An aching back, hips, and legs; nausea; insomnia; headaches; swollen feet; and unpredictable hormones are all a part of a normal pregnancy. However, many women have discovered a way to ease some of the discomfort associated with pregnancy and even improve their labor and delivery; prenatal massage.
When you are pregnant, your skeletal structure supports an increasing amount of weight, your organs shift to accommodate the baby, and you go through significant emotional and psychological changes. A massage therapist certified in prenatal massage is trained to manipulate those muscles most affected by these changes to help alleviate some of the discomfort, and the relaxation can help ease your emotional rollercoaster.
Studies at the University of Miami School of Medicine show that just 20 minutes of massage twice a week for five weeks reduces stress hormones in the body, improves mood and sleep patterns, and reduces anxiety and back pain. Studies also show that women who received regular massages during pregnancy had lower rates of premature birth, fewer obstetrical problems, and their babies had a lower rate of postnatal complications.
Most experts recommend you avoid prenatal massage during your first trimester when your body is still getting used to pregnancy, and some believe there may be a connection between first trimester prenatal massage and miscarriage. However, prenatal massage is perfectly safe during your second and third trimesters, and you’ll appreciate the benefits more the further along you are. You should always check with your doctor before beginning any new treatment or procedure when you are pregnant, and many massage therapists even require you to obtain a written note from your doctor or midwife before receiving a prenatal massage.
A certified prenatal massage therapist will have a special table and pillows designed for your comfort and the baby’s safety. Since you shouldn’t lie on your back for an extended period of time after the 20th week, most therapists will have you lie on your side, or in a semi-reclining position. Experts disagree on the safety of tables designed with a hole cut out to accommodate your belly, which allows you to lie on your stomach; many believe this causes unnecessary stress to your lower back. The rest of the massage room will be familiar to anyone who’s received a massage before, decorated with soft lighting, soothing music, and a warm, extra-padded table for you to lie on. Some therapists use scented candles or lotions. If these both your sensitive nose, ask that they be changed to unscented or removed.
Prenatal massage is usually fine for healthy women during a normal pregnancy. However, always check with your doctor before beginning any new procedure.