Massage may be commonly taken as an occasional indulgence, but it is also fast gaining recognition as a self-care regime integral to our general well-being.
Indeed, one of the most beneficial times for massage may be during pregnancy.
The journey of pregnancy is one in which a woman’s body undergoes significant changes. Not only that, pregnancy also affects the mother pyschologically and emotionally.
How does the body changes and what does a woman go through while expecting? When and how does massage fit in the period of pregnancy? Below is a brief overview.
First trimester (0 to 3 months)
In the first three months of pregnancy, a woman experiences significant hormonal changes. These could range from breast tenderness, food cravings, to fatigue and mood swings. It is also the time when the foetus just begins to develop and is the most vulnerable. As such, massage is highly not advisable in the first trimester.
Second trimester (4 to 6 months)
The fluctuating hormones gradually normalise and the expecting mother may start to feel the growth of her baby within. Here is where the increasing load starts to take a toil on the mummy. Towards the end of this trimester, the mother’s pelvic would have widen very much to acomodate the foetus’ growth, leading to instability and strains in her posture.
Pre-natal massage is recommended from the second trimester onwards whereby appropriate strokes and pressure could alleviate the muscle tension and helps the mom-to-be to relax.
Third trimester (7 to 9 months)
The growing foetus continues to exert weight and load on the mummy. The expanding uterus also pushes against internal organs which causes discomforts like breathing difficulties, heart-burn and difficulties to fall asleep. Many mothers-to-be also experience pressure on their bladder, water retention, and swelling on their limbs.
In addition, the physical changes often trigger a “no longer attractive” feeling that spins the mummy’s morale and confidence downwards.
Massage at this stage tend to be more gentle yet assuring and comforting. The aim is to offer nurturing touch to relieve both the physical and emotional discomforts. Most mothers enjoy getting massage up till one to two weeks before the expected delivery date, or unless otherwise medically advised.
The benefits of pre-natal massage are outlined as follows:
- decrease anxiety, stress hormones.
- promote relaxation thereby facilitating sleep and rest.
- reduce muscular strains and stress on neck, shoulders and back, as well as joints due to postural imbalances.
- improve circulation and lymphatic drainage, thereby reducing swelling and water retention.
- improves muscle and skin tone through increased cell renewal
- provides emotional support with nurturing touch.
What to take note of
Massage is a complementary approach to wellness. As such, it is advisable that pregnant mother informs her primary care provider (usually the gynaecological doctor, or gynae in short) of her plans for massage therapy. This keeps both parties in check, and the gynae can also provide the professional insights and advice where necessary.
As with any body therapy, a qualified therapist will sit through a consultation before the actual rub-down. This consultation is important because it gathers vital information of medical and physical history as well as to uncover contraindications. A contraindication is a condition that makes massage unsuitable and unsafe.
Below are some common contraindications. The list is by no means exhaustive.
- Skin disease or disorder
- Fever and infection
- Hypertension, hypotension, diabetes, etc
- Severe swelling in limbs
- Stomach pains and cramps
- Discharge or any signs of threatened pregnancy
- History of previous miscarriage(s)
It is important that the therapist is aware of a present contraindication, because she will then advise not to carry out the massage for utmost safety reasons. In most cases, the therapist will refer her client to the latter’s primary medical care provider.
More often than not, a typical 40-weeks antenatal journey is hardly a walk in the park. In the good hands of a trained, qualified and competent therapist, the pregnant mother would almost always immediately experience relief to her tired muscles and a sense of relaxation.
Of course, beyond massage, the mother is also encouraged to continue good self-care, which includes having adequate hydration and rest, taking nutritious foods, reaching out for support and care, as well as following gynae’s advice from her regular visits.
Salvo, G.Susan. Massage therapy: principles and practice. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2015.
Salvo, G.Susan. Mosby’s pathology for massage therapist. Elsevier Health Sciences, 2008.
Stager, Leslie. Nurturing massage for pregnancy.