Based on the current advice/information from Helen Carr (Complementary Therapy Midwife).
Massage is one of the world’s most ancient therapies. It is well researched and the positive effects widely accepted. There are different forms of massage but during pregnancy a gentle form of massage is recommended.
What is massage?
Massage is the use of therapeutic (healing/calming) touch to help you relax both physically and mentally. It can help relax muscles, helps to release tension (i.e. waste products produced by the muscles such as lactic acid) within the muscle, stimulates the circulation, helps with excretion of the waste products, lowers blood pressure and aids digestion.
Modern massage involves the manipulation of muscles and soft tissues to aid health, wellbeing, circulation and relaxation. The level of touch used can be light and gentle or deep and quite strong. Massage in Europe has developed into many different practices that draw on various traditions, most commonly on Swedish massage techniques. Therapists often use a combination of techniques. Some of the common techniques used in maternity care include:
- Swedish or classical massage –uses five basic techniques: vibration, tapping, kneading, stroking and friction.
- Light touch massage – uses a very light touch which stimulates the nerves in the skin and stimulates endorphins (relaxation, feel good hormones)
- Aromatherapy massage – uses aromatherapy oils to add to the effects of the massage.
Is massage safe in pregnancy?
Massage in pregnancy can be very beneficial but it is important to find a therapist who is qualified to work with pregnant women.
Swedish and aromatherapy massage are not usually recommended in early pregnancy (before 16 weeks).
In later pregnancy gentle and/or light touch massage from your birth companion can help you to relax and ease some minor pregnancy ailments such as backache.
Light Touch Massage
What are the benefits of massage?
Due to the changes in your posture, the added weight of the pregnancy and the increased physical demand on your body, you can experience more muscle tension and fatigue. Receiving massage treatments during your pregnancy can greatly help relieve this tension and promote physical and emotional wellbeing. What’s more, research has shown that touch stimulates the release of endorphins (the body’s natural relaxant). Endorphins are your body’s natural pain killers and they aid relaxation and lift your mood. Regular massage not only nurtures you but also nurtures your baby. Massage can help with the minor pregnancy symptoms such as backache, headaches, swollen hands and feet, carpal tunnel syndrome and anxiety.
Labour is a normal and natural process, where your body instinctively takes over. Go into labour with an open mind and listen to your body to see what works for you. Some mums do not like being touched in labour but for many, massage can be a great emotional and physical help. Massages during labour can aid relaxation, in particular, lower back massage can be very beneficial in helping with pain relief. For mums who do not like lower back massage or those using the pool, the light touch massage can be very beneficial.
The demands both physically and emotionally of a new baby mean that massage is a wonderful way of finding some quality ‘time–out’, time just for you. It can help ease the tension created during birth and from bending, lifting, carrying, bathing, feeding and caring for your baby. Receiving massage after birth aids relaxation, reduces anxiety and improves your wellbeing. It aids recovery and reduces your chance of developing postnatal depression.
Advice following a massage
Massage is both a relaxing and stimulating treatment that has effects on your mind and body. Following some forms of massage you may experience some of the following symptoms:
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Increased thirst
- Increased visits to the toilet
- Slight headache or nausea
- Heightened emotions.
These symptoms are normal and are simply a sign that your body is going through a healing process. In this event increase your water intake and rest. These feelings should pass within 12 hours.
To minimise the risk of these effects we advise the following:
- Drink plenty of water, herbal teas or fruit juices. Massage can release tension and increasing your fluid intake can help minimise the risk of dehydration, which can cause headaches and nausea.
- Rest and relax immediately following a treatment.
- Take care if you are driving, as your reflexes may be slower than normal.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, fizzy drinks and tobacco following a treatment as their stimulating effects may hinder the detoxifying process.
- Try to take a light diet as a heavy meal may make you feel nauseous.
- After an aromatherapy massage, some essential oils are phototoxic (enhance the properties of the sun) which is enhanced in pregnancy and just after birth. Your massage therapist may therefore advise that you avoid direct sunlight for four to six hours following your treatment.
If you require further information please contact: