"Helping you look after your body"
What is pregnancy massage?
Pregnancy Massage can be of enormous benefit not only to you mum, but also to your unborn baby. Massage during pregnancy can be a magical experience for both the receiver and the giver. It can support you emotionally and physiologically during a time when your body is undergoing many changes and can help prepare your body for birth.
Pregnancy is a wonderful time for a woman, but with the joys of a new baby’s development, come many changes to the mother’s body putting pressure on joints, ligaments and organs, often causing discomfort and pain.
There is ample evidence which supports the tremendous benefits of pregnancy massage (Elaine Stillerman, Suzanne Yates and Carole Osborne-Sheets). It can help alleviate aches and pains and other common health problems associated with pregnancy. Preparing for the arrival of a new baby brings much excitement, but also plenty of stress and massage can help to reduce these stress levels due to its calming effects.
Furthermore, research shows that the baby can benefit greatly from massage as ‘feel good’ endorphins are released by the mother during massage are passed onto the baby. Quite often the therapist will feel the baby kick and move as it too responds to massage treatment.
Receiving regular massage whilst pregnant can make you more aware of your own body. This can help with the ability to relax during the first stage of labour often resulting in shorter and easier births, less pain and a lower rate of postnatal complications. Furthermore, it can lead to increased breast feeding success due to the increased prolactin and mammary development.
Pregnancy massage techniques address the changes a woman’s body goes through during pregnancy. For instance, blood volume increases dramatically — as much as 50% — during pregnancy. Blood flow to the legs often becomes sluggish. And the levels of anticoagulants in the blood — designed to prevent haemorrhaging during delivery — naturally rise.
These circulatory changes put a pregnant woman at risk of blood clots in the lower legs, typically in the calves or inner thigh. To be safe, I avoid the inner thighs and any deep massage and strong pressure on the legs. Instead, I use very light, slow strokes on the legs, always moving towards the heart.
What to Expect
Once you have reached the 13th week of your pregnancy it is time to receive your first Prenatal Massage. Now is a great time to introduce massage therapy into your life. It helps relieve physical stress and discomfort, improves your sleep patterns and is very beneficial to you and your baby throughout the the remaining term of your pregnancy.
Pregnancy massage can include many different techniques For example, most include Swedish massage with long light strokes and gentle pressure to melt away stresses of motherhood.
When you arrive you will be asked to complete a consultation form to ensure that there aren’t any contraindications that might affect the type of techniques used during the session or in some cases, you may not be able to receive a massage therapy session.
After a short consultation you will be asked to get on the massage table. For this type of massage session the table will be dressed with sheets, blankets and multiple pillows for comfort, proper draping technique and stabilisation of your body. If you are 13 to 22 weeks you may be able to still lie on your back during a session. After 22 weeks you will be asked to lie on the table in a side position for maximum comfort and to ensure no restriction of any blood vessels during the session from the weight of the baby. Once on the table your session can range from 30 to 60 minutes depending on the time that was reserved prior to the session.
During your pregnancy massage I will be working in particular on the whole back/shoulder, lateral hips and gluteals, arms/hands, abdomen (if you are happy for me to do so), legs/feet, face and scalp. I will be using a combination of effleurage and petrissage strokes as well as light fingertip pressure and ‘c’ clamp strokes. The massage will help you prepare your body for the changes that occur during this special time and will help to promote a healthy, happy pregnancy, as well as labour and recovery period.
A typical massage routine:-
• Your massage will start with gentle sacral compression and unwinding techniques that will help bring relief to back pain, offer a sense of nurturing care, and encourage you to breathe deeply and lengthen your spine.
• Back massage will help relieve lower back pain using mild to moderate pressure and gentle stretching techniques to create length and space in your body.
• Lateral hips and gluteals. As relaxing loosens all the body ligaments, the hips and sacroiliac joint often become misaligned and sore. The lateral hips rotators are often tightened as your hips externally rotate and your stance widens to better support the additional weight. Massage to this area can help relieve hip aching and improve posture. Fanning and gentle compression, are used in this area.
• Shoulders and chest: With the extra weight of the growing breasts and postural changes, the chest often collapses inwardly, stressing the rhomboids as the pectoralis and subscapularis shorten. Massage helps to stretch the muscles that are pulling anteriorly and help improve posture and breathing.
• Arms and hands. During the mid to latter part of your pregnancy you may experience edema of the wrists and hands and sometimes temporary carpal tunnel syndrome. Massage to the arms, along with arm stretches that open the upper chest and shoulder area, can help alleviate general discomfort.
• Abdomen. I offer gentle belly strokes for relaxation and connection to your baby.
• Legs and calf massage helps to relieve leg cramps.
• Foot massage helps to induce deep relaxation and avoid foot pain.
• Head and neck massage helps relieve headaches, improve insomnia, and help you become more aware of your postural stresses.
Benefits of massage in pregnancy:-
• Stimulation of the circulation
• Lymphatic drainage
• Sluggish bowel movement is aided
• Releases muscular tension
• Releases compression on the nerves caused by muscle tension or oedema
• Helps to avoid varicose veins from developing
• Massaging the intercostal and pectoral muscles will help the respiratory system
• Induces deep relaxation
• Helps to reduce emotional stress
• Massages encourages the release of oxytocin. This is a pain reducing hormone providing vital relief of pain during labour and birth.
