Whether pregnant for the first time or an experienced mother, all women can benefit from massage therapy during and after pregnancy. Well-versed in anatomy, pathology, assessment, and a range of therapeutic techniques, a registered massage therapist can play an instrumental role in easing women through the various stages of maternity.
Massage is particularly useful to mothers because as their pregnancy evolves, postural changes and added weight can cause discomfort and pain - which in turn can lead to lack of rest and chronic fatigue. And after baby’s arrival, massage can help expedite recovery and provide relief from the challenges of early motherhood.
Rest is an essential component of a healthy pregnancy. Stress due to lack of sleep can wreak havoc with a mother’s immune system, and may even disrupt her baby’s development. But particularly in the later stages of pregnancy, pelvic shift and increased lumbar curve can result in muscle tension and joint pain - discomfort that gets progressively worse over time. Massage therapy college teaches student therapists how to diagnose and treat pain most commonly associated with pregnancy, including backache, shoulder tension, neck pain, sciatica, and joint pain caused by muscle tension, swelling, or fluid retention. Regular massage visits help facilitate essential release and relaxation, giving mothers a much better chance of getting the restorative sleep they (and their babies) need.
Following delivery, regular massage therapy can also yield healing benefits to new mothers. Manipulating the soft tissues of the body helps stimulate blood circulation, which can encourage a faster rate of healing after the rigors of child birth. In addition to the obvious relaxation benefits of massage, new mothers may also experience reduced swelling and water-retention. As graduates of massage therapy school know, soft tissue manipulation increases circulation and lymphatic drainage, which helps eliminate excess fluids and waste products. Mothers struggling with hormone imbalance may also find relief with massage, which has been shown to help restore hormonal equilibrium by reducing the biochemicals associated with depression, and cortisol, which is linked to stress and anxiety.
Breast-feeding can be particularly challenging for many new moms. Women often experience neck and shoulder pain from cradling their infant in the required position, which can interfere with feedings and rest. Not only will regular massage treatments help alleviate that tension, they may also help to boost milk production by improving circulation. Studies show that massage increases prolactin levels (a lactation hormone) while stimulating relaxation in the chest muscles, opening the shoulders, and potentially improving the production of milk. There is even new research linking breast massage with a decrease in pain, reduction of breast milk sodium, and improved newborn suckling.
Although clinical research about the benefits of pre and post-natal massage is still in its early stages, both practitioners and recipients can attest to the diverse ways massage therapy helps support women during the challenging transitions of early motherhood.
In what ways have you seen massage help women during or after pregnancy?