A pregnancy massage, also known as a prenatal massage, is a massage received while you are pregnant. Prenatal (pregnancy) massage promotes relaxation, soothes and bonds mother and child.
Prenatal massages should be in accordance with generally accepted medical guidance of the NHS and only be provided to mothers who can confirm that they are over 12 weeks pregnant. There should always be a clear line of communication between the mother-to-be and her therapist. The pregnancy massages should always be performed by a specially qualified prenatal massage therapist
Massage therapy is categorized as a complementary medicine and is perhaps the most commonly used type of complementary therapy. Generally, when we feel like we need help to reduce discomforts such as stiffness or sore muscles, most of us will likely opt for massage therapy. Indisputably, the two most popular massage therapy forms are Swedish massage, also known as a classic massage, and deep tissue massage. While there are differences between a Swedish massage and a deep tissue massage, the similarities between the two massage techniques overweigh. In many aspects, a deep tissue massage, if you like, is an extension of a Swedish massage; however, both of these forms of massage therapy are highly recommendable. There is little to no danger in a massage when provided by a trained and qualified practitioner. The beneficial effects of massage therapy for conditions such as alleviating muscle tension, back pain, joint pain, muscle aches, and improving circulation have been revealed in hundreds of studies. These studies support massage therapy and many of them also emphasize that massage therapy can positively impact not only the physical wellbeing but also the mental wellbeing
Have you ever wondered where that surge of positive emotions and sense of relaxation comes from during or after a massage?
For those of you who haven’t yet experienced the delight of a massage, it a feeling of contentment and relaxation— it’s that “feel-good” moment, a feeling of contentment and relaxation. As if a burden has been lifted from your shoulders.
Massage therapy helps stimulate the release of neurotransmitters like endorphins, serotonin and dopamine, these “feel-good” hormones are responsible for that immediate sense of total wellbeing. If practiced on a regular basis, massage therapy can be a powerful tool to help reduce stress and increase relaxation. Studies also indicate that massage therapy significantly reduces the (physical) symptoms associated with anxieties and depression.
Pregnancy is a wonderful time of beauty and growth in so many different ways. It is a time in which changes in a woman’s body occur even before she is aware of her pregnancy. Throughout the entire pregnancy, the body evolves to accommodate the baby. The body magnificently conspires to make growth of a new being possible.
During pregnancy the ligaments relax and the pregnant woman’s posture and centre change. Some women experience these change, and other bodily changes more than others, but in general, most women will acknowledge the transformations taking place in their body over the course of nine months pregnancy—especially as their belly starts to pull forward and their body starts leaning back to ensure that the growing fetus has enough room to grow and nourish. These and other significant changes, playfully known as the “joys” of pregnancy, often come with their perks like weakening of the abdominal walls and increasing strain on the muscles which could result to a combination of body aches and pains in the back, abdomen, groin area, and thighs. Many women in the third trimester of their pregnancy may also suffer from ankle and foot pain which can be quite intensive.
Did you know that even your feet can grow during pregnancy?
Yes, pregnant women’s feet can actually become larger during pregnancy— a change that is often a permanent one. The feet bears the weight of our entire body; they help us to keep our balance and cushion our weight on hard surfaces or while we run or jump. Our feet is rightfully crowned as an anatomical marvel for its complex structure, a foot consists of 26 mainly tiny bones, over 100 tendons, ligaments, and muscles that move over 30 joints which all play a specific role in enabling the feet to carry our weight.
During pregnancy, the body increases the number of various types of hormones including the levels of a hormone called Relaxin. Relaxin, like many other hormones, has a variety of functions and also accounts for a considerable amount of changes within the body during pregnancy. As the name suggests, relaxin is also responsible for a relaxation—loosening—of ligaments (ligamentous laxity) which occurs throughout the expecting woman’s entire body including her feet. The increased levels of the hormone relaxin aid the implementation of the fetus by loosening the ligaments, tendons, muscles, and joints hence enabling the mother’s pelvis to make more room for the baby. This busy hormone also does a bit of “footwork”— it separates the foot bones a bit and also flattens the arch of the foot to allow more mobility and stability in the foot as the mother’s center of gravity alters in pregnancy and causes a new weight-bearing stance and added pressure to feet and knees.
The combination of laxity in foot bones and in the arch and increased weight along with other factors may lead to structural changes in the feet and could also leave the pregnant woman with a flatter and more elongated foot even postpartum. Some women might be a size bigger after the birth of their bundle of joy.
As mentioned earlier, hormones affect the pregnant woman’s body in each trimester—muscular and structural changes throughout pregnancy and the extra weight gain may lead to some women experiencing discomforting but minor pains, while other women might experience aches and pains that can be very intensive. Some mothers-to-be suffer from Edema a condition when the ankles and feet swell from accumulation of fluid (water retention) caused by impaired circulation and the pull of gravity. Weight gain is another factor that can also contribute to edema. This sometimes very painful condition is more common in women in their last pregnancy trimester.
We all know that aching, tender feeling that comes from a long period of standing, right?
What do we almost instinctively do, other than put our feet up , when we get the chance to sit down and toss our shoes off after 8 hours on our feet?
Yes, I thought so. Most of us would probably instinctively reach for our feet and give them a good rub—something many pregnant people might not be physically able to do by themselves due to their bodily circumstances and let’s be honest, the skillful techniques a massage therapist applies are hard to beat. A qualified prenatal massage therapist or masseur will skilfully apply pressure in the right areas after a professional consultation.
The beneficial effects of a foot massage by a well-trained pregnancy massage therapist can be of physical nature: to help the circulatory system and lymphatic system but can also provide relief on a psychological level. A foot massage can help to destress, relax and unwind. It also allows the mummy to feel more in touch with herself—mum time!
