A pregnancy massage - also known as a prenatal massage - is a massage or hand-on treatment done during pregnancy. There are different types of massages and are similar to regular massages but are more concentrated on the well-being of the mother and child. They typically last an hour and can be adapted to each individual depending on the mother's needs. You usually lie on your side but massage therapists can also use a massage table to increase comfort.
It is generally safe to do after the first trimester as long as you inform your doctor and massage therapist of your pregnancy. Some therapists are careful with pressure points and use a range of massage techniques to avoid discomfort and pain.
Receiving a massage during pregnancy can ease pain and reduce anxiety. It can help you cope with contractions by making them feel less intense and more manageable which can reduce labour time. It can also lower the risk of premature birth or low birth weight.
What are the benefits of pregnancy massage?
There are several benefits of getting a pregnancy massage for expectant mothers and their babies. It feels good, is excellent in promoting relaxation and bonding, soothes nerves, and relieves strained back and tired muscles.
Pregnancy can produce muscular discomforts such as leg cramps, muscle stiffness, tension and knots. A massage improves circulation and stimulates blood flow to these areas, easing discomfort and pain.
A tight buttock muscle can cause sciatic pain during pregnancy. A massage can help relax this muscle and relieve the pain caused by the pinched nerve.
Extra pressure your uterus places on your legs can lead to swelling in your feet and ankles. Massage can improve circulation and lymph flow to the affected areas, helping to reduce swelling.
A massage may aid in falling asleep and reduce insomnia. You can fall asleep faster and sleep for more extended periods. This could be due to the serotonin produced during the massage, which in turn produces melatonin, which helps us fall asleep.
Reduced stress and anxiety
Pregnancy is stressful, so a massage is a great way to relieve this stress and tension. It can relax and ease anxieties and worries about the pregnancy. Feeling good is essential and is great for your mental health, which can benefit you and the baby and increase emotional endurance.
It's important to note that a good therapist will always discuss areas you would like to be massaged and, more importantly, areas you wouldn't. Before you book a pregnancy massage, it's vital to ensure that the therapist has been specially trained in prenatal care to guarantee appropriate knowledge, skills, and safety.
What can I do to help discomfort in pregnancy?
Even though a professional massage can be excellent, you can do several things at home to indulge in self-care and prevent discomfort.
Get your partner to help
A comfortable position to lay in for your partner to massage you is on your side. You may find it beneficial to rest a pillow between your legs, behind your back, or rest your top leg on top of a pillow and your partner lay behind you to comfortably reach your tummy.
- Your partner then rests the palm of their hand at the centre of your abdomen across your tummy button whilst you both take several slow breaths and take time to adjust to this touch on your tummy.
- You may find that your baby moves around with the warmth of your partner's resting hand.
- Once you both feel relaxed, your partner can begin to slowly move their hand around in a circle using the tummy button as the central point. It's essential to work in a clockwise direction to work with the natural flow of the digestive system.
- Gradually, your partner can begin to widen the circle, so they start to move around the entirety of your baby bump. It's such a simple, understated move but can be highly relaxing for you, your partner and your baby.
Allowing your partner to massage your tummy provides a wonderful opportunity to develop a bond. It is also great to help your partner feel involved in the pregnancy.
Use a Massage Oil
It's essential to choose an oil that is safe to use during pregnancy and recommended by an aromatherapist. There is a lot of misguided information on aromatherapy. It can be confusing, so some may prefer to buy a pre-made oil/serum that will provide the same benefits as mixing your essential oils. Still, with the added assurance, it can be safely blended.
My Expert Midwife's Fantastic Skin Elastic is developed with the perfect balance of vitamins and essential oils to assist with pregnancy niggles like dry and itching skin, restless legs and uncomfortable stretching skin.
One My Expert Midwife customer started using Fantastic Skin Elastic after being unhappy with other leading brands:
"Initially, I started to use body butter, but having naturally oily skin, I found it too heavy & started to get a spotty belly. I then switched to a leading brand of coconut oil which was ok until my tummy started to stretch out! The oil wasn't heavy enough, and to stop my tummy getting itchy, I was applying 2/3 times a day. Then I discovered Fantastic Skin Elastic. What a difference & well worth the price tag! I apply it every morning after my shower on my tummy & hips, and it keeps my skin looking and feeling great all day long—no itchiness or spots. My partner also really likes the feel/smell and even uses it in his baby bonding by occasionally rubbing it into my tummy while chatting to the baby. A little bonus massage for me! I can highly recommend this product & will most likely continue to use it after the baby is here as I've always struggled to find a good moisturiser."
A pregnancy massage therapy session can go beyond pure bodywork. It can become a form of complementary therapy, holistic maternity care and a place for support and guidance (within the limits of the practitioner's expertise).
It is always best to check with your doctor before getting a massage. Avoid massages if you have health complications like high blood pressure and fever and are at a high risk of a miscarriage, as that could make massage during pregnancy risky.