Prenatal massage best practices and benefits
Elements Apr 30, 2014
Pregnancies can be a wonderful, life-changing experience for both parents. But the process of growing a healthy baby can put a lot of stress on a mother’s mind and body. And if a mother is stressed out or is feeling physically tense during a pregnancy, the baby can be directly affected by the emotions and physical discomfort that can occur.
To help soothe mom and baby during the nine months of rapid growth, changing hormones and overall exhaustion, expectant mothers should include regular massage therapy sessions into their overall prenatal plan.
“From the time you find out you’re pregnant and all the way through, there shouldn’t be a problem with getting a massage as long as you’re healthy and the baby’s healthy,” explains Kymberly Northey, massage therapist at Elements Glendale. “I believe that if there is a little less stress on the body during pregnancy, it can help a mom get through the pregnancy a little easier.”
If Mama’s Happy, Everybody’s Happy
As expectant moms grow a baby inside their bodies, there are so many changes -- both physical and mental -- that occur throughout the three trimesters of pregnancy. These changes can bring stress and discomfort to areas of your body that you may not have experienced issues with before.
To help alleviate the discomfort common during pregnancy, expectant moms can really benefit from massage in the shoulder, lower back, hips and feet areas, Northey says. Including prenatal massage into your pregnancy routine is not only good for promoting health and wellness for mom, but also for the baby.
“If you keep mom happy, the baby will pretty much stay happy as well,” says Northey. “You can tell sometimes when you’re massaging a mom that you’re relaxing and soothing the baby as well. The baby can totally tell what’s going on. It’s a pretty fascinating experience.”
The overall benefits of prenatal massage for mom and baby include:
- Improves circulation throughout the pregnancy.
- Reduces swelling in mom’s ankles and feet by keeping blood and lymphatic fluids flowing.
- Helps reduce mom’s sciatica pain as the baby gets bigger.
- Helps the baby to relax and have a healthier growing process.
- Prepares the body for labor and delivery.
“When I work on women who are within weeks of their delivery date, I do a lot of work on their glutes and lower back,” explains Northey. “This can help their pelvic bones get ready for the baby to arrive.”
Expectant Moms Deserve a Relaxing, Therapeutic Experience
Some women may be hesitant to get a prenatal massage because they’re afraid that if a therapist touches a certain spot that they will be put into labor. Northey advises that this misconception isn’t necessarily true, especially if the therapist is properly trained, there is open communication between the therapist and the client, and proper precautions are taken.
Deep pressure can be used during a prenatal massage if the client requests it, but Northey doesn’t suggest doing a deep tissue massage from head to toe as this approach can stress the body too much. Therapists also shouldn’t do trigger point therapy throughout the entire massage either, Northey advises, but should focus on keeping prenatal massage pressure consistently moderate and within the client’s preferred pressure level. You should expect a massage experience that is safe, relaxing, therapeutic and customized to your specific needs.
“My goal during a prenatal massage is to make sure that my clients are comfortable and that the massage is relaxing the client, not stressing out the body,” explains Northey. “Expectant moms already have a baby in their body that they are trying to keep comfortable. As a therapist, you don’t want to add additional stress or pressure.”
Setup Important for Comfort and Safety
While some modifications have to be made during a prenatal massage to ensure a mother’s comfort and the baby’s safety, there are several different setups that can make a prenatal massage relaxing and enjoyable. Northey’s Elements studio, for instance, uses a prenatal-specific cut-out table that allows clients to lay face down on the table while their belly is supported by a sling.
Another common option is called “sidelining,” which includes propping clients up on their side with various pillows. Since pregnant women aren’t supposed to lie on their backs for long periods of time, it’s important to use a wedge to prop up the client’s upper body from the table when they’re in the face-up position.
“In a cut-out table, the therapists can give clients the pressure they want and it’s easier for them to get to all of the parts of the client’s body that need to be massaged without having to move pillows,” explains Northey. “We can even stretch the client, too, because they are totally supported by the sling in the cut-out table. In any kind of setup, though, the mom’s health and the baby’s health are the most important things.”
If you’re expecting to add a bundle of joy to your family soon and you’d like to feel some relief from your body’s discomfort during the pregnancy, schedule a prenatal massage for a soothing therapeutic experience for both you and your baby. Feel free to visit the studio before your massage to walk through the room, see the prenatal setup that your studio offers, and get comfortable about the experience before your actual appointment.