Benefits of Prenatal Massage and Research on Prenatal Massage
1. Prenatal Massage Benefits
Pregnancy can be one of the most wonderful and unforgettable times in a woman’s life; however, it can also be a time of physical and emotional stress. Massage during all stages of pregnancy has many health benefits for both mother and baby.
Women who are having a healthy pregnancy can have a prenatal massage at any time, from conception to birth. For those experiencing complications, massage by a certified prenatal massage therapist is usually perfectly safe, but will require prior approval from your doctor or midwife. You can find a Physicians Permission form on my “New Clients” page. If you are experiencing complications, please bring this to your appointment.
Some of the most important health benefits of prenatal massage include:
- Tranquil relaxation and stress reductions (stress causes the body to release a hormone called cortisol. Massage therapy can help to lower the amount of cortisol in the blood and raise the amount of the “feel good” hormone dopamine.)
- Relieves tension and fatigue
- Improves circulation
- Relieves muscle cramps
- Relaxes and tones muscles
- Aids in a quicker recovery after delivery
Prenatal massage not only helps the mother relax, but it is also an excellent way to relieve many of the common discomforts associated with pregnancy, including:
- Fatigue and insomnia (helps soothe the nervous system, making it easier to fall asleep)
- Reduced hip and lower back pain (massage around joints can help realign the body and reduce pain)
- Eases back and foot pain due to changes in posture
- Edema (swelling) of the feet and lower legs: this is a common problem in pregnancy because fluid builds up in the extremities. Massage increases the circulation of blood and lymph, helping to carry the excess fluids from the extremities and thereby decreasing the swelling.
- Carpal tunnel (caused from pectoral girdle restrictions and edema)
- Leg cramps
- Sciatic pain (ease pressure by stretching piriformis muscle)
- Improves digestion (foot reflexology and acupressure)
- Improves breathing (correcting restrictive postural deviations and improving neck, chest, and abdominal mobility)
- Improves skin elasticity, reducing stretch marks
- Promoted relaxation and deep breathing, which will help a woman learn skills that are helpful during labor
- Reduces anxiety and depression (massage increases secretion of dopamine and serotonin, which help ease depression and reduce anxiety)
- Provides emotional support to the pregnant woman, which can help release emotional tension
With all of these benefits it is important to get on a consistent prenatal massage schedule, especially during the second and third trimester. During this crucial time, I offer prenatal massage package specials.
2. Can any massage therapist give a pregnancy massage?
Although most massage training institutions touch on massage therapy for women who are pregnant, it is best to find a massage therapist who is certified in prenatal massage. Not all massage therapists are trained and certified in pregnancy massage. When making your appointment for a pregnancy massage, it is important to make your therapists aware of your current condition, trimester and any complications you might be having in your pregnancy. You should ask how they administer the massage. When you arrive for your massage ask to see their prenatal massage certification. Prenatal Massage Therapists are honored and proud to show their special certification. This special certification ensures that you and your baby will get the best, most knowledgeable massage available. Don’t assume that just because they offer pregnancy or prenatal massage that they are qualified to attend to your special needs.
3. How frequently should I get a prenatal massage?
Based on the research I have found by the American Pregnancy Association, I would recommend twice a week. According to Dr. Natasha Balbas’ article Surprising Benefits of Prenatal and Postnatal Massage, “Women who received biweekly prenatal massages for five weeks were found to have decreased levels of stress hormones cortisol and norepinephrine. This is important, as this could lead to a strengthened immune system and decreased inflammation (read: less pain) throughout the body. Not only did levels of stress hormones decrease, but the levels of “relaxation” hormones dopamine and serotonin were increased also. Low levels of either of these hormones are associated with depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.” To read the entire article click here.
My best recommendation is as often as you can afford. Even just one massage can help to make you more comfortable as your body undergoes many changes. In my experience, I have found that if you have financial restraints, the following schedule seems to work well for most women.
Most popular schedule:
Once or twice a month for the first two trimesters, or whatever you can afford. During the third trimester your body undergoes many changes as the baby starts to gain weight at a rate of about a half a pound per week. During this time, I recommend you come in at least every two weeks. It is a good idea to come in shortly after your appointment with your doctor. This way, you will be able to share any of your doctor’s concerns and we can proceed with the massage in an informed direction. During the last month of pregnancy, and any weeks that you go past your due date, once or even twice a week may be necessary. Prenatal massage provides both physical and emotional support.
In my practice, first time moms who have come in according to these recommendations have had labors much shorter than the average twelve hours, and have the ability to relax and push effectively during the last stage of labor. For these reasons, I continue to sell my prenatal massages at the discounted rate you receive when you bought your six-pack. These rates continue through your postpartum period. Please click to go to Benefits of Postnatal Massage Page.
*Rachel in my massage room, comfortably resting on my side-lying memory foam system, eight months into her pregnancy with baby Paul.
