In the U.S. there are more the six million pregnancies each year, and a growing number of women are opting to use massage to deal with the aches, pains and stress that come along with pregnancy. Studies have shown that prenatal massage can reduce anxiety, joint pain and swelling caused by poor circulation, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Massage therapists who are trained in prenatal massage must take extra precautions when giving an expectant mother a massage, including avoiding specific pressure points and ensuring the client is in a position that will not cause added stress to their body.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Colleen Bryan of Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa. about the benefits of prenatal massage:
Q: How can the benefits of massage transfer into the delivery/birthing room?
A. Regular massage can assist the labor process by enabling each woman to begin labor with less tension in the back, pelvis and legs. It also provides flexibility, prepares muscles and reduces stress levels which can improve the outcome of labor. It has been noted that labor is shorter with fewer complications for women who receive regular massage.
Q: Are there any special tricks and tips that can be used through massage to help a birthing woman?
A: It takes a lot of hard physical work to get a baby into the world but steps can be taken to make that process easier. Regular massage throughout the second and third trimester will allow the muscles to be more relaxed and flexible through the delivery process. Not only does massage help throughout pregnancy and delivery but once baby and Mom are home that’s when disrupted sleep patterns need rejuvenation. A one hour massage is equivalent to three hours of deep sleep….often needed not only for Moms but Dads as well.
Q: When are the best times to receive a massage for pregnant women?
A: Pregnancy is a wonderful experience, but it often comes with physical challenges from a changing body. The second trimester is the safest time to start receiving regular massage, once or twice a month. Weight gain in the front of the body can change the center of gravity placing more stress on joints, the spine and muscles. Massage can offer relief from muscle pain and joint stiffness on into the third trimester as the baby grows and changes the body even more. At this time it would be beneficial to receive a massage every week.
Receiving massage during pregnancy is an excellent way to care for both Mom & baby. It should be part of every pregnant woman’s self-care plan.
Q: What are some of the cautions about receiving massage during pregnancy?
A: Prenatal massage is effective and safe for women with uncomplicated, low risk pregnancies. High risk pregnancies with certain medical conditions should get consent from their doctor before receiving massage. Massage should be avoided during the first trimester and there are regions of the body and specific therapeutic techniques that are contraindicated for prenatal massage. A professional massage therapist trained in prenatal massage will know what precautions need to be taken.