During pregnancy, women’s bodies go through gradual yet significant changes. Prenatal massage is a great way to relax and ease some of the discomfort that may be experienced during each trimester. Prenatal massage can help to alleviate leg cramps and stress on weight bearing joints such as the hips, knees, and ankles which have to support the additional weight of the growing fetus. Neck, shoulder, and low back pain that occur due to shifts in posture are also relieved. Blood volume can increase up to 40% during pregnancy, which can lead to swelling, or edema, in the hands and feet. Massage can help to increase the efficiency of the blood and lymphatic vessels to drain the excess fluids from the extremities. The increase in circulation brings fresh oxygen and nutrients to different cells and tissues of both mother and fetus, allowing for optimal development of the fetus. The relaxing affects of massage have also been shown to decrease levels of cortisol, or stress hormone, in the body which decreases feelings of depression and anxiety in mom, and may decrease excessive fetal activity. Studies have shown that women who receive massage during pregnancy have fewer complications during labor and lower rates of premature delivery.
Don’t forget about yourself after the baby arrives, post natal massage can help to realign the pelvis following birth by relaxing muscles around the pelvic bowl and allowing the uterus to shrink back into its optimal position. Decreased levels of stress hormones in the body after giving birth can help to increase milk supply to make breastfeeding easier.
Field, T. et al. Pregnant women benefit from massage therapy. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology. 1999;19:31-38.
Osborn, C. Pre- and Perinatal Massage Therapy, A Comprehensive Guide to Prenatal, Labor, and Postpartum Practice. Baltimore, MD:Lippincott Williams and Wilkins; 2012.