Pregnancy is a time of great physical and emotional changes for every woman. As we prepare for motherhood our bodies go through massive changes to accommodate the life developing inside us. Our posture shifts, our hips widen and tilt forward, our backs sway, and our shoulders curl. Internal organs are displaced and the space used for expansion of the lungs is occupied by another being.
Emotionally, even the most well-adjusted among us can give way to the worry. Will my baby be o.k.? Will I be a good mother? What if…? What if…? What if…? It is no wonder that this is often at best, a challenging time for most women, and for many it is much more than challenging. It is not uncommon to experience mild to severe pain at times during pregnancy and it is also very common to experience emotional symptoms ranging from mild anxiety to deep depression.
Benefits of Prenatal Massage:
Some of the most common physical symptoms are backache, hip pain, sciatica, neck pain, difficulty sleeping, and anxiety. This is where prenatal massage comes in. Massage during pregnancy has been proven to help with all of these conditions. It relaxes the muscles to help your body make the necessary postural adjustments. It effectively relieves pain and improves sleep.
Massage is shown to decrease the levels of stress hormones cortisol and norepinephrine, and increase feel good hormones dopamine and serotonin. This action relieves pain, allows for more restful sleep, and decreases the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Massage also increases the immunity by causing your body to produce more natural killer cells.
Your baby becomes responsive to touch at 7 weeks gestation, so all of the benefits are for baby as well as mom. There are also several studies that suggest that receiving regular prenatal massage results in lower prematurity rates, decreased chance of low birth weight, less pain during delivery. Mothers who have lower levels of pain and anxiety during pregnancy also have an easier time bonding with their baby.
The benefits extend beyond pregnancy as well. Parents (mothers AND fathers) who know about the power of touch, and apply massage to their babies have babies who gain weight more easily, sleep better, and spend more time in the happy alert stage. This is the perfect way for dads to really do some bonding. Fathers who engage in massage with their infants feel more closely connected and are more likely to feel empowered in the daily care routines.
But is it safe?
The short answer is a resounding yes! Many therapists who are trained in prenatal massage will decline to perform it in the first trimester. The reason for this is not that it is dangerous (in fact it is the opposite), however, since miscarriage is most common in the first trimester, it can become a liability issue. It is always best to check with your prenatal care provider to be sure that you have no complications that preclude you from receiving massage, certain conditions are contraindications. In most pregnancies, as long as you have a trained practitioner, massage is not only safe but very beneficial. If you are experiencing complications it may still be beneficial, just be sure your therapist is certified and trained to deal with your special circumstances. A conversation between your doc and therapist may also be in order.