Your back aches, your feet are swollen and your neck is sore. And, to top it all off, you feel fat and lethargic. You're a typical pregnant woman with raging hormones and an expanding waistline.
Pregnancy takes a major toll on the body - the skeletal structure is supporting an increasing amount of weight and organs shift to accommodate a growing baby. Your centre of gravity has changed and your back, shoulders, and neck feel achy. All of this is normal, but that doesn't mean you have to suffer until your baby is born.
All you need is a little human touch.
Physical Benefits of Pregnancy Massage
Massage offers a range of benefits for the average person, but it is especially beneficial for pregnant women. Natural-touch therapy is known to improve circulation and digestion, ease backache, decrease pain in the pelvis and hip, reduce swelling of the feet and legs, provide relief to weight-bearing joints, help maintain proper posture and reduce fatigue. And these are just the physical benefits of pregnancy massage.
According to a study conducted by the Touch Institute at the University of Miami, 20 minutes of massage performed two times a week for five weeks effectively improved sleep patterns and reduced stress hormones in pregnant women. Additionally, women that received regular massages had lower rates of postnatal complications and premature birth.
And you thought massage just felt good!
Pregnancy Massage as Mood Booster
Human touch is inherently nurturing. For many women, pregnancy is an emotional roller-coaster. Massage can smooth the ride by giving you the attention and emotional boost that you deserve. Natural-touch therapy lessens anxiety and promotes relaxation - all of which trickles down to your baby. A happy, relaxed mum is a happy, relaxed baby.
Not All Massage Therapists are Equal
Finding the right massage therapist is key to maximum comfort and safety. Look for a massage therapist specifically certified in pregnancy massage. Certified massage therapists have undergone specialized training and know what is - and isn't - safe for pregnant women. Just because a clinic or spa offers pregnancy massage doesn't mean the staff is capable of handling the special needs of a pregnant woman.
What to Expect
Before the massage, you should be placed on your side or seated in a semi-reclining position and propped with pillows. Avoid lying flat on your back after 22 weeks because it puts pressure on deep blood vessels that can reduce circulation to you and your baby. Some massage clinics have a special table with a hole cut out, allowing you to lie on your stomach. However, massage therapists disagree on whether this device strains the lower back.
Because doctors have differing opinions on the safety of pregnancy massage during the first trimester, it's best to wait until the second or third trimester before booking an appointment. As with all therapies, consult with your health practitioner beforehand. Even though pregnancy massage is generally safe, there are conditions where a massage must be avoided. Women with gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, placental dysfunction, a high-risk
pregnancy, heavy discharge and morning sickness, as well as women who are at risk of early labour, should not have a massage.
Save the Pain for Childbirth
Everything you feel should be soothing, not painful. Chances are that you don't want to stimulate labour while sitting in a massage chair. There is a pressure point between the ankle bone and heel that must be avoided. According to reflexology, these pressure points relate to the uterus and vagina, and labour may be stimulated if direct pressure is applied to the area. A certified massage therapist will know to avoid this area and to not perform deep-tissue massage.
Experience Massage in Your Pyjamas
Recruit your partner as your own personal massage therapist and get relief in the comfort of your home. To begin, straddle a chair so you're facing the back of it. Place pillows between you and the chair and lean forward. Have your partner rub some massage oil in his hands, cross his hands across your back and apply gentle pressure around - not on - your spine. He should press in a circular motion with the heels of his hands or pads of his fingers and move up and down your back. Say, "Ahhh..."