Massage therapy performed during pregnancy may help reduce relieve muscle aches and joint pains, anxiety and decrease symptoms of depression. Clinical studies have shown that stress hormone levels drop significantly when massage therapy was introduced to women’s prenatal care. A course of massages over 6 weeks resulted in a reduction of stress hormones associated with stress and depression. These changes were also associated with a significant reduction of complications during childbirth and higher birth weight. There is good evidence to maternal and newborn health benefits when therapeutic massage is incorporated into regular prenatal care.
The increasing weight of the uterus in late pregnancy puts pressure on the muscles in the legs and commonly resulting in low back sciatica pain. Clinical case studies have shown that some women will benefit through regular massage during pregnancy through reduction in sciatic nerve pain.
Swelling of the joints
Is often caused by reduced circulation and increased pressure on the major blood vessels by the heavy uterus. Massage helps to stimulate soft tissues to reduce collection of fluids in swollen joints and their removal through the body’s lymph system.
When is it safe to begin massage?
Women can begin massage therapy at any point in their pregnancy after consultation and prior approval of their treating physician. There are conditions that may affect the manner in which massage therapy is conducted such as Preeclampsia, high risk pregnancy, Pregnancy induced hypertension, premature term labor, severe swelling, high blood pressure, or sudden, severe headaches or recently birth.
Remedial massage therapists may use pressure points on the ankles and wrists gently stimulate pelvic muscles, including the uterus. Certified prenatal massage therapists are trained to avoid very specific and intentional pressure points on the ankles and wrists during pregnancy which may stimulate pelvic muscles.
The patient must alert the therapist to any consistent Braxton-Hicks contractions or Pre-term contractions so that pressure points can be avoided completely.
Other potential benefits of prenatal massage:
- Reduced back pain
- Reduced joint pain
- Improved circulation
- Reduced edema
- Reduced muscle tension and headaches
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Improved oxygenation of soft tissues and muscles
- Better sleep
Massage and Pregnancy: Precautions for Prenatal Massage?
Trained prenatal massage therapists are aware of pressure points on the ankles and wrists that can gently stimulate pelvic muscles and trained to avoid specific and intentional pressure to these areas during pregnancy. Any woman who has experienced pre-term contractions or consistent Braxton-Hicks contractions should alert her therapist to that fact so that pressure points can be avoided completely.
Women with the following conditions must receive specific recommendations from their treating physician prior to receiving a massage:
- High risk pregnancy
- Pregnancy induced hypertension (PIH)
- Previous pre-term labor
- Experiencing severe swelling, high blood pressure, or sudden, severe headaches
- Recently gave birth
Massage techniques by qualified and experienced massage therapists alleviate muscle tension and aches helping relieve swelling and help promote a general physical and mental state of well being for the expectant mother. Extensive studies show beneficial results to the maternal health and postnatal outcomes for healthy women entering pregnancy.
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Field, T., Diego, M., Hernandez-Reif, M., Schanberg, S., & Kuhn, C. (2004). Massage therapy effects on depressed pregnant women. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, 25(2), 115-122.
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