Pregnancy Massage

Studies indicate that massage therapy performed during pregnancy can reduce anxiety, decrease symptoms of depression, relieve muscle aches and joint pains, and improve labor outcomes and newborn health.

Massage therapy addresses different needs through varying techniques, one of which is called Swedish Massage, which aims to relax muscle tension and improve lymphatic and blood circulation through mild pressure applied to the muscle groups of the body. Swedish Massage is the recommended prenatal massage method during pregnancy because it addresses many common discomforts associated with the skeletal and circulatory changes brought on by hormone shifts during pregnancy.

Muscle Matters considers the best position for a pregnant woman during massage is side-lying. Specialty pillows will be used to ensure the best positioning. Tables that provide a hole in which the uterus can fit may not be reliable and can still apply pressure to the abdomen, or allow the abdomen to dangle, causing uncomfortable stretching of the uterine ligaments.

Awareness of pressure points on the ankles that can gently stimulate pelvic muscles, including the uterus are essential. Certified prenatal massage therapists are trained to avoid very specific and intentional pressure to these areas during pregnancy. Any woman who has experienced pre-term contractions or consistent Braxton-Hicks contractions should alert her therapist to that fact so that pressure points can be avoided completely.

Women with the following conditions should speak with a health care provider prior to receiving a massage:

  • High risk pregnancy
  • Pregnancy induced hypertension (PIH)
  • Preeclampsia
  • Previous pre-term labour
  • Experiencing severe swelling, high blood pressure, or sudden, severe headaches

Women can begin massage therapy with a trained, certified therapist at any point in their pregnancy – during the first, second, or third trimester.

Muscle Matters will ensure that the sacrum and pelvis stay in alignment which will aid in discomfort as the body changes throughout the pregnancy and will allow baby to sit in the ideal positions for labour and delivery.

Muscle Matters will also give mom stretches and exercises designed to significantly improve levels of back, hip and pelvic pain throughout the duration of the pregnancy and will strengthen core muscles to aid in the delivery process.

Deep breathing will be a routine part of the massage, to ensure relaxation, stress reduction and to prepare for using it throughout the labour and delivery process.

The following are further benefits of the use of massage therapy during pregnancy:

Hormone regulation
Studies done in the past 10 years have shown that hormone levels associated with relaxation and stress are significantly altered, leading to mood regulation and improved cardiovascular health, when massage therapy was introduced to women’s prenatal care. Hormones such as norepinephrine and cortisol (“stress hormones”) were reduced and dopamine and serotonin levels (low levels of these hormones are associated with depression) were increased in women who received bi-weekly massages for only five weeks. These changes in hormone levels also led to fewer complications during birth and fewer instances of newborn complications, such as low birth weight. The evidence points strongly to maternal and newborn health benefits when relaxing, therapeutic massage is incorporated into regular prenatal care.

Swelling
Edema, or swelling of the joints during pregnancy, is often caused by reduced circulation and increased pressure on the major blood vessels by the heavy uterus. Massage helps to stimulate soft tissues to reduce collection of fluids in swollen joints, which also improves the removal of tissue waste, carried by the body’s lymph system.

Improvement of nerve pain
Sciatic nerve pain is experienced by many women in late pregnancy as the uterus rests on muscles of the pelvic floor and lower back. The pressure of the uterus spreads tension to the muscles of the upper and lower leg, causing them to swell and put pressure on nearby nerves. Massage therapy addresses the inflamed nerves by helping to release the tension on nearby muscles. Many women have experienced significant reduction in sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy through regular massage.

Other potential benefits of prenatal massage:

  • Reduced back pain
  • Reduced joint pain
  • Improved circulation
  • Reduced edema
  • Reduced muscle tension and headaches
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Improved oxygenation of soft tissues and muscles
  • Better sleep

Data from www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/prenatalmassage.html
and Lindsay Penner Advanced Remedial Massage Therapist.