Prenatal massage can relieve many problems associated with pregnancy: back pain, swelling in the legs, sleeping problems. Massage can also help you to relax, relieve worries or anxieties about pregnancy or childbirth, and balance fluctuating emotions.
Some Benefits of Prenatal Massage
Massage therapy relaxes muscles, relieves joint pain and improves circulation. As long as some precautions are taken, massage can relieve the back pain so many women suffer from during pregnancy, especially as your bump gets bigger and puts more strain on your lower back. Massage also stimulates the lymphatic system and can reduce swelling in the ankles (and fluid retention in general). Massage in pregnancy can relieve stress, irritability and mood swings, and it can even help you to sleep better.
During a pregnancy massage, the client often lies on her side on a massage table. She can then be propped up with cushions to make her feel more comfortable. She can also sit on a stool against the massage couch and lean against the couch, supporting herself with her arms, which allows the therapist to work on the whole back.
Studies about the Benefits of Pregnancy Massage
The Touch Research Institute has conducted several studies about the health benefits of prenatal massage. In various studies (you can read about the studies on the TRI website), prenatal massage therapy was able to
- relieve labor pain, shorten labor and reduce the need for medication
- relieve prenatal and postpartum depression (massage was used in combination with psychotherapy, and this combination led to better results than psychotherapy alone)
- relieve leg pain and back pain
- reduce anxiety, improve mood and improve sleep during pregnancy
Some forms of massage are more suitable for pregnancy than others, although many therapists trained in prenatal massage use a combination of techniques.
Pregnancy Massage Safety Tips
There are pressure points around ankles and wrists that stimulate the pelvic muscles and the uterus. Any pressure on these points must obviously be avoided, especially during the first trimester or if there is a history of miscarriage. There are also many points in the lower back that should be avoided for the same reason.
It is important for your safety and for your peace of mind to find a massage therapist who is qualified in pregnancy massage and/or who has experience in treating pregnant women. Some massage therapists do not massage women during the first trimester. If there are any health concerns or a history of miscarriage, many women choose to wait until the second trimester before they start to get massage treatments.
The American Pregnancy Association: Prenatal Massage: Massage during Pregnancy (online article)
Patricia Davis: Aromatherapy, an A-Z (Random House, UK, 2004)