For many women, pregnancy may be the perfect time to consider indulging in a massage. In pregnancy, women often experience increasing fatigue, tension, and anxiety. This is often also an emotional time, as the pregnancy places additional strain and responsibility on the mother. Pregnant women tend to feel increasingly vulnerable during their pregnancy, and often feel protective and have concerns for their unborn baby.
As the pregnancy progresses, there are a range of physical symptoms that can crop up, from both the physiological changes of pregnancy, and the physical toll of carrying the pregnancy itself,. This can result, for example, in swollen hands and feet, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches, back pain, and neck and shoulder pain.’ A pregnancy massage is very helpful in easing these symptoms.
Are Massages During Pregnancy Safe?
There are a few contra-indications and massage techniques which are not appropriate during pregnancy, but generally speaking massage at this time is very safe. I don’t give massages in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy as there is a higher risk of miscarriage (although no evidence that massage has ever contributed to a miscarriage)
Massage in pregnancy to treat backache is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in their clinical guideline on antenatal care for pregnant women with uncomplicated pregnancies.
Studies have shown that pregnant women with depression have a higher incidence of giving birth to premature and low birth weight babies.
Dunkel Schetter C, Tanner L. Anxiety, depression and stress in pregnancy: Implications for mothers, children, research, and practice. Current Opinion in Psychiatry. 2012;25(2):141-148. doi:10.1097/YCO.0b013e3283503680
In a 2010 study, a group of pregnant women were assigned to receive once- or twice-weekly 20-minute sessions of pregnancy massage therapy for 5, 12, or 16 weeks.
The women who received pregnancy massage had lower levels of stress, depression, and anxiety; lower premature birth rates; and fewer complications before birth (prenatal) compared to the control group who did not participate in pregnancy massage.
Other benefits of pregnancy massage that were reported in the study include:
- Lower incidence of depression (which might have been the result of an increase in dopamine and serotonin levels)
- Lower levels of anxiety
- Less back and leg pain
- Decreased levels of cortisol (the stress hormone)
- Lower rate of postpartum depression
The study also noted several benefits for the foetus. Prenatal massage was linked to higher foetal performance in the Brazelton Neonatal Behavioral Assessment habituation, orientation, and motor scales (a measurement of a newborn baby’s responses to the extrauterine environment, including an evaluation of activity levels and reflexes). Newborns also had lower cortisol levels.
What to Expect From A Pregnancy Massage Session
You will be asked to lie on a massage couch, carefully positioned and supported with pillows. In later pregnancy, it is not advisable to lie flat on your back for long periods. So you can lie on one side, or be propped up with a back rest. I’m happy to work with you to find what is comfortable for you.
The massage will involve your whole body, including massaging your bump, unless this is something you are not comfortable with.