A foot massage during pregnancy has many benefits but should only be provided by a registered massage therapist trained in parental massage to ensure that massage brings the necessary benefits and more importantly, that the mother and child are safe.
Here are some of the benefits of a foot massage:
- Reduce swelling, or edema (fluid retention) in a pregnant woman by stimulating the blood circulation
- Restoring mental balance—massage induces a calm and peaceful feeling.
As studies have shown, massages can help regulate hormone levels which are associated with stress and relaxation. This can be especially essential for first-time mothers as it helps them prepare for a healthy delivery, reduce anxiety, and positively influences pregnant women.
Touch is language — Pregnancy massage - also known as the prenatal massage - promotes relaxation and bonding and soothes nerves
The aches and pains of motherhood and how pregnancy massage can help
Typically, the body is in a state of peak performance during pregnancy.
The expectant mother’s hormones and her physical structure is in a constant state of change and alteration. It is therefore not uncommon for pregnant women to struggle with tiredness, sleep disorders, headaches and many other physical complaints.
Some mothers-to-be might also experience, anxiety and higher levels of stress but while these conditions might sound alarming, to a certain degree they are not unusual, and this alone would not endanger the baby.
With all the joys of being a mother, take into account that the beautiful baby bump means that your body is accommodating a marvelous new life. Modifications in the body, within your temple, are continuously occurring. Your body is busy creating hormones like human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), which is a hormone only produced during pregnancy and at the same time other hormone levels are increased or reduced.
Fluctuating hormones, while necessary to support you and the growing child in you, can have a major impact on your mood and body. As the pregnancy progresses, the pressures on your body become immense; the physical strain caused by the increasing weight of your unborn baby as well as the effects of hormonal changes can lead to discomforts such as backache, stiff neck, leg cramps, headaches and swelling in the joints.
Pregnancy massage increases blood flow to muscles and can be an effective tool to ease these aches and pains by helping the muscles work more efficiently.
Massage is a wonderful treatment to reduce stress and to ensure optimum health.
Stress hormones are also lowered by massage which in turn can reduce anxiety, improve your mood, and can increase your sleep pattern. Prenatal massage also creates a natural pain relief by stimulating the production of endorphins and serotonin, which calms and reduces stress for mother and baby alike. There are many benefits that a mother-to-be can gain through a pregnancy massage.
While the essential benefits of massage therapy remain the same, there are certain massage techniques that focus on different parts of a pregnant woman’s body to produce effects of bodily systems and to address the changes a woman's body goes through during pregnancy.
A well-trained pregnancy therapist will use these and other safe techniques for pregnancy massage.
Examples of common types of massage include:
- Deep-tissue massage, with firm strokes pressing deep into muscles
- Swedish massage, with long strokes to muscles and attention to joint mobility
- Shiatsu, with pressure and tapping on acupressure points to stimulate the body's natural energy (called qi)
Which symptoms can a pregnancy massage be helpful for?
A professionally performed pregnancy massage helps to find and responds to problems in the body that cause pain or disorders of wellbeing. Many pregnant women may suffer from back pain in the middle or upper back which could also be caused by the rapidly growing breast. Headaches caused by muscle tension in the neck are also common—gentle shoulder and neck massage that relaxes the muscles can help against headaches as effectively as foot massage can help the discomfort during pregnancy.
The benefits of pregnancy massage include:
- Relief for muscle cramps, tension, and stressed joints
- Relieves pain, especially in the lower back, neck, hips and legs
- Increased blood flow and lymphatic circulation, which can reduce swelling
- Stimulates the body’s release of endorphin which acts as a natural painkiller and eases labor pain
- Improves the suppleness of the skin and the underlying tissue.
- Contributes to Increased levels of the "feel-good" hormones’ serotonin and dopamine
- Decreased levels of cortisol, an indicator of stress
- Promote the physiological response of relaxation
- Improve sleep
- Supports the new mother with physical and emotional stress through childbirth
- Reduction of muscle tension, especially in the middle and upper back, neck, shoulders, and buttocks
- Help with tension, fatigue, headache and sleep disorders
- Improve body awareness and support posture and awareness
- Relaxation of the muscles and support for the birth preparation
- Strengthening skin elasticity
- Stimulation of circulation and blood circulation, nutrient exchange in the placenta is improved
Last but not least
- Rest and relaxation
Is pregnancy massage safe?
In general, it can be said that during a normal pregnancy—a pregnancy without known risk conditions—there is no reason not to perform massages.
Specially trained prenatal therapist uses special massage techniques that are tailored to the special needs during pregnancy and are risk-free.
A massage during pregnancy differs from normal massage in several ways.
The main difference is obviously that the person receiving the massage is pregnant, and therefore knowledge of the pregnancy and anatomy of a pregnant woman is very important. This means that positioning during a massage is crucial for the safety and wellbeing of the mother and baby. There are also parts of the body that should not be massaged and instances when a massage would not be appropriate, for example when there are pregnancy complications.
- The most recommended and safest position for prenatal massage thereapy is the side-laying
- Ensuring the mother is safe, comfortable and well supported on pillows and cushions
- "Dangerous" zones or acupressure points and sensitive areas of the body should not be massaged.
Communication with the therapist is important and all points should be clarified in a preliminary consultation and before each therapy!
Pregnant bodies do hard work—pregnancy massage support, mothers-to-be
Pregnancy massage helps expectant mums recuperate and bond with their unborn baby. Greater comfort for mum equates to a fetus growing in a healthy environment where it can develop and thrive!