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Pregnancy Massage Has Health Benefits Too

Katlyn Joy |12, August 2014


It's hardly a secret that most women suffer from aches and pains while pregnant. From the ever-sore back to the cramping of legs, and throbbing of feet, a pregnant woman can feel like life has run her over like a semi-truck.

Besides whine, she may try to remedy some of these ills with alternative health measures. One such method is prenatal massage. Prenatal massage or pregnancy massage, like most massage sessions, typically lasts an hour. Some therapists even have special tables to accommodate a pregnant belly, or cushions made for pregnant women.

The Case for Pregnancy Massage

Like most alternative therapies, not a great deal of research has been conducted, but most have concluded that massage for pregnant women is safe and probably beneficial.

For instance, the June 2004 Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology published a study of 84 women who were in the second trimester of their pregnancies and diagnosed with depression. The women were broken into three groups; those who received standard prenatal care, those who practiced progressive muscle relaxation, and those who received 20 minute massages from their significant others twice a week.

The women in the massage group at the end of the 16-week study were found to have lower levels of stress hormones, and higher levels of good-feeling hormones. This seemed to contribute to less premature births, fewer low birth weight babies, and better outcomes on the Brazelton Neonatal Behavior Assessment.

Another study out of the University of Miami School of Medicine found that massage therapy had positive benefits such as lower levels of back and leg pain, better sleep, decreased anxiety, and lower stress hormones.

Other Benefits of Massage for Pregnant Women

According to an article on prenatal massage in MASSAGE Magazine, there are myriad benefits for pregnant women who get massages.

Physical symptoms helped by massage include: upper and lower back pain, sciatica, leg cramps, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches, varicose veins, hip pain, neck pain, edema, constipation, shortness of breath, heartburn and indigestion and fatigue.

  • It helps boost the immune system, which is a big plus for mother and baby.
  • Massage increases circulation, providing better flow of oxygen for both mother and fetus.
  • Helps stabilize hormones, which in turn can help alleviate stress.
  • Massage can help pregnant women with proper alignment of their spines, which will create less of a burden on their backs as the baby grows heavier throughout pregnancy.
  • Muscle tone is increased which lessens muscle cramping and spasms.
  • It promotes the flow and amount of endorphins into the system, which helps create a more relaxed state for the mother, leading to lowered stress and more restful sleep.
  • Massage helps lower blood pressure, making a safer environment for baby and better health for the pregnant woman.
  • Massage is also a great pain reliever during labor, and can decrease the need for medications.

When to Avoid Prenatal or Pregnancy Massage

Although massage has many positive outcomes, there are some situations where massage would not be recommended.

  • If you are having a great deal of morning sickness, with nausea and vomiting, you should delay massage.
  • If you are at risk for premature labor, massage may not be wise. Check with your doctor before making a massage appointment.
  • If you have a strong history of miscarriage or are known to be at high-risk for miscarriage, you should probably not get a massage.
  • If you are at risk for placental abruption, massage is not recommended.

How to Start Looking for a Massage Therapist

Before getting any alternative therapy such as massage, discuss it first with your health care provider. You may even get a name or recommendation from your physician.

Next, look for a licensed massage therapist. Look for certification from an organization such as the American Massage Therapy Association. Most massage therapists must have 500 hours of education to be licensed, but their training may not include specialized training to work with expectant mothers. Make sure your therapist is trained and prepared to work with pregnant clients. Doctors, nurses, or hospitals may have a list of massage therapists they have worked with and endorse.

If a therapist is not a possibility, then wrangle some regular rubdowns from your spouse!

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