Pregnancy & Massage
Is it safe?
Pregnancy is a special time for you and your baby and you want to make sure it is safe for the both of you. Massage is safe and beneficial for the pregnant mum – as long as you are over the first trimester (12 weeks) and have had consent from your obstetrician or GP. Careful positioning ensures that specific areas and structures are protected and ultimately for your comfort. Special oils are used to nourish and support the skin as it makes way for the growing baby. Essential oils are carefully selected to help cope with emotional stress; relax or uplift the mind or simply help to prevent stretch marks. From 13 weeks to full term, both you and your baby can enjoy the benefits of massage.
Common pre-natal discomforts can arise due to hormonal changes from within: sinus and tension headaches maybe caused by hormonal changes, stress or increase in blood flow. Morning sickness: this usually dissipates after the 16th week, but may last throughout the pregnancy.
As the body starts to accommodate for the growing foetus, many women complain of heartburn due to intra-abdominal pressure and relaxation of the oesophageal sphincter. Pelvic joint and hip pain arise, due to the hormone relaxin which starts to exert its effects early in pregnancy making ligaments more loose and mobile. This may cause problems from an unstable vertebra to asymmetrical sacroiliac joints, which results in the surrounding muscles to become tight to support and stabilize the joints, causing pain and spasm.
Fluid retention can cause swelling and place pressure on the nerves and blood vessels of the wrist, causing tingling, pain, pins and needles and/or burning sensation of the fingers. Most often worse at night and felt in the middle and index fingers, this is known as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Fatigue and insomnia rate highly as the main discomfort experienced during pregnancy. With hormonal changes taking place, reductions in metabolic rate, constipation, anaemia and/or nutritional deficiencies all are contributing factors. Not to forget to add the extra weight that is being carried around – that of the baby and the amniotic fluid, an increase in blood volume and extra fat cells. All of these factors require the mum to rest more – which is not always the case.
Nurturing a baby is hard work. Take the time to nurture yourself and alleviate some of the stressors, which put pressure and pain on your body. Listen to your body and become aware not only with your growing baby, but your own needs too.
What can massage do?
Not only can massage address common pre-natal discomforts, massage is a great way to relax and keep in check of what’s going on within your body. It can help to alleviate neck and back pain due to muscular imbalance and poor posture; maintains flexibility in muscles, ligaments tendons and joints therefore reducing the occurrence of muscle spasms and leg cramps. The improved blood flow and circulation means greater oxygenation and nutrition is being delivered to tissues and cells in your body whilst enhancing waste product removal. By increasing lymphatic circulation, this in turn reduces fluid retention, swelling and fatigue.
With increased muscle suppleness and joint flexibility, recovery of muscle tissues is accelerated which helps with the structural re-alignment of the spine and pelvis after birth. All this you don’t even think about whilst feeding the baby and getting some much needed sleep!
Best of all, massage has a restorative effect on the nervous system which aides to relax the mum, helps to minimize negative effects of stress on the mum and baby. This will lead to a greater bonding, as you and your baby will be more in tune with each other.
Massage during labour
It has been well established that massage can play a role in easing labour pains during birth. Massage supports efficient hormone production and may ease and shorten the birth process. This is where your partner can come in and help relieve pain by stimulating pressure points during contractions. Well known acupressure points can be used to help induce labour and dilate the cervix or help turn the baby from a breach presentation.
Things you can do
Morning sickness: eat small but frequent meals throughout the day; one drop of peppermint oil in honey water every hour helps some women. Other women find ginger tea, ginger ale and ginger candies very soothing. Drinking raspberry leaf tea or sucking on the pit of an umeboshi plum (found in health food shops or Oriental grocery stores) can settle the stomach. Gentle daily walk to keep joints moving and for cardio fitness. Yoga is great as it keeps suppleness and flexibility whilst working on your core strength. Swimming has a very low impact on your joints whilst keeping your cardio fitness levels up.
Take the time out to meditate and chat to your baby. It’s amazing how much they can hear whilst inside your belly and this provides such great bonding experience. Sing him/her your favourite song and watch in amazement how they already know it when you sing it to them. Oh, and don’t forget your pelvic floor exercises! First time mums – just trust me and do it. Second time mums – you know what to do.
Massage is safe and highly recommended post-partum, however, please wait 6 weeks after birth and make sure you get your doctor’s ok to eliminate any complications that may arise. Massage helps your muscles return back to normal and is emotionally balancing to help with baby blues. Now that it’s your fulltime job to look after your little one, make sure that you are nourished yourself as well. After all, you are the most important to your baby.