Is pregnancy massage right for you?
Pregnancy is a beautiful, natural process that too often is treated more as a medical diagnosis in our modern world. Some mums are blessed with sailing through their pregnancy with little more than a slight discomfort and the odd bout of nerves of what's to come, particularly if this is your first time round. For others, pregnancy can trigger pain or discomfort in slightly niggling ways. Others still pregnancy can be down right awful! (yep. I did say that!) Plagued with ongoing nausea or vomiting, or intensifying pain as your baby grows. Perhaps heavy with worrying thoughts that can overwhelm your day. PNDA stands for 'Perinatal Anxiety and Depression'. 'Perinatal' meaning 'around birth', and with that, sometimes we can be affected early in pregnancy. And so pregnancy can range from perfectly happy and cruisy to physical and/or mental discomfort, or even pain. On these latter occasions, we are so lucky as women that there is a community of care out there able to help you manage where you are at in your journey. You do not have to 'just live with it' now that you are pregnant. Regardless of what you have been told. There is almost always something to be done to help you feel huge relief, or perhaps just to manage where you are at and feel some relief. No one can make a 100% promise of course, but certainly it is worth reaching out for support with wherever you are at. You (and your baby) matter far too much to 'just live with it'!
Wherever you may be at in your journey, glowing and in ease, a little uncomfortable, or in down right pain, at some stage you may have considered a pregnancy massage. I sure hope you have. For many, massage is lumped straight into the luxury items basket, and certainly it is a wonderfully luxurious experience. Or it should be. If you are blessed with a glowing pregnancy and little discomfort, making time for massage is so beneficial in general maintenance and body balance, preparation for birth, and beginning habits of self care to ensure you are your best self. As Mother, partner and woman.
But did you know that massage is also incredibly beneficial in helping to relieve (or at the very least manage) SO MANY pregnancy concerns. Having been practiced for centuries – long before medical intervention was common place in pregnancy and birth – pregnancy massage, a combination or luxurious relaxation AND remedial release as required is a fantastic inclusion in your pregnancy (and postpartum) care plan.
With increasing knowledge of the pregnant body and benefits of massage during pregnancy, trained pregnancy massage therapists can deliver specialised treatments at a time when your body is changing rapidly. Holistic in the care of your body, mind and heart.
If you are questioning if pregnancy massage is right for you, in almost every case, the answer is likely yes. Let's look at some reasons why.
Pregnancy massage provides relief from the aches, stresses and hormonal imbalances throughout your pregnancy journey.
As long as you are tired, stressed, in pain, sleeping poorly, suffering headaches or feeling down, you cannot possibly present your best self to your partner, children or the world. And most importantly, not to yourself or your growing baby. Welcome a specialised pregnancy massage therapist into your village support network and you’ll experience a number of benefits.
The benefits of pregnancy massage include relief from:
Muscle pain and cramping
Lower back pain
Symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD)
Oedema (fluid retention causing swelling, often in your feet, lower legs or joints)
Lack of sleep
General anxiety or PNDA
Pregnancy massage is not only about a delightful experience AND improving your quality of life.
Pregnancy massage is also important in preparing you for birth
Every pregnancy is different and if you experience any of these symptoms, your quality of life can be affected at a time that should be so special. Below we’ve explored the benefits of pregnancy massage in more detail, so you can decide whether is right for you..
Hormone and mood regulation
We all hear about baby brain and the mood swings experienced during pregnancy, but until you actually experience being pregnant, you don’t fully understand the way hormones affect your mood.
Many women seek out pregnancy massage for pain relief and – as a very welcome added bonus – they often experience improved sleep, improved mood and reduced stress as well. This is because the nervous system is stimulated in a relaxing way through regular massage. Studies have shown that as a result of this stimulation, your oxytocin (happy hormones) increase and stress hormones decrease.
When this happens, the nervous system is calmed, moods are regulated and stress levels reduce (for both you and your baby). Evidence also shows that when stress is reduced, the health of both mother and baby benefits as a result.
Ann Borders (MD, MPH, MSc) is an OB/GYN at Evanston Hospital, North Shore University Health System in Chicago. Speaking to WebMD, she said: "There are some data to show that higher chronic stressors in women and poor coping skills to deal with those stressors may be associated with lower birth weight and with delivering earlier."
This type of research commonly appears in medical journals, so if you pregnant right now, take a moment to ask yourself what you are doing to keep your stress levels under control.
For some women, things can be a little more intense than just some general raised stress. Some women enter pregnancy already familiar with managing true anxiety or depression, and things can escalate with the thought of preparing for a new baby. For others, inexperienced with PNDA (Perinatal Depression and Anxiety), it can hit early in pregnancy, not only for Mums-to-be, but some Dads too!! Although true anxiety and/or depression can not be 'fixed' with massage, certainly massage can be beneficial in helping your mind, body and hormonal rebalancing. Boosting oxytocin. Calming stress hormones. Allowing you time to switch off. Disconnect. Heal. Rest.
At the same time I encourage you to reach out for the care you need (there are a number of mental health workers who specialise in perinatal care, because it is common, unfair to you, and deserving of care.
Relief from physical aches and sciatic nerve pain
Regular massage has been shown to relax and ease strained muscles while your body changes. Added weight, stretched muscles and ligaments, increased blood and fluids, and pressure on internal organs all culminate in a feeling of general discomfort. Or pain.
Often felt in the lower back, hips, butt or mid to upper back and neck. A combination of your pregnancy, and your normal body stresses will map your body for it's own unique niggles. By releasing tensions and lengthening tight muscles massage can be a powerful tool in managing your needs.
