Massage has been used for centuries across the globe to nurture pregnant women and their babies within. This is a period of dramatic structural, physiological, psychological, emotional and social transformation. Massage therapy has been shown to be of great support to the many changes & challenges both pregnant and postpartum women and their babies experience.
Prenatal Massage Benefits
*Decreases stress hormone levels & maternal anxiety - releases endorphins & stimulates the parasympathetic response which is felt by the baby as well
*Supports physiological gestation process by increasing circulation of blood & lymph (also reduces edema in lower leg, hands & face)
*Improves mood & energy levels- massage supports the work of the heart and increases cellular respiration and nutrition
*Facilitates better sleep
*Reduces back, hip, leg and foot pain - massage reduces stress on weight bearing joints and musculofascial structures that may be causing pain due to changes in weight, posture, muscle weakness & imbalance (cont. below)...
*Increases postural awareness and maintenance
*Decreases complications in labor- massage increases the mother’s muscle tone and enhances flexibility as well as tapping into the body‘s innate wisdom. It also develops the sensory awareness necessary to relax during the first stage of labor and recruit appropriate muscles for the 2nd stage of labor
*Decreases postnatal complications for the infant
*Increases secretion of prolactin, the hormone responsible for milk production
*Enhances placental function
*Encourages more sensitive and caring touch of newborns by new mother
Postpartum Massage Benefits
*Accelerates healing process from vaginal or Cesarean section delivery through increased circulation of blood and nutrients. Also stimulates lymphatic circulation increasing the elimination of excess water retention
*Releases muscle strain from labor, delivery & newborn care
*Initiates parasympathetic nervous system response, releasing endorphins & using tactile stimulation to block pain receptors, decreasing the perception of pain
*Relieves fatigue from sleep deprivation
*Releases endorphins which create feelings of love & well being, increasing mother-infant bonding
*Improves posture by supporting realignment of spine and pelvis as well as balancing adaptively shortened or stretch weakened muscles
*Encourages milk production by relaxing the muscles surrounding the breasts, decreasing stress & aiding in the stimulation of mammary glands
*Nurturing touch, comfort and pampering reduce post partum blues as well as supporting the emotional and lifestyle challenges of parenting
*Provides positive educational and emotional support for mothers to learn about the natural post partum changes.
(Information from “Massage for Healthy Pregnancies” (Modules 1 & 2), Boulder College of Massage Therapy, Instructor: Stacey Gilbert, CMT.)