Paul weighed 9lbs at birth and was born at home.
4. Research on Benefits of Prenatal Massage
A Touch Research Institute (TRI) study shows that regular professional massage provides less prematurity, less leg and back aches.
Anthropological studies indicate that most of the world’s most peaceful cultures use touch prominently during pregnancy and early childhood (Prescott 2005).
Mothers that are nurtured and massaged are more able to care for and nurture their babies.
In one study, pregnant women who were massaged twice weekly for 5 weeks experienced less anxiety and less leg and back pain. They reported better sleep and improved moods, and their labors had fewer complications, including fewer premature births (Field et at. 1999).
Women and their partners who learn relaxation techniques are better able to adapt to stress, both during pregnancy and labor and in the days and years of parenting (Nichols and Humenick 2000; Hetherington 2007).
Massage therapy supports expectant women because it generally makes them feel good, function more efficiently, and/or feel more optimistic.
Certain types of massage are intrinsically relaxing, encouraging a woman to turn inward, concentrating on her own body and mind rather than on external events, giving a particular sense of letting go (Samuels and Samuels 1996). That is soothing to most women and perfect preparation for coping with the demands of labor and birth.
In preparation for labor, perinatal specialists recommend women practice deep, sustained levels of relaxation for 45-60 minutes without falling asleep, especially in the last 6 to 8 weeks of pregnancy (Samuels and Samuels 1996). This is the exact length of most massage therapy sessions.
When relaxed, an expectant woman will have steadier blood pressure, pulse, and respiratory rates; regular blood flow to uterus, placenta, and fetus; and healthier immune system functioning, emotional states, and responses to stressful stimuli, and she feels less fearful and anxious (Nichols and Humenick 2000).
Massage reduces the immediate pain level. Multiple sessions are potentially even more powerful in pain reduction and in diminishing anxiety and depression (Moyer et al. 2004).
Massage can create the same positive physiological states and increased alpha wave activity as meditation. Massage movements provide variations in pressure, rhythm, and positioning that flood the sensory nerve pathways with input that increases body awareness and overrides signals of pain and stress (Juhan 1998).
As a massage therapist I provide not just soothing, nurturing touch, but I also bring focused, individualized attention to my clients’ concerns. This regular, caring contact can be vital component to pregnant women’s support system.
“I had a wonderful experience at my massage yesterday. I thought I had had prenatal massages in the past, but after yesterday, I realize I had never actually had a real prenatal massage before. Laura was extremely knowledgeable about the changes the body goes through during pregnancy. I will definitely be going back!”Lauren S
“Laura has magic in her hands! I love this lady and the light that she brings to me and my baby. She is attentive, kind and super knowledgeable with her gift of massage therapy. I feel like her specialty is prenatal, but she did wonders for my tension and headaches before I was pregnant. I would highly recommend Mother Earth Massage to others and in fact, I have!”Sunshine N
Benefits of Postnatal Massage
Postnatal Massage, also called Postpartum Massage, helps the body recover faster as it tries to return to its normal state. Some women prefer a light pampering massage while others enjoy deeper techniques to work out the knots. Deep tissue massage can be performed on postnatal women with exceptions to certain areas of the legs, for 6-8 weeks after delivery, due to the continued increase in clotting agents. Benefits of postnatal massage include:
- Pain relief
- Reduces stress, anxiety and postpartum depression
- Speeds healing
- Improves concentration
- Reduces fatigue by enhancing sleep quality
- Increases circulation
- Improves hormone regulation and elimination
- Increases breast milk production
- Assists in c-section recovery
- Promotes tissue regeneration, reducing scar tissue and stretch marks
- Reduces post delivery and surgical swelling
- Helps with Mommy Neck
- Can eliminate trigger points that create mystery pains
- Release endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers
- Reduce headaches
A new mom must remember that her body has been flooded with oxytocin and endorphins. Because of these hormones her threshold for pain is high. It always amazes me to hear new moms say, “I didn’t realize my ____ hurt.” It could be her arms, legs, neck, face or belly. Throughout the body we will find areas of soreness and tension and will release these areas. This will help your body recover faster.
As mothering continues the mother’s body holds a variety of positions for feeding and diaper changing, not to mention the car seat, the diaper bag and the purse. New mothers spend about 40 hours feeding their newborns. Childcare can cause arm, shoulder, neck and back pain. Commonly called Mothers Neck, massage can help a new mother regain her posture and reduce muscle strain.
Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression
Postpartum massage helps with the “Baby Blues.” About two-thirds of new moms experience temporary postpartum blues. Postnatal massage provides emotional support and releases endorphins (a natural painkiller), which trigger a positive feeling in the body. Postpartum depression affects 10-15% of all mothers. Studies have shown that massage is beneficial in treating postpartum depression, but don’t hesitate to consult with your other healthcare providers for additional help with postpartum depression.
