Working with clients who are pregnant is one thing; being pregnant yourself and working in the field of massage therapy is quite another. As a massage therapist you are on your feet much of the day. During a massage session you are moving and exerting a lot of energy. And, if you are self-employed you rely on a steady income. Pregnancy will affect every aspect of your practice and adaptation is necessary.
Not all pregnancies are planned, but if you are thinking about getting pregnant, there are some precautions you should take. One of the most important is to make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date. While a flu shot can generally be given to pregnant women, those for hepatitis and chicken-pox should not. If either of these diseases is transmitted to a pregnant woman, the results can be devastating to the unborn child.
Start a healthy exercise program, such as yoga, before getting pregnant so your body gets used to the routine. It will be much harder to make changes once you are pregnant.
If you are self-employed you should at least have an idea of how long you want to work, when you want to stop and when you want to return to work. Keep the plan flexible because, as your pregnancy progresses, you may feel better or worse than you anticipated. Some women can work right up until a few days before delivery; others need to stop early because of a high-risk pregnancy.
If you don’t want to close down your business completely for the time you are not working, you should think about to whom you would want to temporarily refer your clients. How heavy a workload do you have? Would it be more advantageous to hire a temporary employee, someone compatible with your style of massage and who would be acceptable to your clients? You could look at this as an opportunity to expand your practice and, if successful, the temporary employee could become permanent. This could be especially helpful after the baby is born and you find that you need more time to be home.
During the Pregnancy
Even though there are many similarities among pregnant women, each woman will go through the process differently. Some will gain a lot of weight, some will gain very little. One woman may experience constant nausea, another none at all, but many fall somewhere in between. Most women will feel an increase in their intuitive sensitivities and this can be especially true of massage therapists who already have a heightened sense of connectivity to their clients.
As a massage therapist you are not exempt from all the changes occurring during pregnancy. Your hormone levels will fluctuate. Your weight will increase, as will your center of gravity, which is important in readjusting your stance and overall body mechanics when doing a massage.
Some muscles will be over-stretched, some will shorten as your body adapts to the changes in your body. You may experience joint problems, such as increased compression on spinal discs which can lead to nerve entrapment. The hormone relaxin, which inhibits collagen synthesis, relaxes the joints in the pelvis and helps ease delivery, but it can also cause pain and inflammation of joints in other parts of the body. It can also cause abnormal joint movement, including hyperextension and even dislocated joints, so be wary of doing any massage where you need to exert a lot of pressure.
Even if your usual intake procedures are thorough, during your pregnancy you may want to add some questions for new clients and rescreen your regular clients. You can also create a flier announcing your pregnancy and asking your clients to let you know of any changes in their health.
If you work in a hospital setting, or deal on a regular basis with clients who have cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis or even those who may be taking some kind of topical hormone replacement – you may want to consider using surgical gloves. Even though minute, chemicals from chemo-therapy and residual radiation can be transmitted from client to therapist during a massage as can hormones used in estrogen and progesterone crèmes. Even Minoxidil (used in Rogaine© and other hair restoratives) can be harmful to a pregnant massage therapist who does scalp massage.
It is important to listen closely to what your body is telling you at this time. If you are tired, take breaks. Just a short 20-minute nap in the afternoon can reduce fatigue. As the months progress you may want to work less, which is why it may be advantageous to hire someone part time to ease your client load.
Make sure to take care of yourself by continuing with an exercise regimen, eating a healthy diet and, of course, getting a regular massage.
Once your baby arrives, you need to decide if and when to go back to work. Only you can know what is appropriate and safe. A natural delivery will mean a quicker recovery time than a cesarean birth. You will probably recover more quickly from a short labor than a long one. Not only do you need to give your body time to recover, but you also need to spend quality time with your child.
Being pregnant is a wonderful time in a woman’s life, but it can also be stressful on both your mind and body. As a massage therapist you are used to taking care of the needs of others. With thoughtful preparation before and during your pregnancy, your chosen profession can adapt to your personal life and you can continue enjoying each of them.