By Rieva Lesonsky
There’s no reason you need to give up getting a stress reducing massage just because you’re pregnant. In fact, many of the aches and pains associated with pregnancy can be alleviated by massage techniques and practices. Technicians trained in prenatal massage aim to relax muscle tension and improve blood circulation. According to an obstetrics and gynecology study, women who receive massage therapy report decreased depression, anxiety, and leg and back pain. In addition, the study shows:
- Cortisol levels and excessive fetal activity decreased
- The rate of giving birth prematurely was lowered
- Labor pain lessened and labors were on average 3 hours shorter and needed less medication
It’s important to discuss prenatal massage therapy with your doctor before you embark on a regular massage schedule. If your pregnancy is high risk, your physician may have you wait until you’ve made it through the first trimester. Massage therapy addresses different complaints depending on the stage of the pregnancy. According to the Mayo Clinic, pregnancy symptoms such as foot and ankle swelling, leg cramps and headaches can all be eased through massage.
Aches and Pains
During the third trimester of your pregnancy, the weight gain and increased movement of your baby means more pressure on and more pain to your lower back. If you’re experiencing sciatic nerve pain in your late pregnancy, it could be because the uterus is resting on the muscles of the pelvic floor and lower back. The extra pressure can spread tension to the muscles of the upper and lower leg and means pressure on nearby nerves. Massaging the lower back muscles increases blood flow and circulation—bringing nutrition to the muscles and tissues. Plus, the muscle relaxation can improve flexibility and reduce the pain caused by tight muscles.
Ask your doctor and massage specialist about your body position during prenatal massage. The crucial thing to remember is not to put unwanted strain on the uterine ligaments. If laying on your side isn’t comfortable, ask to try a prenatal massage table with a “belly cradle”. A belly cradle is a removable piece with webbing underneath that allows expectant moms to lie face down comfortably and safely.
Need a Mood Adjustment?
According to the American Pregnancy Association, not only is massage therapy safe throughout the entire pregnancy (with your doctor’s blessing, of course), but massage has been shown to improve mood and attitude. Studies show hormone levels associated with relaxation and stress are significantly transformed when massage therapy becomes part of a woman’s prenatal care. This change in hormones helps moms-to-be regulate their moods and improve their cardiovascular health.
The study also says, in women who received bi-weekly massages for only five weeks, the levels of hormones associated with stress, such as norepinephrine and cortisol, declined, while dopamine and serotonin levels increased (low levels of these hormones are associated with depression).
These positive changes in hormone levels also led to fewer problems during labor and fewer chances of newborn complications, such as low birth weight. The study strongly suggests there are health benefits for the mother and newborn when therapeutic massage is incorporated into regular prenatal care.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at email@example.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.