Massage has many scientifically proven health benefits for pregnancy such as stimulating the blood and lymph systems, thereby increasing immunity and removal of toxins; stabilizing hormonal levels; and adding tone and flexibility to muscles — all of which enhance the health of both you and your baby. As pregnancy progresses, your body adjusts to a changing alignment caused by the baby’s increasing weight. This puts strain on your back and legs and increases stress on weight-bearing joints. Massage increases flexibility, enhancing the ability to carry this extra weight while also relieving aches and pains, leg cramps and muscle spasms. The effects of relaxation and tension release add to improvement in the physical state of muscles and joints, and assist in balancing emotions.
Recent studies from the Touch Research Institute (TRI) in Miami, Fla., indicates that pregnancy massage provides more than just symptom relief for the mother. A group of 26 pregnant women were given either massage or relaxation therapy during a five-week study. Women who received massage therapy reported decreased depression, anxiety, and leg and back pain. Cortisol levels decreased and, in turn, excessive fetal activity decreased, and the rate of prematurity was lower in the massage group. In a study of labor pain, women who received massage therapy experienced significantly less pain, and their labors were on average 3 hours shorter with less need for medication.Their newborns also had fewer postnatal complications.
There are only a handful of pregnancy conditions that are contraindications for pregnancy massage. These include:
• Pre-eclampsia: Develops after 20 weeks, can also damage blood vessels and cause a stroke or even death. Massage may be performed in affected clients with a doctor’s permission.
• Deep vein thrombosis (DVT): If you have a DVT diagnosis or have a positive screening, you postpone the massage until it resolves.
• Placenta problems (including previa, accreta or abruption): These rare conditions involving the placenta can lead to dangerous bleeding. Postpone the massage or get the physician’s OK.
When receiving a pregnancy massage it’s always important to have a therapist experienced in pregnancy massage. Different therapists prefer different positional techniques for this type of massage, but usually they will choose between a pregnancy pillow- which allows moms to be able to lay on their stomachs during the massage; or side lying- this is usually more comfortable for moms and opens up specific muscles for more deep and precise work to be done.
By Katherine Conklin, LMT
Vanderbilt, Shirley. (2002). Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals.
Field, T. (2010). Pregnancy and labor massage therapy. Expert Review of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 5, 177-181.
Salamon, Maureen. (2018). Massage and Pregnancy: A Powerful Combination