Prenatal Massage 101: Benefits During Pregnancy

There’s an endless list of benefits to therapeutic massage. For starters, it’s the ultimate relaxation factor. But what about a massage during pregnancy? Is it beneficial? Or is it even safe? And while there’s mixed opinions on the topic, the American Pregnancy Association says that research has shown prenatal massage therapy can be an instrumental ingredient in women’s prenatal care. Before you call the nearest salon for a daylong spa retreat, there are some things to consider. Here’s your guide to prenatal massage 101, and the benefits during pregnancy, in case you aren’t sold on it yet.  

Getting started with prenatal massage therapy

One of the most important things to consider first is to choose a massage therapist who is certified in prenatal massage therapy. Certified prenatal massage therapists have received additional training beyond national standards and have experience dealing with specific pregnancy needs. They also know how to appropriately position your body in a side-lying manner so that there is no strain to the uterine ligaments. Another thing a certified prenatal massage therapist can watch out for is a sign of blood clots or varicose veins. Some prenatal massage therapists offer a table with a hole in it for you to position your stomach through but they aren’t always reliable and can apply too much pressure to your belly, which can cause unnecessary stretching. If you’re not sure, call the massage therapist prior to your visit to verify which way they will position you.  

Benefits to prenatal massage therapy

Overall, the benefits to prenatal massage therapy are numerous. Massage therapy performed during pregnancy can reduce anxiety, decrease symptoms of depression, relieve muscle aches and joint pains and improve labor and delivery. Other additional benefits include:

Hormone regulation

When massage therapy is part of a woman’s prenatal care, hormone levels associated with stress and relaxation are greatly affected. Studies show that women who received the prenatal massages for five weeks experienced a drop in norepinephrine and cortisol, which are hormones associated with stress. The same group of women also saw an increase in dopamine and serotonin, the “feel good” hormones that can stave off depression symptoms. The changes in hormone levels can also contribute to fewer complications, better mood regulation and improved cardiovascular health.

Reduced swelling

Swelling is a given during pregnancy. The swelling of your joints is a one-two punch of reduced circulation and increased pressure on the major blood vessels by the expanded uterus. Prenatal massage therapy stimulates those soft tissues and helps reduce the collection of fluids in those swollen joints.

Ease nerve pain

Late pregnancy often brings with it a host of uncomfortable feelings, including sciatic nerve pain. As the baby grows and rests on the lower back and pelvic floor muscles, the tension spreads to nearby areas like your legs causing them to swell and put pressure on nearby nerves. Prenatal massage therapy can help the inflamed nerves by releasing the built-up muscle tension.

Additional benefits of prenatal massage include: reduced back and joint pain, improved circulation, decreased muscle tension and headaches, reduced stress and anxiety, improved oxygenation of soft tissues and better sleep.  

Is prenatal massage safe during pregnancy for every woman?

There’s an increased risk for miscarriage during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Because of that, most facilities refuse to offer prenatal massages for women in their first trimester or who haven’t crossed the 12-week mark. There are also risks for women who have experienced bleeding, pre-term contractions or have any of these conditions: high risk pregnancy, pregnancy induced hypertension (PIH), preeclampsia, previous pre-term labor, severe swelling, high blood pressure or severe headaches or recently gave birth.

Whether you’re pro-massage during pregnancy or not, the benefits of prenatal massage has been proven to improve overall health for pregnant women. As with everything, consult with your prenatal care provider, as any kind of treatment during pregnancy should be given careful consideration.  

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