Nurturing touch during pregnancy is not a new concept. Cultural and anthropological studies show over and over that massage and touch during pregnancy and the childbearing experience has been a part of many cultures’ healthcare since the dawn of time. This concept is deeply rooted in our humanity, and there is a reason for this- the benefits! Let’s discuss the benefits of pregnancy massage.
To some women, motherhood is considered one of life’s more precious opportunities. However, the intense emotional investment, the mother’s expectation for herself and others’ expectations for her are the the things that makes the 40-42 weeks of pregnancy so stressful on the mind as well as the body. Often, the mother can pressure herself in too many ways to be the very picture of perfection in regards to doing what’s best for the baby. This presents many struggles- eating “right”, finding the right balance of exercise and movement, trying to balance and maintain employment, especially when the oh so common discomforts start to sneak up. As the mother’s body transforms to make room for the baby, she must adjust to her altered physiological state- the shape of the body, the way the body moves (or can’t), skin and hair changes…the list goes on. The stress of feeling like she is no longer her former physical self can be a huge adjustment. Don’t forget about the emotional upheaval and anxiety! This can also be a time of euphoria and joy- all in one single day sometimes. In times where women need support, they often find themselves in emotional isolation.
So why massage? Let’s talk science- with all the above concerns and increased stress, the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system is activated- this increases stress hormones and sometimes even the “fight or flight” or even the freeze response. This is where your massage therapist comes in for the rescue! Pregnancy massage directly enhances immunological function, increases oxytocin, reduces fear and anxiety, reduces maternal blood pressure, heart and respiratory rate, increases uterine blood supply for fetal health, provides direct respiratory benefits, gastrointestinal benefits, skin stimulation, and may possibly even reduce labor time and complications. This is all good news for mom.
Lets focus in on the musculoskeletal benefits of pregnancy massage. Here are some of the common issues: low back pain, pelvic pain, uterine ligament pain (particularly intense), tarsal tunnel syndrome, restless legs syndrome, false sciatica, swelling of the feet, thoracic outlet syndrome, and the body aches that come from only being allowed to sleep only on your left side for 40-42 weeks. These can all be very hard on mom, as they can come on slowly or all at once. If you are a pregnant mom, do any of this sound familiar? Probably yes. But what can you do about it?
This is where your highly educated, experienced and caring massage therapist comes in to play. There are many massage techniques that can help with all of these things! I recommend starting pregnancy massage after the first 2 months of being pregnant and keeping a set massage schedule to get ahead of the pain and keep your body functioning at a higher level so you can still do the fun things you want to do. As the second trimester comes to a close, massages should be about every three weeks. Massage in the third trimester is paramount because at that point it is all about keeping ahead of the pain and setting your body up for a potentially easier labor.
If any of this rings true to you, mom-to-be, practice some self-compassion and schedule yourself a pregnancy massage so I can join you on your journey to bringing new life into your world.
Rielle Gordon, LMT at Seattle Massage Oasis