Being pregnant can be a wonderful time, but it can also be a period of anxiety for many expectant mothers, especially given the massive hormonal imbalances that occur throughout the 9 months of pregnancy. Pregnancy massage, sometimes called antenatal massage, is one technique that can help to reduce stress, improve relaxation, treat the aches and pains of growing a baby and aid sleep.
Sleep is really important to the health and well being of expectant mums, but with a growing body, it can become really uncomfortable to sleep. This is especially true if you were used to sleeping on your front or back, as this becomes impossible during the later stages of pregnancy. Pregnancy massage has been shown to help improve sleep, through the relaxation it provides and the decrease in the levels of the stress hormone noradrenaline.
Back pain, hip pain and pelvis pain are all common among pregnant women, and all are hard to ease. Massage has been shown to relieve pain. Your massage therapist will use either a special massage table designed for pregnant women, or bolsters to help you get into a comfortable position. If you're experiencing pelvic pain, massage can help to ease the aches, making walking and sitting more comfortable.
As noted, massage during pregnancy can help to reduce the levels of the stress hormone, noradrenaline, in your body. The massage can also encourage the release of happy hormones, serotonin and dopamine, which aid relaxation and general stress-relief. Studies have found that pregnancy massage can help to ease depression in pregnant women, through the combination of the decrease in stress hormones and increase in feel-good hormones. After childbirth, stress, anxiety and depression are common, and postnatal massage can continue to help relieve these feelings. You should also speak to your midwife, health worker or doctor if you’re struggling with negative feelings.
Areas to avoid
All sorts of chemical changes occur in the body to support the growing baby and prepare the body for birth. One of these changes is an increase in the coagulants in the blood, which thicken the blood to prevent hemorrhaging during childbirth. The volume of blood can also increase by as much as 50%, with flow to the legs becoming sluggish. Combined, these changes can increase the chance of blood clots forming. To avoid the possibility of dislodging a clot in the leg, a massage therapist should use very light, strokes, moving towards the heart. Other types of massage to avoid on the legs include deep-tissue, percussive tapping, deep acupressure, cross-fibre friction, and shiatsu.
Many massage therapists will not massage the abdomen at all, whilst others will use very light gentle strokes. You can ask your therapist before the treatment begins if they do or do not massage the belly, and tell them if you’d prefer they avoid it all together.
Enjoy a massage during your pregnancy to relieve pain, reduce stress and help with sleep. This is an important time to treat yourself and to feel as great as you can.
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