With all the new responsibilities of motherhood, new moms can feel scattered, frustrated and exhausted. An hour of self-care can recharge a mom, making her new life more manageable and increasing her sleep quality.
Massage greatly improves postpartum hormone balance. Estrogen and progesterone are very high during pregnancy and decrease after delivery. Oxytocin and endorphins rise during labor. Prolactin and oxytocin hormone levels rise to facilitate breastfeeding. Cortisol rises during stress. Studies indicate that massage reduces the stress hormone cortisol. Essential oils and aromatherapy can also aid in hormone and mood balance. Mothers can choose from therapeutic grade dōTERRA oils during their massages to enhance hormone and mood balance, or they may bring in their favorite oil.
During pregnancy there was a 40% increase in interstitial fluids and a 50% increase in blood volume. Massage increases circulation and lymphatic drainage to facilitate elimination of excess fluids and waste products. Excess hormones can also cause swelling. Massage helps hormone regulation, which will also decrease swelling. During this time you want to continue your high fluid intake, for healing and lactation. You can judge your fluid intake by the color of your urine. Dark yellow urine is a sure sign that you need more fluids.
Better Quality Sleep
Most new moms feel exhausted after labor, delivery, and visitors in the hospital. When they get home their lives are filled with around-the-clock baby care. Massage will ease fatigue, promote relaxation and assist in a better quality of sleep. Studies have shown an increase in delta brain waves both during massage therapy and in deep sleep. This is why it is very common to fall asleep during a massage. Getting enough sleep is important to postpartum recovery. Your concentration and outlook will improve when you are well-rested. Arrange some help and get regular massages for better rest and sleep.
Breastfeeding can be challenging for some moms. Massage therapy relaxes the body, increases circulation and increases milk production. Studies show that massage increases prolactin levels, a lactation hormone. Massage for “Mommy’s Neck” includes the neck, back, shoulders and pectoral muscles. By relaxing the chest muscles the shoulders can be held back, which opens the shoulders and improves lactation.
Postnatal Massage at Mother Earth Massage
1. Postnatal Massage at Mother Earth Massage
Postpartum massage allows the new mom to concentrate less on her pain and discomfort and more on her precious baby. It helps to relax the muscles and de-stress the body and mind after everything it has just endured.
I remember being a new mom. There was so much to do after the baby is born that I had a hard time trying to squeeze in time to take a shower. After baby number two, there seemed to be even less time. Leaving the house and making the time to go in for a postnatal massage can be quite challenging.
I suggest either leaving your baby with a competent caregiver or bringing the baby with you. If you are feeling all alone in your new adventure as a parent, perhaps your family doesn’t live nearby or you don’t know of any other new moms, I suggest that you attend a few of the Infant Massage classes, make some new friends and trade babysitting, so that you can both get in for your well-deserved postnatal massages. Infant Massage classes occur on the second Sunday and Tuesday of every month here at Mother Earth Massage. To find out more follow this link.
Babies who are fed before their mom’s massage usually sleep during their mom’s massage. If you bring the baby with you, I will set up the table in the side-lying position. This way we can make the transition of moving the baby to the table to rest near you on the table. Most mothers and their babies fit comfortably on the table until the baby is about six months old. During your massage you can choose to put your baby in my bassinette, take the baby onto the table with you, or leave the baby to rest in the car seat. If you come in without the baby, you can lay on your belly, on top of a special bolster that takes the pressure off tender breasts. I use disposable covers so that you have nothing to worry about. Please let me know whether you are planning on bringing the baby with you.
Most new moms wear their highest-cut underwear during their first few postnatal massages. This allows for easy access to the hip area and sanitary comfort. Additionally, I have disposable covers strategically placed on the table, so there is nothing to worry about.
I do everything that I can think of to make your postpartum massages worry-free.
2. C-section and Postnatal Massage
Mothers who deliver cesarean can enjoy a postnatal massage. The abdomen is not touched until the wound is healed. However, the rest of your body is able to benefit from a postnatal massage. Massage reduces swelling and helps remove chemicals that were used in the surgery and regulate the hormones in your body. Massage to the abdomen can begin after it is okayed by your physician or midwife.
3. When should I start coming in for my postnatal massages?
The best case scenario would be within 12-48 hours of delivery, then come in as often as you can financially manage. Those who have purchased a six-pack can continue to come at the discounted price. However, it is never too late for a postnatal massage. I have witnessed amazing results of pain relief after suffering for years with pains that have “been there since the birth of my baby.”
Aromatherapy can be effective therapy for postpartum moms. dōTERRA essential oils are pure, therapeutic grade extractions from plants, and can assist with relaxation, hormone balance, cleansing, anxiety or depression. Most high-quality oils are safe and non-allergenic after pregnancy, but let your therapist know if you are nursing. Most aromatherapy can be diffused into the air, added to lotion, or applied topically. Inquire about using oils during your massage and how you can take them home with you.