Prenatal massage may sound like a luxury, but research shows it’s a valuable tool in promoting optimal health for you and your baby. In fact, it is the most common alternative therapy recommended by doctors and midwives during pregnancy.
During pregnancy your body goes through many changes as your baby grows. In the first trimester, massage can relieve morning sickness, headaches and reduce fatigue. In the second and third trimester, massage helps to alleviate back, neck, hip and joint pain, and relieve leg cramps. Prenatal massage reduces swelling, edema, nerve pain, and lowers blood pressure. It enhances the quality of sleep and helps keep the pelvic muscles relaxed as the hips widen, relieving discomfort and helping you have an easier labor.
Prenatal massage increases circulation of blood and lymph, and increases oxygenation to the blood, brain and body of the mother and baby. This increase in blood circulation and oxygenation helps alleviate stiffness, swelling, cramping, numbness and nerve pain (like sciatica and pregnancy induced carpal tunnel). It increases deep breathing and lowers breathlessness and dizziness for the mother and positively affects the baby’s ability to receive blood circulation and nutrients for optimal development.
Arguably the biggest long-term benefit of prenatal massage for mother and baby is that it reduces stress hormones. High levels of stress and stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine can affect the mother and baby negatively during pregnancy. Bi-weekly prenatal massage has been shown to reduce stress hormones and increases feel-good hormones like endorphins and serotonin. Keeping these hormones balanced has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety and depression during pregnancy. It also improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure and boosts immunity, which allows the mother’s brain and body to perform optimally.
According to a study published in The National Library of Medicine, “depressed women given massage therapy had fewer prenatal complications, including a 75% lower prematurity rate and an 80% lower incidence of low birth weight” (Field, 2010). The study also reported, decreased depression, anxiety and back pain. The women in the study who had regular prenatal massage had lower levels of stress hormones (cortisol and epinephrine) and lower levels of postpartum depression. Their newborns also had lower cortisol levels and performed better on Neonatal Behavioral Assessment tests. “With mothers less depressed during the neonatal period along with more mature and interactive newborns, the bonding process between them is enhanced.”
Including massage as part of your prenatal care is not just a matter of indulging yourself, so take the opportunity to enjoy a massage for its health benefits for you and your baby!
Field, T. (2010). Pregnancy and labor massage. Expert Review of Obstetrics & Gynecology, 5(2), 177–181. http://doi.org/10.1586/eog.10.12
Field, T., Hernandez-Reif, M., Hart, S., Theakston, H., Schanberg, S., & Kuhn, C. (1999). Pregnant women benefit from massage therapy. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 20(1), 31-38.
Howell, J. NMT, PMT, Prenatal Health Through Massage Therapy: For women and Their Babies. The Free Library 01 December 2002. 04 August 2016 <http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Prenatal health through massage therapy: for women and their babies:...-a098250301>.
Ashlee is a Licensed Massage Therapist, Doula and Ayurvedic Women’s Wellness Practitioner in Santa Fe, NM. She specializes in prenatal massage, postpartum massage and ayurvedic bodywork. Ashlee is a certified birth doula with The Birthing Tree and a certified prenatal massage therapist. Her office is located at The Birthing Tree. She offers discounts on packages and to her doula clients. To learn more about Ashlee please visit: www.birthbodyworkandbalance.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org