Mommy Massage: For a Healthy, Relaxed Pregnancy

IMAGE During pregnancy, a woman's skeletal structure increasingly supports more weight and her organs shift to accommodate her growing baby. The journey can be uncomfortable. Linda, a nationally certified and licensed massage therapist trained in pregnancy massage says, "A massage therapist can do very specific muscle manipulation throughout a woman's pregnancy to alleviate discomfort in many areas of her body."

What the Studies Say

Researchers at the Touch Research Institute (University of Miami School of Medicine) have found evidence to support the use of massage therapy in pregnant women. Massaged women reported a decrease in depressed mood, anxiety, and pain. These women also showed a more positive attitude following the first massage during labor. Massage was associated with other benefits, too, including shorter labor times, shorter hospital stays, and less postpartum depression.

Betsy's Story

Betsy, a 41-year-old woman pregnant with her second child, receives weekly massage therapy. "Massage has allowed me to be active and healthy all the way up to these last days before I'm due," she says. During this pregnancy, morning sickness is much less problematic than last time. Massage helps her back pain, and she sleeps better the night after a massage. She has not had leg cramps or swelling in her hands or feet. "Without massage as a regular part of this pregnancy, I would have lost my mind after the fourth month!" Betsy says. She credits pregnancy massage with quieting the voices of fear and anxiety, and relaxing her body and her spirit. "For me, massage is a very important tool in surviving pregnancy."

When Not to Receive Massage

Pregnancy massage is generally very safe and satisfying, but it is not for everyone at all stages of pregnancy. That is why it is important to use a prenatal massage therapist.Massage to ankle reflex points—areas of the ankles that correspond to the uterus and ovaries—should be avoided unless a woman wants to bring about labor. Massage directly over varicose veins is not a good idea, but treatments done to surrounding areas will improve circulation and relieve tension in the varicose tissues.In general, some swelling is normal in pregnancy, and massage can help relieve some of the discomfort. However, fairly rapid and/or severe swelling of the hands and face late in pregnancy can be a sign of potentially dangerous conditions and requires immediate medical care; massage is not the appropriate therapy in this case.If you have other conditions, it is important that you talk to your healthcare provider before you schedule an appointment with a massage therapist. For example, if you have a high-risk pregnancy, high blood pressure, or pre-eclampsia, seek advice from your healthcare provider first. If you are experiencing preterm labor, massage can help improve circulation and relax you, but massage of the abdomen should be avoided.

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