Massages aren’t just for spa weekends or luxury holidays. In fact, they can play an important role in pregnancy and are even recommended by the American Pregnancy Association.
There are many types of massages to choose from. However, Swedish massage is specifically recommended for pregnant women. The purpose of this massage is to relax muscle tension and improve blood circulation by applying small amounts of pressure to muscles. Swedish massage addresses many of the common discomforts that women experience while pregnant. Here are a few of those benefits:
1- Reduce your anxiety levels
Anyone that has ever had a massage can agree that it tends to be a relaxing and soothing experience. Not surprising then, pregnant women who receive massage therapy have reported decreased levels of depression and anxiety2. Studies have found that massage helps release the hormones that relax us and makes us feel better.
2- Lower your stress, increase your relaxation, and regulate your hormones
It goes without saying that during pregnancy your hormones are all over the place. Episodes of crying, mood swings, and anxiety are all a normal part of the pregnancy experience. And sometimes, it can get a bit exhausting. If that happens, then massage might be the answer. Studies done in the past few years have shown that the hormones associated with relaxation and stress are significantly changed for the better when women have massage therapy1. Many pregnant women find it particularly helpful during the more stressful periods of their pregnancy.
3- Fewer newborn complications
Interestingly enough, the same hormones that lower stress levels (called norepinephrine and cortisol) may also lead to women having fewer complications during birth and fewer instances of newborn complications, such as low birth weight1.
Additionally, in a study of labor pain, women who received massage therapy also experienced significantly less pain, and their labors were on average 3 hours shorter with less need for medication2.
4- Reduce the swelling in your body
If you speak to any woman that has ever been pregnant, they’ll be more than happy to share horror stories about how terrible their swelling was during pregnancy. Depending on what trimester you’re in, the swelling my either be mild (first trimester) or widespread (third trimester).
Swelling is one of the most common side effects of pregnancy and it can be a big source of discomfort for many women. To make matters worse, being pregnant means that you’re limited in the number of ways you can tackle the problem.
But massage may be just what you need—it’s natural, pain free, medication free, and research shows that it works to reduce swelling in any trimester. Massage has been shown to help stimulate soft tissues and reduce the amount of fluids in swollen joints.
5- Ease your nerve pain
There is a large nerve in your body that starts at your lower back and makes its way down the back of your legs. It is known as the sciatic nerve—a long, twisting nerve that under normal circumstances you’ll never even notice. But when you’re pregnant, you do. That’s because during pregnancy the sciatic nerve gets pressed on by the growing muscles. What follows may be very painful back and leg pain that can disrupt many of your normal activities.
Swedish massage may help this problem. It releases the tension on nearby muscles and many women have experienced a significant reduction in sciatic nerve pain using this very technique1.
Things to remember before booking your massage:
- Before undertaking any massage, be sure to discuss it with your prenatal care provider or OBGYN to make sure it is safe for you to engage in.
- Although most massage training institutions teach massage therapy for women who are pregnant, it is best to find a massage therapist who is certified in prenatal massage.
- Women can begin massage therapy at any point in their pregnancy–during the first, second, or third trimester but as mentioned, clear it with your doctor first.
Massage therapy performed during pregnancy can reduce anxiety, decrease symptoms of depression, relieve muscle aches, and help with swelling1. And just in case those reasons aren’t enough to give it a try then remember that massage is a great excuse to escape the business of being pregnant. It’s a nice chance to give yourself a much needed break every once in awhile.
1- American pregnancy association. Massage And Pregnancy – Prenatal Massage. http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/prenatal-massage/
2- Field, T. (2010). Pregnancy and labor massage. Expert Review of Obstetrics & Gynecology, 5(2), 177–181. http://doi.org/10.1586/eog.10.12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2870995/