A beautiful way to show yourself some love and self-care during pregnancy is to receive a massage. You can hire a trained therapist, get your partner on the job or enjoy some self-massage.
Many women are unsure if having a massage during their pregnancy will be safe, or even comfortable! So, let us unpick it for you and help put your mind to rest.
What you can gain from having a massage during pregnancy
- You time. We are usually the last person we think about or have any time for. Stopping and checking in with ourselves, taking time to pause and reconnect and enjoying some self-care can feel extremely nurturing and can make all the difference to your day, your week and even your pregnancy!
- Relaxation and improved sleep. Massage releases endorphins, which are natural-occurring hormones that provide feelings of well-being and pain-relief. Endorphins soothe your nervous system, helping you feel more relaxed and improving your sleep.
- Help with pregnancy-related ailments. Constipation can be significantly improved with regular massage to your abdomen, whilst swelling to your limbs can be reduced with gentle upward strokes to your legs and arms. Likewise, sciatica and headaches can be lessened when the tense muscles responsible for these relax after being massaged. Women who received as little as 20 minutes of massage per week reported significantly reduced leg and back pain.
- Improved mental health. Women who enjoyed regular massage sessions during their pregnancy not only reported reduced depression and anxiety in the prenatal period, but also had reduced rates of postpartum depression.
- General well-being. Massage increases blood circulation, improving the delivery of oxygen and nutrition to you and your baby. It also stimulates the lymphatic system, which is responsible for the removal of toxins and improving immunity.
- Support in labour. Regular massage in pregnancy has also been shown to decrease pain in labour and to shorten labours by up to 3 hours.
- For your baby. Research* found that women who regularly received a massage from their partners had lower chances of having a premature baby and a reduced risk of having babies that were low in birth weight.
Evidence shows that when a mother touches her abdomen, her unborn baby responds by showing more arm, leg and mouth movements than when exposed to their mother’s voice. As well as this, babies have shown to regulate their behaviours as a response to this touch, starting to form their attitudes and understanding of life from this contact.
- For your partner: If you choose to be massaged by your partner, this can increase feelings of intimacy and connection between the two of you and, also, between them and your baby. Partners can develop their own relationship with their baby through pregnancy massage. Couples who engage in pregnancy massage also report strengthening of their relationship.
Things to consider
In order to enjoy a safe and comfortable experience, you may like to check through this list:
- You can ensure you are in competent hands by choosing a therapist that has been trained in pregnancy massage and with whom you feel you can communicate openly.
- If your partner is massaging you, checking in with them regularly can help both of you enjoy the process more and maintain safety.
- There are many essential oils that can be safely used in pregnancy. Yet, it is always best to make sure that your chosen essential oil is suitable and safe to use in pregnancy.
- After your 16th week of pregnancy, lying on your back for prolonged periods of time can restrict blood flow to your baby and also make you feel faint. The optimal lying position is on your left side and, for massage, ideally with plenty of pillows to keep your legs, hips, back and neck supported. You can lie on your back for short periods of time and communicate with your therapist/partner if you begin to feel unwell. Using a wedge to take the pressure off the vena cava (a major blood vessel that runs through the middle of your body) whilst you are laid on your back can help you remain comfortable and safe.
- Deep pressure is best avoided and, if you suffer with varicose veins, only light upward strokes are advisable.
It is safe to enjoy a massage during all stages of your pregnancy, regardless of whether you massage yourself or switch off and enjoy being looked after by your partner or a therapist. Whatever you decide, make sure you enjoy it! You and your baby – and your partner, if involved – are sure to benefit from it.
* Research source: Field T, Diego M, Hernandez-Reif M, Deeds O, Fiqueiredo B. Pregnancy massage reduces prematurity, low birthweight and postpartum depression. Infant Behav. Dev. 2009;32:454–460. [PubMed]