Pregnancy massage is a general term that encompasses both, prenatal and perinatal massage. One of the most important things to consider in looking for someone to provide pregnancy related massage is: Has the therapist gone through a specific certification program for pregnancy massage? Although many therapists are exposed to general concepts about this type of massage in their basic training, it is only through detailed education and hands-on evaluation that expertise can be obtained.
There are numerous research reports and case studies that show massage, during and immediately after pregnancy, can provide a host of benefits for both the mother and the newborn. Just a few of the obvious and intuitive benefits address issues that arise from the major shift in musculature, posture, gait, pelvic tilt, uterine ligament strain, breast enlargement resulting in subsequent back strain, and poor sleeping position. Toward the end-term of pregnancy, certain hormones are released that actually cause a laxity of the joints and muscles. While this enhanced elasticity aids the mother in delivery, it can also further complicate or exacerbate any musculature or joint related strain issue.
Although these obvious issues may be enough to prompt the mother-to-be to seek massage, there are also some subtle or indirect benefits from pregnancy massage that should be considered. These less obvious benefits may actually provide an even greater opportunity for a trouble-free, enhanced quality, term of pregnancy and delivery. Pregnancy is a time of high stress. The stress is multi-faceted and interacts with: eating, digestion, hormones, emotions, spiritual issues, and thought processes – to name a few. Whatever the origin of the stress, the adrenal glands respond to it and produce substances that cause very measurable chemical changes in the body. These stress related changes end up affecting / causing : increased maternal heart rate, blood pressure, vomiting, nausea, miscarriage, toxemia, immune system dysfunction, reduced blood supply to uterus (by as much as 65%) resulting in lower fetal heart rate and reduced blood oxygenation, interference with fetal brain and central nervous system development, higher incidence of miscarriage, prematurity, prolonged labors with more complications, postpartum complications, increased fetal distress, low birth weight, infant irritability, restlessness, crying , and digestive disturbances (list from: Pre- and Perinatal Massage Therapy by Carole Osborne-Sheets). That is a long, somewhat scary list, and it is not all inclusive. You can see that stress, which is pretty unavoidable during pregnancy (especially in our culture), can have some major impact. This is where pregnancy massage can be most beneficial.
Validated by research, massage provides these two major benefits; ameliorating some of the negative physical impact of the pregnancy and reducing the overall stress to the mother. Just as beneficial, but less studied and much more subjective, is the spiritual, emotional, and
nurturing support that massage provides.
Frequent and regular massage can improve the overall process and outcome of pregnancy.
Most certified pregnancy massage therapists will not perform a massage during the first trimester. It is not that massage is contraindicated during this time; it is purely a liability concern. Even though there is no possible harm from proper massage, statistically most miscarriages occur during the first trimester. Therefore, therapists generally do not want to be seeing someone as a client, should that event occur. Our policy is that we will not perform massage during the first trimester unless we have an obstetrician’s release. We also require an obstetrician’s release for any pregnancy that may be considered high-risk. These high-risk factors can be found on our Pregnancy Addendum form.
A pregnancy massage is similar to a standard 60 minute Swedish session with some modifications of technique, positioning and draping. Although some massage tables and various supplemental support cushions sets are advertised as being specifically designed for pregnancy massage, we do not use those at the Center. Further along in the pregnancy, those systems are designed to allow the mother to lay prone and have the abdominal area drop into a supported cut-out. Although lying prone may feel good, when firm pressure is applied to the back muscles, it causes a sandwiching effect due to the spine and or ribs compressing against the uterus and the front support. By avoiding the prone position, it also helps to eliminate exacerbating uterine ligament pain or strain which is a primary cause of back pain. Therapists have differing opinions on this, but we feel it is safer and allows for a deeper massage to use other positioning.
If an obstetrician’s release has been provided, first trimester massage may be performed. This positioning consists of supine, prone (unless there is breast tenderness), semi-reclining, and sidelying. From the second trimester on, positioning consists of semi-reclining and sidelying only. The left sidelying position is used for the majority of the massage as this is the optimal position for encouraging the best maternal cardiac circulation which results in enhanced fetal oxygenation. These are all comfortable positions and you will be fully supported with a number of pillows and bolsters. The sidelying position allows specific access to the sacrum and low-back, and ease of working on pelvic tilt. Legs are not worked with heavy pressure during pregnancy and certain areas of the feet / ankle are avoided (until near the due date) as they are thought to induce labor. Draping consists of a using a standard top sheet and a towel for breast draping. This type of draping provides easy access for abdominal massage and some absorbency in the event of lactation.
Due to the rapid and significant changes that occur during pregnancy, it is optimal if massages can be regularly scheduled. As in the case of most massage scenarios, it is much more beneficial to be receiving massages consistently than to wait until a problem exists. This is particularly true regarding the stress reduction benefits of massage. Based on this, we provide package pricing options, which can be used during pregnancy as well as post-partum recovery.
Please see the “Forms” section of our web-site to download a Client Intake Pregnancy Addendum and / or Obstetrician's Release.
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