Massage works intimately with the central nervous system. If the pregnant woman feels “I am relaxed”, the chemical signals from her body lead to better digestion, improved circulation, and quality sleep.
How does massage effectively reduce stress?
Massage reduces stress by helping to encourage the parasympathetic nervous system. Massage is also helpful to maintain a strong posture. This is key for an easier pregnancy and birth.
While massage can contribute to general wellbeing, common specific symptoms include:
• Lower back pain
A postural assessment is carried out in the beginning of the treatment. Commonly, the woman is fatigued in her lower back. But the upper back is often tight and stiff. During pregnancy your centre of gravity changes. A massage treatment works with the whole person, supporting her whole structure to work in alignment from head to toe. Sometimes stretches will be given to apply at home.
• Legs & feet discomfort
Approximately from mid-second trimester onwards the woman tends to waddle more and is forced by nature to slow down. Typically hamstrings tighten, calves can cramp, ankle joints ache, and the feet can swell and ache. This is because her centre of gravity has shifted. It is recommended at this time to ensure you choose more supportive footwear. Massage assists to reduce the severity of these symptoms.
Sciatica is the tingling or burning sensation down the outside of the legs. It can be crippling to the point where you are unable to stand or walk. Most commonly, it affects one leg, but can affect both. Massage assists in taking the stress out of the back and leg muscles (as well as neck and shoulders) which also improves circulation. Referrals may be offered to other health practitioners who can work directly with the spine, such as chiropractors and acupuncturists.
• Pregnancy Hypertension
Hypertension is abnormally high blood pressure and can be brought on by a state of great psychological stress. Massage assists in reducing the feeling of overwhelm for the mother. Again, this is where working with the central nervous system is of great benefit to both mother and her baby.
• Disturbed sleep
Common reasons for disturbed sleep include: physical discomfort, the constant need to urinate, and anxiety around birth and/or becoming a mother. By helping to reduce the stress on the structure and system of the pregnant woman, she has a better chance of good quality sleep.
Lymphatic Drainage Reflexology can assist in the reduction of fluid retention over the body and feet; commonly experienced in the third trimester.
Massage as emotional support
While working on physical symptoms is important, there is no doubt that massage delivers the vital ‘time out’ from the constant onslaught of life. Massage is much more than pampering. The power of touch from a professional who understands muscular responses cannot be underestimated. Life becomes less overwhelming. This leads to better sleep, which means she can manage her life easier. She will be more psychologically prepared for birth and the demands of her post-natal life.
Through massage, the pregnant woman feels more in control of her life and her journey. Pregnancy is not the journey but part of the mother’s life journey. There are possibly other demands in her life to tend to, such as family and work. A massage therapist is like a pregnant woman’s best friend. We are here to support you, emotionally and/or physically, so you can live your life with a great deal of comfort – and enjoy life to its fullest.
Lying on a massage table
From second trimester onwards, it can be ideal to be in the side lying position with specially designed pregnancy cushions that can be sculptured to each woman’s own unique shape. This enables you to lie ‘in neutral’, encouraging your body to get optimum rest through the treatment.
The above article was contributed by Natasha Schweppes
Follow this link to visit Natashas’ Natural Therapies Page.
1. Osborne, C. ‘Pre-Perinatal Massage Therapy’ Chapter: ‘Normal Physiological and Mechanical Changes in the Circulatory System’, 2nd Edition 2012, Lippincott Williams & Wiilkins, pp 6-8
2. Osborne, C. ‘Prenatal Posture – Massage and the Pregnant Pelvis’, Massage Therapy Journal, Summer 1998, Vol.37, No.2, 88-96
3. Shannon, A. ‘The Whole Nine Months – Massage in Pregnancy’, Massage Australia, Issue 66, pp.5-15
4. Lafrance, A. ‘What Happens to a Woman’s Brain When She Becomes a Mother’ The Atlantic, 8.1.2015, http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/01/what-happens-to-a-womans-brain-when-she-becomes-a-mother/384179/
Some pregnancy massage research findings:
(1) Relaxation had a positive impact on women’s emotional state.
(2) Pregnancy outcomes improved with fewer admissions to the hospital, fewer obstetric complications, longer gestation, reduction of caesarean sections, and fewer postpartum complications.
(3) Fetal heart rate and fetal motor activity were reduced as a result of relaxation and therefore interpreted as improved result.
(4) Higher-birth-weight and improved performance on the Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale was related to relaxation.
(5) Relaxation training was associated with reductions in maternal physiological and endocrine measures.
Fink, Nadine S. PhD; Urech, Corinne PhD; Cavelti, Marialuisa MSc; Alder, Judith PhD “Relaxation During Pregnancy: What Are the Benefits for Mother, Fetus, and the Newborn? A Systematic Review of the Literature” Journal of Perinatal & Neonatal Nursing:October/December 2012 – Volume 26 – Issue 4 – p 296–306
Although we do not directly offer this service at this time, please call Natalie Meade at the Hunter Birth Education Centre if you would like good local referrals.
0406 934 645