancy massage therapy can help keep your neurotransmitters healthy and producing endorphins for you and your baby. Remember: you are making this baby with all of your body - you deserve to feel good and enjoy your pregnant body!
Did you know that a women’s blood volume can increase by as much as 50% during pregnancy?
This is because her heart is beating out more blood to support her growing baby. The added volume, as well as the weight gain and the force of gravity, causes blood flow to slow down, especially in the legs. For this reason, only light techniques are used on the legs in pregnancy massage.
Almost all pregnant women will experience some problems with their circulation as they grow bigger. A regular massage treatment will get your blood flowing freer around your body, increasing your oxygen level and keep you and your baby comfortable.