Massage relieves many discomforts experienced during pregnancy including:
- Stiff neck
- Leg cramps
- Sore, swollen ankles and feet
- Carpal tunnel
- Muscle tension
- Depression or anxiety caused by hormonal changes
- Postnatal massage assists the mother to regain strength and ease muscular tension
During pregnancy a woman’s body undergoes many changes; some may be stressful and uncomfortable. How a woman handles stress can have a profound effect on her health and the health of her baby. Stress and anxiety leads to an increase in stress compounds that can have negative effects during pregnancy and labour. (1) Massage is a perfect way to reduce stress and promote general well being.
Massage has a powerful ability to sedate and restore the nervous system. This occurs through stimulating specific receptors of the deeper soft tissues that send information to the nervous system on muscle tension and blood pressure. (2)
Massage helps to soothe and relax nervous tension. This in turn helps the mother sleep more easily and more deeply. Most midwives agree that a relaxed mother will have a happier, healthier pregnancy and (possibly) an easier childbirth experience. A study by The Touch Research Institute showed a decrease in anxiety, stress hormones, and obstetrical complications in women who received massages regularly during their pregnancies. (3)
Massage helps the mother’s body eliminate waste products (through the lymphatic and circulatory systems), helps combat fatigue and to feel more energetic by increasing blood and lymph drainage. Specific massage techniques can also reduce swelling.
By aiding circulation, massage eases the load on the mother’s heart and helps to keep her blood pressure in check.
Massage helps carry away the lactic acid and other cellular waste products that build up and therefore reduces muscle fatigue.
Massage increases local and general blood circulation, which brings oxygen and nutrients to the cells of both the mother and baby. This means greater vitality and less fatigue for both the mothers and better nourishment for her baby.
Massage provides relief from muscle cramps, spasms, tightness, tension, “knots” and myofascial pain, especially in the lower back, neck, hips, and legs. It can also help to alleviate headaches, backaches and sciatic pain.
Massage can also increase muscular flexibility, which is very helpful during the last trimester and during the birth itself and reduces stress on the weight-bearing joints.
Massage can be used during the birth to make it easier and more comfortable for the mother. It can also improve the outcome of labour and ease the labour pain.
After the birth massage can be used to help the mother regain her strength more quickly and it can also ease postpartum stress.
Massage can help relieve depression or anxiety caused by hormonal change.
It can also provide support for the new mother from the physical and emotional strains of mothering.
(1) McKay S: Maternal stress and pregnancy outcome, Minneapolis, 1980, ICEA
(2) Stillerman, E Prenatal Massage A textbook of Pregnancy, Labor, and Postpartum Bodywork,
(3) Field T, Hernandez-Reif M, Hart S, et al: Pregnant women benefit from massage therapy, J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol 290:31-38, 1999.