For centuries people have been turning to therapeutic massage as a safe, natural way to improve overall health, relieve aches and pains, and reduce anxiety and stress. In the past, there has been some uncertainty in the healthcare community regarding the safety of massage during pregnancy. However, recent studies show that prenatal massage performed by a certified prenatal massage therapist can be safe at any stage of pregnancy, and it even offers some unexpected benefits.
Regulating the Hormones
In recent years, studies show that hormone levels can be directly associated with stress and relaxation. Prenatal massage therapy induces a state of relaxation that can help to regulate hormone levels, particularly the stress hormones cortisol and norepinephrine.
This results in better mood regulation and cardiovascular health for the mom-to-be. However, levels of the hormones dopamine and serotonin are increased. Low levels of serotonin and dopamine have been directly linked to depression, a common issue for many women during pregnancy.
In addition, these regulated hormone levels can also reduce complications during birth. Issues such as low birth rate are much less common in women who receive regular prenatal massage during pregnancy.
Studies show that the overall health of both mother and baby are significantly improved when massage therapy is part of their routine prenatal care.
Swelling of the joints, or edema, is quite common during pregnancy. Usually, the condition is caused by poor circulation and an increase in pressure on the blood vessels from the growing uterus.
Prenatal massage therapy can reduce the collection of fluids in the joints and stimulate circulation. It can also assist the body’s lymph system to remove toxins and waste from the body.
Improving Sciatic Nerve Pain
One of the most common complaints during pregnancy is sciatica or nerve pain in the lower back and legs. The condition occurs during late pregnancy because the heavy uterus is resting on the lower back and pelvic floor. The increased pressure of the growing uterus causes tension in the muscle of the leg, which causes them to swell and put pressure on the surrounding nerves.
Massage therapy can be very effective for reducing inflammation in the nerves because it releases the tension in the muscles.
Easier Labor and Delivery
Research conducted in 1998 showed that women could receive significant benefits during labor and delivery if they received regular prenatal massage throughout their pregnancy. The study showed that delivery times were twenty-five percent shorter and there were half as many Cesarean births. There was a sixty percent decrease in requests for epidurals and a thirty percent decrease in the need for pain medications overall.
Additional Benefits of Prenatal Massage
Women who receive prenatal massage throughout their pregnancy will receive other benefits as well. Massage therapy can help to reduce blood pressure and relieve varicose veins. It can also provide relief for muscle spasms and cramps that are so common during pregnancy.
Morning sickness symptoms, heartburn, and headaches can also be reduced by focusing on specific acupressure points during the massage. There is also some evidence that massage improves the pliability of the skin and underlying tissues, resulting in fewer stretch marks.
Benefits During Each Trimester
The expert New York City prenatal massage therapists at the Yinova Center recommend prenatal massage during every stage of pregnancy.
As you move along in your pregnancy, your body’s needs will change. A prenatal massage therapist will be prepared for those changes and adjust your treatment plan accordingly. During the first trimester, your belly is just beginning to grow. Your center of gravity will shift, causing stress and strain on weaker areas. At this early stage of pregnancy, the focus will be on your muscles, ligaments, and any other pre-existing conditions you may have.
Special attention will be paid to posture, chronic pain in the neck, back, or shoulders, and other recurring issues.
Addressing such problems early on will help your body adjust to the added weight it will be carrying as your baby grows.
Early pregnancy can also be a stressful time, and massage can help reduce anxiety and create a feeling of relaxation. Your pregnancy is settled by the second trimester. Now is the time to focus on supporting the growing uterus. There are thirteen ligaments that support the uterus as it grows in size from a mere four ounces to as much as thirteen pounds. The added pressure on these ligaments is the leading cause of pelvic and back pain, premature delivery, and painful back labor. Massage therapy can help keep these ligaments toned to prevent these symptoms.
Your massage therapist may also teach you some helpful self-care massage techniques that can be used at home during this stage. As labor approaches during the third trimester, there is added strain on the ligaments due to the weight of your baby and the increased hormone levels that prepare your body for birth. Even simple movements can cause mild pain or injury during this time. The added pressure of your uterus on your legs and digestive system can lead to issues with digestion and elimination. Prenatal massage can help relieve these symptoms while relaxing the body to help prepare it for labor, delivery, and recovery. Your therapist may include Swedish massage, stretching and range of motion exercises, myofascial massage, and other techniques to induce relaxation and ease tension during your sessions. Each session could be anywhere from one to two hours, depending on what needs to be addressed.
Treatment plans will vary greatly from patient to patient, but most therapists will recommend massage sessions at least once a week throughout your pregnancy.
There are many unexpected health benefits of prenatal massage. In addition, regular prenatal massage sessions throughout your pregnancy will leave you feeling more relaxed, restored, and free of tension.
Your prenatal massage therapist will also teach you relaxation techniques you can use at home and during your labor. Prenatal massage should be considered as a valuable addition to your regular prenatal care routine.