by Melody Cook, B.S., R.M.T.
What is Pregnancy Massage?
Pregnancy is a time of major structural, physiological, psychological, spiritual, and social changes. Some of these changes produce discomforts and concerns, which can be addressed with appropriate massage therapy and body use guidance. Pregnancy massage therapy is beneficial throughout the nine months of a low-risk pregnancy. If you are not having a low risk pregnancy, discuss your condition with your physician or midwife. After further discussion, you may be able to receive therapy with additional written release.
Massage therapy in pregnancy can include specific light and deep pressure massage, myofascial techniques, circulatory work, acupressure, reflexology, and other techniques.
Massage therapy during pregnancy is not intended to replace appropriate prenatal care. When used as a form of adjunctive health care, some of its possible benefits are:
- Reduces stress and promotes relaxation.
- Provides emotional support and physical nurturing, particularly for those who are alone in the process, either literally or by the emotional absence of the partner.
- Reduces and alleviates neck, back, and joint pain caused by posture, muscle weakness, tension, extra weight, or imbalance.
- Relieves muscle spasms, cramps, and fibrosis.
- Alleviates stress on weight-bearing joints and musculo-fascial structures (sacro-iliac joint, mid-back and lumbar spine, hips).
- Combats tension, fatigue, and headaches, soothe nerves to help with sleep problems, and possibly reduce blood pressure through relaxation and stress reduction.
- Increases blood and lymph circulation and supports the physiological process of gestation, by supporting the work of the heart, increasing cellular respiration, reducing edema, and contributing to sympathetic nervous system sedation. Reduces the possibility of problems with swelling, varicose veins, and leg cramps.
- Helps maintain skin elasticity to ease stretch marks and uncomfortable tightness.
- Assists with the management of digestive complaints such as constipation, gas, nausea, and indigestion.
- Encourages deeper, easier breathing.
- Enhances self-esteem and self image, helping the pregnant woman feel more at home in her changing body.
- Develops the sensory awareness and relaxation necessary to be an active and responsive participant in the birth experience. (in order to birth, the musculature of the legs, back, abdomen, and pelvic floor must release to allow the uterus to labor with no resistance).
- Provides a pregnant woman with the experience and model of loving, nurturing touch that encourages her to touch her baby lovingly.
What to Expect
A thorough massage session takes at least one hour, during which you will be comfortably supported in a side-lying position and draped for your comfort. Only the body part being worked on is exposed. The room will be quiet and comfortable. It is fine to interrupt the massage to use the restroom, however, for maximum comfort, avoid heavy eating and drinking for two hours before your session.
Complications of pregnancy, which would contraindicate massage therapy (if resolved, participation is possible with additional midwife/physician release):
- Threatened miscarriage
- Early labor
- Placental dysfunctions
- GEPH (Pre-eclampsia)
- Gestational diabetes
- Eclampsia (Toxemia)
Other conditions contraindicating participation in massage therapy (if resolved, participation is possible with additional midwife/physician release):
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease (3rd trimester)
- Kidney and bladder diseases
- Any infectious disease
- Cancer or undiagnosed lumps
Contraindicated for affected areas only:
- Severe varicose veins
- Skin irritation and/or discharge
- Lupus erythematosus and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
High Risk Pregnancies, as defined by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (in some cases, requires additional midwife/physician release):
- Pre-pregnancy diabetes mellitus
- Cardiac, pulmonary, or liver disorders
- Chronic hypertension
- Previous problem pregnancy
- Multiple pregnancy
- Mother’s age under 18 or over 35
- Asthmatic mother
- RH-negative factor or maternal genetic problems, including DES exposure and other uterine abnormalities
- Risk of fetal genetic disorders
- Convulsive disorders
- Intrauterine growth retardation, abnormal fetal movement or heartbeat
- Systemic lupus erythematosus and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome