For clients that are pregnant, massage can be a great way to relieve discomfort from the musculoskeletal changes that are inevitable during pregnancy. It is also a wonderful way to soothe anxiety or stress that comes with the current and expected changes to life. Bodywork is generally safe for pregnant individuals through the 1st, 2nd and 3rd trimester. High risk pregnancies can still benefit from bodywork, but be sure to let your practitioner know so that they can additionally modify the session. If you are not sure if bodywork is right for you it's always a good idea to check with your doctor first.
Specific Symptoms that bodywork can address during pregnancy:
- Sciatic nerve pain
- Muscle and joint pain
- Stress and anxiety
- Swelling or edema in extremities
- Improve circulation
How is bodywork during pregnancy different than regular bodywork?
1) Focus of the session:
In general, bodywork for pregnant clients is focused on relaxation and increasing comfort. A session can focus on addressing any of the common symptoms that arise during pregnancy: sciatica, muscle/joint pain, stress and anxiety, edema, and decreased circulation. Specific work can be done to relief muscle and joint pain, but there are certain areas of the body where deep digging is avoided because of the vulnerability of these areas. During pregnancy, the body releases relaxin, a hormone that allows for the bones and joints to shift to make room for the baby. Work in the hips and low back is more gentle. Greater care is taken when stretching to take into consideration that the joints and bones are more loose and easily manipulated. In Shiatsu, certain acupressure points are avoided as to not move the energy too forcefully downward.
Special cushions are used to support the body during pregnancy. The cushions can be used to a certain point in the pregnancy (usually through the 1st trimester) to allow you to lay face down without pressure on the abdomen. The cushions can also be used to support you in laying on your side or in a semi-reclined position on the back. Getting a massage while laying on your side feels different than a regular massage, but still covers all the bases and allows for areas like the back, neck and shoulders to be worked on.
3) How often to come:
While one bodywork session during pregnancy is awesome, regular bodywork can have additional benefits and increase comfort for the parent and child. According to an article in Parent's magazine:
"Studies from the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami suggest that moms-to-be who get a weekly massage have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and higher levels of the feel-good hormones serotonin and dopamine. Researchers have linked these hormonal changes to fewer childbirth complications, including a 75 percent reduction in premature births among depressed women. Though you don't need to be depressed to reap the benefits of massage, another Touch Research Institute study found that pregnant women suffering from depression had significant improvement in mood, as well as decreased anxiety, after receiving a 20-minute massage twice a week."
Bodywork for all new parents
Continuing to get regular bodywork after pregnancy is a great way to establish much needed self-care into the new routine of raising a child. Postnatal massage can help the body adjust back to it's pre-pregnancy shape more comfortably. It can also be helpful to all parents as they get used to new movements that come with raising children: feeding, carrying the baby and juggling carriers and bags. I have found that many of these sessions are focused on neck, shoulders, back and hips as you get used to these new movements. Stress and anxiety relief are also incorporated to sooth the mind and enhance the mood as parents move through this transitional time.
1. The Benefits of Prenatal Massage by Belle: University Chancelor.