Articles - Perinatal Massage
Massage in the Childbearing Year
Part of a holistic prenatal care program
If you are expecting a child or have already had one (or more) you are aware of the enormous physical and emotional changes that occur in the childbearing year. Receiving regular massage is preventative, restorative and pleasurable and can help you to prepare your body for pregnancy, labour and postpartum recovery.
How does massage help?
Increased weight and the changes in both your hormones and structural alignment, combine with the emotional stresses often experienced during this time to contribute to physical distress and tension. Massage addresses many of the aches and pains experienced during the childbearing year and helps to instil a feeling of well-being.
Circulation of both the blood and lymphatic systems is also improved with massage which results in better nutrition and more efficient elimination of toxins for you and the baby, as well as decreased swelling and varicose veins. Massage can also help you to train your mind and body for one of the most important parts of birth: noticing tight muscles and being able to relax them. Regular massage throughout pregnancy can contribute to a shorter labour and reduce distress, complications and interventions.
A Note About Safety
As with any alternative or complimentary healthcare practise, it is important to consult your physician or midwife before engaging the services of a Pregnancy Massage Practitioner.
Many expectant parents are told that massage should be avoided during pregnancy because there are certain areas that can send the client into labour. These points are known to those trained in Pregnancy Massage; your Practitioner will avoid these points or treat them with appropriate caution.
Anyone who has had massage will likely have spent some or all of their session lying face-down, so you might wonder how on earth a pregnant woman could receive an effective massage as her belly grows. When the time comes, your practitioner will be very comfortable treating you in the left side-lying position and will make sure that you are well-supported with a variety of special cushions and pillows. This is the same position that is recommended by healthcare professionals as the safest for sleeping, ensuring unobstructed blood flow through the body and to your baby because the major blood vessels are slightly to the right of the center of your back.
Some practitioners have a table that allows the belly to hang down through a hole into a supportive net. While this can be very comfy for many women, it is also a controversial practise as it has the potential to put undo strain on the relaxed muscles, ligaments and tendons that support the belly.
When you are in labour, massage can assist with your ability to cope with contractions by providing a feeling of reassurance and by helping to block pain messages. Your Practitioner can also show your partner or support person a variety of massage techniques that they can use on you during labour. This in turn can lead to an increased feeling of intimacy between the two of you.
In the postpartum period, massage can assist in your recovery by relaxing the muscles that have worked so hard, encouraging structural realignment and abdominal healing (including healing from a Caesarean birth), and provide essential respite from the postural strains and emotional stresses of tending to your newborn. It is usually considered safe to begin massage as soon as you like after a normal delivery and you may wish to find someone who will visit you at home in the first weeks after delivery.
The childbearing year is full of tremendous changes physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually; as you give your heart and soul to your new baby, make sure that you take the time to replenish your reserves.
1. Field T; Hernandez-ReifM; et al., "Pregnant Women Benefit from Massage Therapy". J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol 1999 March: 31-38.
2. Melzack, Ronald. "Evolution of Pain Theories and the Neuromatrix". Medscape Today. June 21, 2007