How is Prenatal Massage Different from Regular Massage?
The goals of a prenatal massage are essentially the same as your regular massage: to help you relax, de-stress, and address any areas of tension or pain so that you leave your session feeling ease and balance in your body and mind. Usually pregnant women have some issues they would like to take care of that are not on their regular list. These can include low back and hip pain or tension due to the ever increasing weight they are carrying in front, digestive and breathing issues due to the crowding of organs in the abdominal cavity, and upper back issues due to, yes, among other factors, ever increasing breast size. The way your body works and moves when you are pregnant is quite different from its regular state. My clients have found massage to be very helpful for all these issues as well as others and they love to have the time to rest, relax and be cared for.
I make a few changes to the regular session when women come to me for prenatal massage including the following. After the first trimester we no longer work in the prone or face down position, to avoid putting unneeded pressure on the abdomen and stress on the uterine ligaments. Also, during pregnancy, and depending upon what week you are in, we will work briefly with you lying on your back and shifted to the left side, or later in pregnancy in a semi-reclined position. This is to avoid compression of the vena cava which can cause low maternal blood pressure and decreased circulation to mother and baby. As always, if there are special concerns or unique instructions from your doctor we factor those in as well. A large part of your massage will be done in the side lying position, propped with many soft pillows for maximum safety and comfort. Many of my pregnant clients have asked me to come home with them to arrange their pillows at night before they sleep. I imagine their partners would not be so excited about this! I sleep in this same position now, propped with pillows, although I am no longer pregnant, because I find it to be so supportive and comfortable.
There are also areas on a pregnant woman where we avoid applying deep or pointed pressure. These areas include the abdomen, insides of the legs and certain reflexive or shiatsu points which are used to promote uterine contraction. The abdomen, however, can be massaged in a gentle manner which can be of great benefit to both mom and baby. When receiving a prenatal massage you are given the choice of whether to include the abdomen, just as it is you right during any massage to decline work in a specific area. Most women find the abdominal work to be soothing and relaxing, and judging from the babies movement I would say they agree!
Prenatal massage has many benefits for both mother and baby. It can reduce stress, tension and anxiety, relieve muscle and joint pain, reduce swelling, strengthen the immune system, and improve digestion. Recent studies from the Touch Research Institute (TRI) indicate that pregnancy massage provides more than just symptom relief for the mother. In this study pregnant women were given either massage or relaxation therapy during a five-week study. In addition to experiencing a reduction in symptoms of anxiety, stress, sleep problems and back pain, the massage group had fewer complications in their delivery and their newborns had fewer postnatal complications. Go massage!
When you are ready to have your prenatal massage, be sure to find a therapist who is certified. I was certified through Carol Osborne and Body Therapy Associates. Therapists who are certified in prenatal massage have training to know what is safe, appropriate and effective for mothers and babies as well as knowledge of pregnancy and anatomy of the pregnant body. If you have any questions about prenatal massage feel free to give me a call or send me an email; I hope to see you soon for your much needed and deserved prenatal massage, mom!