Pregnancy is a wonderful journey, but it can be accompanied by physical and emotional challenges such as back pain, heavy legs, muscle tension, and fatigue. Prenatal massage is a therapeutic massage designed to support pregnant women from the 4th month of pregnancy until the end of pregnancy.
In this article, we will discuss what prenatal massage is, its benefits, contraindications, and how to perform it.
What is Prenatal Massage?
Prenatal massage or maternity massage is a gentle massage that aims to alleviate the physical and emotional discomforts associated with pregnancy. It is a type of massage therapy that focuses on stimulating muscles and joints, improving blood and lymphatic circulation, and promoting mental and physical relaxation. Prenatal massage provides a unique opportunity for the mother-to-be to bond with her partner and baby.
Benefits of Prenatal Massage
For pregnant women:
- Provides comfort and support
- Relieves discomforts such as heavy legs, back pain, muscle tension, abdominal pain, pubic pain, and insomnia
- Prepares the muscles for childbirth
- Involvement in the pregnancy and birth
- Strengthens the couple’s bond
- Allows for emotional communication with the baby
- Stimulates touch and sound perception
- Enhances emotional development
- Benefits from the mother’s relaxation and pleasure hormone secretion
Contraindications of Prenatal Massage
Prenatal massage is generally safe for pregnant women, but some conditions make it contraindicated:
- Prenatal massage should not be performed during the first trimester of pregnancy.
- Prenatal massage should not be performed on pregnant women with:
- contagious illness
- water or blood loss.
Performing Prenatal Massage
Prenatal massage typically involves three sessions, the first two being for relaxing and the third session is for preparing for childbirth. The massage is usually performed in a lateral position to avoid the uncomfortable stomach position.
Each session lasts about an hour and includes various techniques such as friction, kneading, gentle effleurages, and pressures carried out directly on the skin with creams or neutral massage oils. Essential oils are prohibited as they can potentially harm the baby’s health.
The first session focuses on the back, hips, and abdomen, while the second session is for the feet, legs, arms, hands, head, and face. The final session prepares the mother’s body for childbirth, and the dad also gets involved by learning to support his partner during the onset of labor until delivery.
Safe Massage Techniques
There are several safe massage techniques that pregnant women can choose from. These include:
- Swedish massage: Involves long strokes to muscles, providing better joint mobility, reduced muscle tension, and improved blood flow.
- Deep tissue massage: Involves deep strokes with applying pressure deep into muscles.
- Shiatsu massage: Involves a combination of pressure and tapping on acupressure points to stimulate the body’s natural energy.
Some massage therapists might also use aromatherapy oils to further relax and heighten the sensory experience. However, some oils, such as peppermint, oregano, thyme, basil, sage, and rosemary, can prompt uterine contractions and should be avoided. You can ask your therapist to use non-scented oils.
Are Massage Chairs Safe to Use While Pregnant?
Before using a massage chair or massage cushion during pregnancy, it is essential to consult with your ob-gyn. If your pregnancy is high risk or you have other medical issues, you might need to avoid massages. However, if you get the okay from your doctor, you can use these massage chairs or cushions to alleviate back pain and cramps.
The vibrations from the chair are usually not felt by the baby, as they produce even less movement in your body than a casual walk does. Also, your doctor might ask you to avoid massage during the first trimester, which is the most vulnerable time of pregnancy.