Massage During Pregnancy
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There are very few women who do not enjoy a massage, but massage during pregnancy has only recently been deemed as 'acceptable'. Considering all the changes that take place in a woman's body from the time that she conceives to the time she gives birth, it makes sense that massage during pregnancy may actually be beneficial.
Obviously if you are pregnant and considering to continue to have your weekly massage (we should be so lucky!), speak to your doctor or maternity team first to make sure that there are no contra-indications that apply to you as an individual. Some doctors are reluctant to recommend or give advice on massage in pregnancy as complementary medicine is not accepted by all clinicians, however, it does seem that more maternity units have midwives qualified to perform massages, so perhaps attitudes are changing.
Finding a reputable therapist
Your first step in having a massage during pregnancy would be to find a therapist that you trust and is registered with a regulatory body such as the General Council for Massage Therapy (GCMT) or the International Register of Massage Therapists (IRMT). Many therapists will not perform massages on women during the first trimester or first three months of pregnancy because the majority of miscarriages will happen during the first trimester. No one has conducted any research on the effect of massage on pregnancy and miscarriage so there is no evidence to support or disprove any theories connecting the two. However, you must get medical advice and approval for massage if:
- You are suffering from severe morning sickness
- You are in a high risk category for miscarriage or have suffered a miscarriage previously
- If there is any indication of placental abruption or chance that you may go into premature labour
What are the benefits of massage during pregnancy?
It is well known that a massage is good for relaxation and easing anxiety and the same applies during pregnancy. Sometimes pregnant women have difficulty sleeping and a relaxing massage may be helpful for this too. Also, some women find that gentle stroking of the abdomen helps to calm the baby.
Backache is one of the most common problems associates with pregnancy, besides the discomfort of an ever-stretching waistline. It is not uncommon for backache to continue after delivery and beyond, particularly when you are constantly bending, lifting and moving babies, toddlers and young children. Massage is good for relieving the tense muscles that often cause backache; this has been confirmed by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Safety guidelines have been issued by the NHS on the use of complementary therapies during pregnancy.
Other claims have been made regarding the positive effects of massage on sciatica, leg cramps, joint pains and leg swelling, which are other common side effects of pregnancy. Massage is also said to stimulate circulation around the whole body. It is said to increase your energy levels, which could be useful if you intend to continue working during your pregnancy or if you have other young children to care for.
The use of oils during massage
If you are familiar with spas and therapists then you will be aware that many will use essential oils in the carrier oils used for the massage. These essential oils have beneficial effects on the body and mind. They help to relax the body and lift spirits when used in the massage process. However, not all of them are recommended for use on pregnant women. Some pregnant women find that fragrances they once loved make them feel unwell, so you may wish to avoid essential oils altogether if you do go for a massage.
Some of the essential oils that are considered to be safe are the citrus oils such as Tangerine, Lemon and Mandarin, or others like Tea Tree and Ylang Ylang. There are some that should be avoided such as Arnica, which is commonly used these days and Jasmine or Juniper. Be sure to discuss this with your therapist when you arrange your massage sessions. Another consideration is how you will be positioned for your massage as the further on in your pregnancy that you are, the more difficult it is to find a comfortable position to lie in. You should never lie on your back for a massage when you are pregnant. The therapist may feel that it is better for you to lie on your side so that you do not put undue pressure on the uterus, or they may have a table that is able to accommodate your 'bump', but be careful that it does not cause added discomfort by pulling on the uterine ligaments.
The benefits of massage during and after labour
It may even be possible to have a massage while you are in labour. It is said that massage will help you to relax, reduce your anxiety levels and the pain of labour. There is also much to be said for post-natal massage. It can help you get back your pre-pregnancy shape by improving your posture, the tone and circulation of the abdomen and all those other muscles you find you now need whilst breastfeeding, as well as easing the post-natal blues.
Pregnancy is hard work and it can be hard to accept the changes that are made to your body, no matter how much you love your baby. Spending a little time indulging in a massage to relieve some of the niggling aches, make you feel good, help you through labour and after the delivery can only a be a good thing, provided you speak to your midwife or carer beforehand.