Few things feel as good as a massage, especially during pregnancy. A pregnancy massage can relieve stress, ease aching muscles, and leave you feeling pampered and relaxed. In fact, a prenatal massage is so beneficial that many midwives, nurses, and physicians regularly recommend massage to their pregnant patients.
Benefits of Pregnancy Massage
According to the American Pregnancy Association, there are plenty of great reasons for pregnant women to have a massage, including:
- Relieving muscle soreness, including the round ligament pain, backaches, and pelvic pain often associated with pregnancy.
- Providing relaxation and aiding in insomnia relief.
- Helping to maintain good posture during a time when the extra weight and constantly changing body of a pregnant woman makes it difficult to practice good posture.
- Preparing the muscles used in childbirth.
- Reducing swelling in the hands and feet.
- Alleviating digestive complaints, such as gas and nausea.
- Helping ease stretch mark concerns and skin tightness.
How to Give a Prenatal Massage
During the early weeks of pregnancy, a mother can usually lie on her stomach and receive a massage the same as she might any other time. As her stomach becomes rounder and firmer, lying on her side will be more comfortable. This is also recommended after the twenty-second week of pregnancy when lying flat on the back reduces circulation for her and the baby.
There are several things to keep in mind if you are giving a massage to a pregnant woman. Since many women are especially sensitive to odors, use an unscented lotion and make sure your fingernails are short and trimmed smooth. Avoid wearing rings, watches, or any other jewelry that may distract from the experience and make sure to administer the massage in a quiet area, away from the distractions of children, pets, and telephones. The goal is to help mom relax in a nurturing environment. Soothing, soft music may also help set the mood. A pregnancy massage may last from 10 minutes to an hour, depending on how much discomfort the mother is feeling.
When administering a prenatal massage, use a firm touch, but avoid massaging so deeply that the mother experiences pain. For this reason, good communication is necessary between you and the mother. Follow her lead in where and how deeply you massage and avoid massaging the area between the ankle and heel. Many professionals believe this area is related to the uterus and that massaging this part of the body may lead to early delivery.
Professional massage therapists often recommend at least a weekly massage during the first and second trimester and more frequent ones during the last trimester, when mothers often experience increased back pain, leg cramps, and round ligament pains.
Prenatal Massage Cautions
Prenatal massage isn't for everyone. For this reason, it is advisable to check with the doctor or midwife before undergoing a massage. The American Pregnancy Associations says some of the pregnancy-related problems that may make massage inadvisable include:
- Abdominal pain
- High blood pressure
- Morning sickness
- Heavy discharge
- A high risk pregnancy
Pregnancy is a time of elevated hormones and constant demands on the mother's body to adjust to the new condition. While it is an exciting time in a woman's life, it is also accompanied by mental and physical fatigue. Pregnancy massage can relieve these added stresses while preparing the body for childbirth.