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UPDATED August 2015
There is no better time to experience and share the benefits of bodywork than when a woman is pregnant. Pregnancy is typically accompanied by discomfort as tendons and skin are stretched, weight is gained, the structural alignment of the body changes, hormones rage, organs are constricted and pressure on various body structures mount.
Here are eleven reasons to consider adding prenatal massage to your repertoire:
- Blood pressure control: By aiding circulation, massage eases the load on the expectant mother’s heart, keeping her blood pressure under control and minimizing varicosities. Normal blood pressure is a critical component of a healthy pregnancy.
- Reduce muscle discomfort: Muscular discomforts, such as cramping, tightening, stiffness, sciatica tension and knots are typical during pregnancy. Massage’s circulatory effect can minimize the increased pressure on weight-bearing joints.
- Hormonal balancing: Massage has been proven to reduce stress hormone levels, which can relieve depression or anxiety. Depression and anxiety are typical during pregnancy due to hormonal changes, new expectations and fears about parenting.
- Headache and sinus relief: Perhaps due to the increased blood flow to mucus membranes that occurs with pregnancy, many expectant mothers experience headaches and sinus congestion. Appropriately stimulated acupressure points on the head and face can provide significant relief for these discomforts.
- Edema reduction: By stimulating lymphatic drainage, massage can help the body accommodate and process the excessive water in a pregnant woman’s tissues. Lower leg edema and swollen ankles are typical examples of excessive water build-up during pregnancy.
- Fetus nourishment: Through massage’s function to increase systemic blood circulation, an increase in oxygen and nutrients can reach the fetal cells. This results in better nourishment and a greater index of health for the unborn baby.
- Increases flexibility: While pregnancy hormones relax tendons and ligaments to accommodate a growing belly, the addition of massage can relax the accompanying muscles. Muscle relaxation has many benefits to an expectant mother, including a decrease in muscular cramps and increased flexibility facilitating the birth process.
- Body image transformation: The psychological impact of an expecting mother’s changing body can be one of the most challenging parts of her pregnancy. The non-verbal communication of touch therapy can be vital to her emotional well-being as she adapts to her new body image.
- Sleep support: One of the perks massage offers is sleep enhancement, thanks to its soothing and relaxing effect. This dissolution of nervous tension facilitates deep and restful sleep, a luxury most pregnant women would do anything to achieve.
- During labor: Appropriately applied massage during a birth can reduce low back pain and labor pain. Many midwives and birth doulas use varying massage techniques during labor and birth.
- After birth: After the delivery, massage can help a fatigued woman recover quickly, encourage structural realignment, restore abdominal integrity, facilitate healing after a cesarean section, regain her strength, relieve strain from caring for the new baby and ease postpartum stress.
An August 2006 published study demonstrates that the regular administration of massage from 36 weeks of pregnancy until birth greatly reduced the mother’s perception of labor pain, thus reducing the amount of anesthesia requested during labor.
Another study reported in the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology evaluated massage’s effect on pregnant women. Researchers found that a 20-minute massage, twice a week resulted in reduced anxiety, improved mood, better sleep, less back pain and fewer complications during labor.
Regardless of individual circumstances, a pregnant woman’s body is challenged, changed and stressed in many ways. Massage gives special attention to the mother-to-be, and also nurtures the new life growing within her. Habitual massage improves posture, muscle tone and flexibility, all of which train the body for labor. By helping the body cope with all of the imminent body changes occurring, regular bodywork can cause an expectant mother to have a more positive pregnancy and labor experience.
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