After getting great feedback from my last blog about children’s massage, I got to thinking I should probably step back and talk about massage much, much earlier — before those kids are born!
While I don’t typically don’t do pregnancy massage (for reasons that I explain below), I still get a lot of questions about this topic. My biggest piece of advice is to talk with your doctor about the potential benefits and risks of everything you might do during pregnancy — including massage. Also, keep in mind that the benefits and risks change over the course of your pregnancy. Here are some key things to consider:
As my regular clients know, every appointment starts with a conversation about any areas of concern. If you have discovered you’re pregnant — or even if you suspect you might be — please let me know during this conversation. While I haven’t seen any reliable research to prove that commonly used massage therapy techniques could harm your baby, there are some considerations.
First of all, because pregnancy increases blood flow, you may respond to massage therapy differently. For example, pressure might seem more pronounced, or a technique that usually feels good might make you feel nauseous.
Also, I would want to avoid any pressure on or near the uterus. For example, clients with low back pain often find relief when I massage the psoas muscle using pressure on the abdominal area — but I would not want to do that on someone who is pregnant.
Finally, there are some who think that working specific reflexology pressure points in the feet could stimulate muscle contractions. When you’re a week past your due date and baby isn’t budging, stimulating contractions might be exactly what you want! But during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, when the risk of miscarriage is highest, it’s simply not worth the risk in my mind.
So, while some massage therapy practices will not accept any clients who are in their first trimester, I am open to seeing existing clients when they first become pregnant. However, I will definitely modify the treatment they receive — and recommend that they switch to a prenatal massage specialist for the duration of the pregnancy.
As your pregnancy progresses and your belly grows, you’re likely to start feeling pain in your joints and muscles — especially in the low back. Increased blood flow can make your whole body feel uncomfortable. And the hormones rushing through your body might make you feel more stressed or anxious than you want to be. In short, you might think you have never needed a massage more in your life!
Well, the good news is that most doctors and midwives support (and many even encourage) massage during the second trimester. During the second trimester, some prenatal massage therapists use a special table with cut-outs so the client can lay face-down without putting pressure on the abdomen. Others will situate the client on their side on a flat table, supported by cushions, and then use special techniques for this side-lying position.
In addition to positioning, another facet of prenatal massage is the technique itself. Most prenatal massage therapists I know use long, gliding movements (like Swedish massage) rather than deep pressure because this technique is better suited to the aches, pains, and swelling associated with pregnancy.
During the last few months of pregnancy, those second-trimester aches and pains will likely continue — and new issues like swollen ankles tend to appear. Massage therapy can bring blessed relief, but it can also be more challenging during the third trimester.
One of those challenges is positioning. With the belly too big to fit in a massage table cut-out, the side-lying position becomes most common. However, some pregnant women have trouble with heartburn when lying down. One alternative is a special massage chair that stretches out the back without pinching blood vessels in the abdomen and hips.
Another challenge is the bladder. You might need to have shorter appointments or stop for bathroom breaks!
Finally, it is still advised to avoid pressure points on the feet that could stimulate contractions — unless, of course, you are at or past your due date.
Other than that, there are few contraindications for massage during the third trimester. In fact, some doctors and midwives recommend massage during labor!
After you give birth, massage can it help reduce swelling. It is also a good way to reduce stress — which is important as your body adjusts to the drop in hormone levels. While it can be difficult to take time for yourself, it’s important to care for yourself as much as you care for others. Think of it this way: You just brought a human into the world — you deserve it!
Have more questions? Contact me!
If you have any other questions about massage therapy during pregnancy, feel free to contact me at MassageIsHealingForEveryone.com.
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