Sciatic pain is a common pain in the butt in pregnancy
When pregnant, as your pelvis shifts and muscles are strained, many a Mama finds aches and pains in the lower back, hips and/or buttocks. This may be general pain, which massage can be amazing at aiding relief. Or it may be more specific. With all the shifts, the sciatic nerve can often be compressed creating sciatic pain, pain radiating from you lower back, and most commonly in through your hips, butt and down the back of your leg. Occasionally down the front of your leg too. Generally one side of your body will suffer more feeling a burning or shooting pain that begins in your butt or lower back and radiates down. Sometimes you may feel numbness in the back of your leg too. Releasing the muscles around the nerve in your hips and butt can ease the pressure and reduce if not completely eliminate this pain.
Image from "The osteopathy partnership, UK)
Symphasis Pubic Dysfunction (SPD) is no fun!
Pain in the very front of your pelvis tends to intensify as your baby grows and adds pressure to your pelvis. As your pelvis prepares for birth, your body releases relaxin (hormone to soften and relax your ligaments in preparation for birth). The joint between your left and right pelvic bones (pubic symphysis) right at the very front of your pelvis allows for more movement than usual. Depending on severity and cause (there may be different reasons this has flared up for you in pregnancy), pain relief can often be managed throughout your pregnancy journey with massage. It is important your therapist understands SPD and how to help you manage it.
A tailored pregnancy massage relaxes muscles, relieves knots and adds space where it is needed.
Massage can also be used to encourage general movement in your joints, release tension in your hips and glutes (you’ll be surprised how much tension you hold in your booty). Isolating and releasing individual muscles in your hips and gluteals can help to manage a number of uncomfortable (or downright painful) issues.
Following massage, pregnant women commonly experience improved sleep, ease in body aches, including hips and butt, relief of heartburn and easing in shortness of breath due to increased space around the ribcage.
Decrease in fluid retention and swelling (Oedema)
Pregnancy puts an increased load on your circulation, which results in swelling and fluid retention in your joints.
This happens because blood and fluid return from the feet to heart is slower when the body is working overtime while at the same time your body fluids have increased to nurture you and your baby.. The most common symptom of this is swollen feet. Fluid also builds up in joints because of an increase in blood flow and pressure experienced by major blood vessels.
Regular massage during pregnancy stimulates both the circulatory and lymphatic systems, increasing blood flow back to the heart and removing any build-up of waste and toxins, helping to manage fluid retention.
Some fluid retention is common for many in pregnancy, although sometimes oedema can point to more concerning issues. It is important that your massage therapists is trained in pregnancy massage and so will understand the difference and how to help...be it massage, or referral to your health practitioner.
Enhanced mental clarity and acceptance
Pregnancy can be a mix of excitement, nervous tension, fear, discomfort and stress – sometimes all at once. Your body goes through huge physical change, it becomes overloaded with hormones and the biggest change of your life is just around the corner. So it’s no wonder most pregnant women feel overwhelmed at times!
Regular massage helps you to become more aware of your ever-changing body. Through better awareness and acceptance, you can become more comfortable and connected with all the changes that are taking place.
During pregnancy massage, we help you to relax into your pregnancy and aid in preparing your body to carry your baby and to prepare for birth, and beyond, into your postpartum.
Massage not only relieves physical stresses, but also mental anxiety, so that your baby is already learning from you how to relax and be calm. This in turn encourages your mother-baby bonding before your little one has even left the womb.
Pregnancy massage is also important in preparing you for birth and beyond.
With every pregnancy massage visit to Mama Blooming, extra time is allowed for each visit to chat as you need. To determine where you are at physically* and mentally*. How supported you feel. How to set up your support network, and how to begin focusing on what you need to feel prepared for birth and beyond.
Once on the table releasing and relaxing muscles, massage helps to bring balance to your body in preparation for birth. The more balanced you are, with least muscle tightness and restrictions the more your baby is able to settle into the best possible position in preparation for birth. The aim....a progressive birth without intervention.
*It is important to note that I am neither doctor, midwife nor mental health worker. Our discussions are general in how you are feeling and important in my care for you. Here is where I can determine if I need to bring any particular release work into your treatment for the day. It may even determine if I feel you should check in with your health provider before treatment (rest assured this in very rare). If however you feel you need more support physically or mentally it is important that you reach out for the appropriate care. This is part of the reason we chat. Sometimes it helps to open up, and I can help to guide you in the direction that feels right for you if you feel the need.
How can a pregnancy massage help you?
Rarely is pregnancy massage NOT right for a Mama-to-be. As long as you are engaging with a therapist trained in pregnancy massage, you can feel assured that they will recognise if you fall into that rare category. Their intensive client intake form and consult prior to your treatment will identify, but let me promise you this. The chance of you NOT completely enjoying and benefiting from a treatment is pretty darn rare. Whatever the discomforts you may be feeling in pregnancy, mind body or heart, a tailored pregnancy massage can help you to experience relief. And if you are already feeling amazing, it can only boost you to a higher lever.
As mums, we know what it’s like to be pregnant, uncomfortable, tired and overwhelmed at times. We also know how incredibly exciting and magical this time is (or should be), as you start to nest and prepare to welcome a little person into the world. Juggling pregnancy as well as the demands of daily life adds that extra level of pressure to life, and that’s why time out on the massage table becomes invaluable.
Massage helps every woman in different ways and we offer massages for 90 and 120 minutes, depending upon the level of relief you require. Contact Sharon for more information.
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