Pregnancy Massage Contraindications and Warnings
High Risk Pregnancies:
I cannot proceed without written release from a midwife if you have any of the following:
• Cardiac Disorders- heart disease
• Chronic Hypertension
• Previous Problem in Pregnancy – previous miscarriage
• Asthmatic mother
• Suspected RH Negative Mother or other genetic problems
• Previous multiple births
• Incompetent cervix
• Complications due to DES (Diethylstilbestrol, female hormone estrogen) used during pregnancy
• Lung or live disorder
• Severe anaemia
• Convulsive disorders
• Abnormal foetal heartbeat
• Decrease or absence of foetal movement
• Lupus Erythematous
Warning Signs of High Risk Factors
• Possible Miscarriage – bloody discharge, continual abdominal pains, sudden gush of water or leakage of amniotic fluid
• Urinary Tract Infections – very frequent urination with burning, low back pain increase in thirst and decrease in urination, chills and fever with 100 degree temperature or higher.
• Pre-eclampsia – (toxaemia of pregnancy – if neglected or not treated properly may develop true eclampsia) Sudden rapid weight gain, systemic oedema, increased blood pressure (hypertension), protein in urine, increased headaches.
• Eclampsia (Toxaemia) Emergency situation-refer to physician immediately– Develops in 1 out of 200 patients with pre-eclampsia; persistent severe headaches; persistent severe back pain unrelieved by change of position; severe nausea/vomiting; systemic oedema; pitted oedema, increased blood pressure; visual disturbances; convulsions.
• Gestational Diabetes – excessive hunger and thirst; increased urination in 2nd trimester; sugar in urine, no non-pregnant diabetes.
• Other conditions – thrombophlebitis; systemic infections; skin irritations; varicose veins; kidney disease; heart disease; cancer; acute injuries such as burns, bleeding, fractures.
I will require written consent from your doctor or midwife before performing a pregnancy massage.
I will provide a referral letter for you to take to your midwife to complete and sign, to obtain release. Please contact me for further information.
The technique used during pregnancy is Swedish Massage, which aims to relax muscle tension and improve lymphatic and blood circulation through mild pressure applied to the muscle groups of the body. Using this technique addresses many common discomforts associated with the skeletal and circulatory changes brought on by hormone shifts during pregnancy.
Pregnancy Massage focuses on helping the physiological, structural, and emotional well being of expectant mothers. During pregnancy, massage provides relief from muscle cramps and spasms, especially in the upper and lower back, hips, and legs. It helps to increase blood and lymphatic circulation which helps to reduce swelling. Most of all, pregnancy massage encourages tranquil relaxation and a renewed sense of self for the mother-to-be.
Regular massage during pregnancy is a proven method to help with the emotional and physical preparation for giving birth, as well as addressing ailments such as achy hips, backache, muscle tension and fluid retention. It eases bodily pains, tiredness and constipation helping you to relax and better enjoy this special time.
I have had specialist training in massaging the expectant mother in the side lying position, which is a safe and ergonomically sound position when massaging pregnant women. Side lying is used for two important reasons:-
1. to prevent pressure on the abdomen and breast, as occurs with prone positioning.
2. to prevent pressure on the large blood vessels in the abdomen, as occurs with supine positioning.
Side lying is a very restful position that allows access to one side of the body at a time and enables me to provide full shoulder and hip mobilisations. Varied pillows and bolsters are used for optimum comfort and are used to support your body under the neck, hip, belly and the superior leg and foot, because It is important to support every arch and space to prevent strain on musculature and ligaments.
You produce hormones called relaxins while pregnant. These hormones cause the ligaments in the pelvis area to soften, allowing the joints in the pelvis to open and move against each other. This can cause pain in the pubic bone area, as well as pain in the hip, groin, lower abdomen, buttocks, and lower back. The pain is often made worse by weight bearing activities including standing and walking, turning over in bed and by any movement that involves separating the legs such as walking up stairs.
It is important to discuss your pain with your Midwife, Doctor or care provider, who can give you a professional diagnosis and specific advice about prevention and treatment options.
If your Midwife or care provider is happy to allow massage because of lower back pain, then I provide a safe massage using gentle Swedish massage techniques.
Before considering having a prenatal massage you should discuss this with your Gynaecologist, Midwife or healthcare provider. Most pregnancies are low risk so there should be no issues, but if you are at high risk (e.g. suffer from hypertension, preeclampsia or have had a previous premature labour), you need to get permission from your medical practitioner beforehand. I will provide a referral letter for all of my expectant mums to take to your healthcare provider.
The use of acupressure meridian points during pregnancy. What are meridain points?
The term ‘meridian lines’ is used in a number of natural therapies with acupuncture being perhaps the best known. Meridian lines are invisible lines that carry energy throughout the body. Meridian Iines cannot be seen or felt like other systems in the body such as the circulatory or nervous system. When a person is in good (balanced) health, their meridian lines will be open and clear of blockages. These meridian lines, or channels of energy, can be associated with the functioning of the body’s internal organs.
The points treated in acupressure are usually the same areas used in acupuncture — but instead of using needles, pressure is applied through firm massage. The thumb or a finger may be used as tools to gently press against the skin on certain parts of the body. I apply gentle but firm pressure to each meridian point for three to five seconds. Studies have shown that acupressure can help ease leg cramps, nausea and headaches.
Leg cramps are another common complaint experienced by pregnant women, particularly during the third trimester, typically in the calf muscles. This happens often during the night, but may also occur whilst you are on the massage couch. There are a number of ways of helping this condition using passive stretching methods and by using acupressure points. The acupressure points of the meridians which can be palpated and stimulated during the leg work are Bladder 40 Bladder 56 and Bladder 57.
Massage can be highly beneficial in treating many pregnancy issues. I have undertaken specialist training in pregnancy massage and meridian acupressure points, including those areas of the body to avoid during pregnancy.
I always observe great caution and only use light pressure during your massage session, ensuring I am taking extra care concerning your comfort and positioning on the couch. During your massage the ‘safe’ acupressure points may not have to be palpated.