Prenatal massage therapy has often received varied responses from the health community with regard to its purpose and safety. Recent researches have revealed that massage during pregnancy can be a valuable component in women’s prenatal care, and should, therefore, be given careful consideration.
Carrying a baby inside your womb changes your centre of gravity, causing you to exert a lot of pressure on your neck, shoulders, back, and abdominal muscles. Pregnancy also tends to relax your ligaments, resulting in reduced stability of your pelvic joints, changes in posture, and a misaligned pelvis (moved forward). Combine this with the extra weight of a developing baby and you find many women suffering from an aching lower back.
Benefits of Prenatal Massage Therapy
Massage during pregnancy shares many of the goals of a regular therapeutic massage, including to ease sore spots, relax tense muscles, improve blood circulation and mobility, manage acute stress, relieve pain, and to make you feel good. But it is also tailored for the specific needs of expectant mothers and their changing bodies, and therapists who have been trained to work with pregnant women adjust their techniques accordingly to target a pregnant woman’s sore spots and provide some form of relief.
Scientific studies show that prenatal massage therapy can do many good things that pregnant women need, including:
- Improving mood and cardiovascular health due to hormone regulation
- Reducing the risk of newborn complications, like low birth weight
- Helping with sleep
- Reducing oedema or joint swelling by increasing circulation and fluid movement in the body
- Relieving nerve pain, like sciatic nerve pain, by relaxing muscles that tend to clench and tighten around nerves
But even if the trained massage therapist knows which spots and techniques to avoid, it is important that you communicate with her and let her know where you need more attention, and anything that is causing discomfort.
Precautions for Prenatal Massage
Expectant mothers who are considering massage therapy should always consider their safety first, and visit only therapists who have received training and certification in prenatal massage techniques. Your doctor may have a few suggestions for certified therapists in your area. Alternatively, you can check with the American Pregnancy Association (APA) which maintains a list of certified massage therapists.
A safety-first approach should typically include:
- Sticking to Swedish Massage techniques – Swedish Massage is recommended during pregnancy because it targets many common discomforts resulting from circulatory and skeletal changes influenced by hormone shifts
- Getting in the right body position – Professionals suggest that the best position for a pregnant women during massage is lying on the side. Massage tables that have a hole for the uterus to fit are not necessarily safe and reliable, since they tend to apply pressure to the abdomen and allow it to dangle – causing the uterine ligaments to stretch uncomfortably.
- Seeking a trained and certified massage therapist – With proper training, the massage therapist can address your specific needs, position you safely to avoid straining the uterine ligaments, and watch for signs of varicose veins and clots.