The need to be nurtured by touch is fundamental to human beings. Massage promotes the concept of touch technique which is primary to our physical and mental health. Pregnancy massage seems to have attracted the attention of labor and delivery nurses, nurse midwives, childbirth educators and obstetricians alike. During pregnancy, there are dramatic changes in the physical and mental makeup of the mother to be. Pregnancy massage focuses on the special needs of the mother-to-be helping her overcome physical fatigue and mental trauma.
Massage as a therapy
Massage was practiced by the Chinese more than 3000 years ago. Massage is an ancient form of healing pain and providing stress relief. With massage the soft tissue of the body namely the muscles, connective tissues and skin get manipulated. Nowadays there are several modalities of body massage including Swedish, deep tissue and reflexology and Oriental based therapies.
What is pregnancy massage ?
Pregnancy massage can be defined as 'therapeutic body work during pregnancy'. Massage therapy at the time of pregnancy lends support to physiologic, structural and emotional well being of the expectant mother and her fetus. At the time of pregnancy, a woman's body undergoes stressful and uncomfortable conditions due to hormonal changes. Massage during pregnancy helps to reduce stress and discomfort, enhances the function of muscles and joints, and helps to improve circulation and general physical and mental well being. It is found that regular pregnancy massage makes the mothers more relaxed and the fetus better nourished.
During the first twenty two weeks of pregnancy, it is believed that lying flat on the back can cause blood pressure resulting in reduced circulation of blood to the mother and her growing baby. Tremendous physical and hormonal changes occur in the expectant mother during the first trimester. Therefore pregnancy massage is usually given only during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.
How is pregnancy massage given?
The pregnant mother is asked to lie in a semi-reclining position or on her belly by the use of specially designed effective pillows. Bellies are accommodated by a deep center cutout in the pillow so that mothers-to-be are relaxed and comfortable. A deep massage that may cause pain is not recommended. Normally gentle massage strokes are performed over the back and the entire body of the mother. The massage therapist communicates with the mother-to-be and determines the proper pressure for massage.
Depending on the comfort level of the mother and her time availability, the duration for pregnant massages is anywhere from ten minues to one hour each sitting. Normally during the second trimester pregnancy massage is advisable once every week. During the third trimester, it is given twice a week or even more as desired by the pregnant client. The massage room has low lighting with soft music playing in the background. The massage area is away from phones, traffic, children and pets. It is well ventilated with good air circulation.
It is advised that the person performing the massage should have short, trim and smooth nails. Wearing watches, rings and other items of jewelry need be avoided as these tend to make noise and distract the client from the experience. It is recommended to use an unscented lubricant /lotion since most pregnant mothers develop a strong aversion to strong odors.
Benefits of massage during pregnancy
A study conducted by Dr.Tiffany Field at the University Of Miami School Of Medicine indicates that pregnancy massage helps to reduce stress hormones in the body. Most pregnant mothers feel good about having a massage therapy as 'touch' becomes vital to a mother's physical and emotional and psychological well being while she struggles to adapt her self to the new found body image and role.
Physical benefits of massage
- A pregnant woman is bound to feel more energetic and less fatigued after massage as it helps in eliminating the waste products from the body through the lymphatic and circulatory systems.
- Massage aids in blood circulation and helps maintain a more stable blood pressure in pregnant mothers.
- Massage helps to alleviate muscular discomforts experienced during pregnancy such as cramps, tightening and stiffening of joints and knots.
- Normal discomforts experienced during pregnancy such as backaches, a stiff neck, leg cramps, headaches, edema and sore, swollen ankles and feet are relieved by massage.
- Massage helps build greater vitality in pregnant mothers by increasing local and general blood circulation which brings more oxygen and nutrients to the cells of both the mother and her fetus.
- Hormone levels are stabilized by massage as it stimulates glandular secretion.
- Massage assists in maintaining proper posture in pregnant mothers.
- Massage helps to reduce constipation, gas and heartburn.
- Massage is even used during the birth to make it easier and more comfortable for the mother. Post pregnancy massage helps the mother to regain her strength and ease post-partum stress.
- Doctors agree that massage helps to relax nervous tension and inturn helps to soothe the stress. Relaxing is considered the key to labor and delivery.
Emotional benefits of massage
- Massage can help relieve the mental anxiety and depression caused by the hormonal changes in pregnant mothers.
- Massage is often considered as healing and it is an expression of love and care that an expectant mother longs for.
- Developed kinesthetic awareness caused by pregnancy massage helps to enhance body sensory awareness and contributes to the woman's ability to focus on the infant within. A mother is increasingly aware of the baby's kicks and she is also able to monitor the baby's movement and position.
- Massage increases the ability to relax deeply with results in improved sleep for pregnant mothers.
Psychological benefits of massage
Massage can help a pregnant mother who experiences the sense of touch connect with the mothering instinct. Once her baby arrives, she can use the infant massage to help promote a bonding between her and her child. This will also aid her to soothe her child during colic pain and other digestive upsets of the baby.
Pregnancy massage precautions
Although massage is safe during pregnancy, there are circumstances under which massage should not be performed. These are bound to create problems and complications with the pregnancy. It is always advisable to get the opinion from the gynecologist and massage therapist before proceeding with any sort of pregnancy massage. Some of the critical circumstances under which massage should not be administered are detailed below:
- Heavy discharge of fluids
- Fever or illness
- Unusual and inexplicable pain
- High blood pressure
- Abdominal pain
- Morning sickness
- Any other condition that is malignant
There are certain areas of the body where bodily massage should not be performed especially for pregnant mothers. They include:
- Areas of the body that are inflamed.
- Open sores, bruises, skin rashes
- Varicose veins that are raised or distended.
- Infected local sites
While performing the massage on mother-to-be, the therapist has to follow certain rules and regulations and precautionary measures. Some of them are being discussed.
- Ample care should be exhibited while touching the abdomen. It should be touched only superficially with flat and gentle hands.
- Only gentle superficial pressure should be applied to the inner legs.
- Massage is safest on woman lying on the side or propped in semi sitting position instead of lying on the back or belly.
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