Women need to know the facts about Prenatal and Postpartum Massage. Women see me for Prenatal Massage to help ease the mental, physical, and emotional stresses of pregnancy. But often during the appointment booking, or before we begin a massage session, women have concerns. As a highly trained and experienced Certified Prenatal & Postpartum Massage Therapist, and mom who received massage during all three of my pregnancies, I want to share my knowledge and perspective on this topic.
For 19 years, I have been working with women throughout their childbearing years. I trained with several seasoned practitioners to develop skill and comfort with supporting women throughout their pregnancies, during labor and in postpartum. Before having my own children, I offered Prenatal Massage in my practice, and continuously observed how amazing women felt after receiving massage and bodywork. The women felt less pain, had less stress and anxiety, and overall felt more healthy and well. However, still today, there are many myths about Prenatal Massage and women often contact me in a state of fear, worry and even panic that perhaps massage is not safe, or could hurt them, or their baby, in some way. There continues to be a lot of mystery around Prenatal Massage.
I could delve into why there are so many myths about Prenatal Massage, and why there is fear created around the idea of women receiving bodywork during their pregnancy. But instead, let’s talk about the truth about massage and bodywork for pregnancy. Let’s dispel the mystery here and now. Here are some of some of the most common questions I receive, and the answers:
“What is Prenatal Massage?” Prenatal Massage is a specialized type of massage therapy. A Certified Prenatal Massage Therapist provides a nurturing environment for women during pregnancy to receive gentle, non-invasive, therapeutic touch that focuses on the mother’s physical and emotional needs. Prenatal Massage is a highly varied type of bodywork that may include gentle touch or energy work, acupressure for moving or calming energy, Swedish massage for circulation, lymphatic work to decrease swelling, or deep tissue massage for softening tense muscles and relieving pain. Prenatal Massage may be focused on one area of the body, or it may include the full body. Every session is as different as every pregnancy.
“Is it safe to have a Prenatal Massage?” This is a very common question. The short answer is yes. As long as the mom is having a normal pregnancy, with no significant complications, Prenatal Massage is a perfect complement to her ongoing care by a midwife or doctor. It is important to work with a massage practitioner who is trained, and or certified in Prenatal Massage, because they have the skills and expertise to create a session that is safe, comfortable and nurturing, as well as individualized to meet a woman’s needs.
If a mother is having a complex pregnancy, massage can also be beneficial… sometimes even more so, depending on what she is going through. If you are a pregnant mom with concerns, simply ask your care provider if it’s ok to receive massage, or contact me to reach out to your midwife or doctor and discuss how massage can be part of your care plan. I have worked with many women through their challenging pregnancies. Some women seek out Prenatal Massage when they are having a difficult pregnancy, because they know it helps them relax and breathe through the stressful times. In most cases, and in most situations, massage or bodywork during pregnancy is safe and effective.
“I have heard there are pressure points on my body that I shouldn’t touch when I’m pregnant. Is that true?” There are certain points on the body that a knowledgeable massage therapist will not press on during most of a woman’s pregnancy because they are acupressure points to encourage labor. These points need to be pressed quite hard, with direct pressure, repetitively and with intention to be effective. Simply touching these points is not going to make a woman go into labor, or be unsafe for the mom or baby. For instance, a woman’s partner can definitely massage the tops of her shoulders to help with muscle soreness during her pregnancy. During labor, the mother’s partner may put direct pressure down on the tops of your shoulders, over and over, to help move labor along.
“When can I receive Prenatal Massage?” You may receive massage throughout your entire pregnancy. Yes the whole thing! Now, perhaps you are dizzy or nauseous in the first trimester, you may feel massage is not a good fit for you. I know that I didn’t feel like receiving massage in the first few weeks of my pregnancy. But by my second month, I was comforted with soothing bodywork and gained relief from extreme nausea with acupressure.
Often women are fearful in the first trimester because it is such a delicate time for the growing baby. However, receiving a gentle, relaxing massage brings rich, oxygenated blood to the baby and can create a relaxation response in the mom’s body, which supports the healthy development of their child. Massage therapy for mothers are the first massages for their baby. Babies benefit from the power of touch. A calm, comfortable mom is best for baby.
In the second and third trimester of pregnancy, massage therapy can play a strong role in a woman’s overall sense of well-being. At this time, Prenatal Massage will typically be more focused on comforting a woman’s aches and pains and relaxing the mind, thus helping her feel strong, flexible and calm, which will all ultimately help her during childbirth. Receiving massage all of the way up to one’s due date and beyond is ideal! Scheduling a due date massage is a beautiful way to celebrate pregnancy and prepare for birth.
At a mom’s request, at or beyond the “due date,” specific massage techniques and acupressure points, with a focus to bring on labor. This approach may help to encourage uterine contractions, open up energy pathways and relax the mom’s body and mind, so she is ready for the birth.
“Why do you do Prenatal Massage in side lying position?” Prenatal Massage is done in a variety of positions, depending on the way the mother is feeling on any given day. A mother may be side lying, on her back with her head, knees and feet elevated, on her stomach (early on in pregnancy), or sitting completely upright. I predominantly work in side lying position with the mother fully supported with pillows between her knees and feet, a pillow in front of her for support, and another one under the neck and head for comfort. I prefer this position for Prenatal Massage because it allows the spine to be in alignment with the least pressure on any one area of the body. Typically half the massage is spent on one side, and then I help the woman turn to the other side for the second half of the session.
“Will Prenatal Massage make me to go into labor?” My answer to this is the same as above, but it’s worth repeating. There are certain points on the body that a knowledgeable massage therapist will not press on during most of your pregnancy because they are believed to encourage labor. These points need to be pressed hard, repetitively and with full intention toward birth to encourage labor. Simply touching the contraindicated points is not going to make a woman go into labor or be unsafe for the mom or baby. If you someone is on or past their due date, and wants to bring on labor, Prenatal Massage can help naturally induce labor with specific work on reflex and acupressure points that promote the birth process. Some women also receive massage throughout their birth, by a nurse, midwife, doula, massage therapist or their partner, to move the birth process along gradually.
“How soon after I have my baby can I receive massage again?” A woman may receive massage therapy as soon as she feels ready. She is the best judge of her own body and what it needs to heal. During the first two weeks postpartum, it is best for new mothers to stay home and allow their body to rest, begin to recover, and stay close to your newborn. They can have a massage therapist come to their home though. I make plenty of outcall visits to women who are in the first few weeks postpartum.
After the birth, mothers may notice that their care provider will massage your stomach to promote healing of the uterus and other internal organs. This is also something a woman can do for herself. The abdomen will be tender at first, but eventually the massage should feel relaxing. A trained massage therapist can teach you more about these techniques to use at home.
Postpartum Massage is an incredible way for a woman to receive body-mind support after her birth, to promote healing and ease stress or anxiety. If a woman had c-section, massage therapy can also help with scar healing and tissue regeneration.
“What is Postpartum Massage?” After a mother’s baby is born, massage can be an important part of her healing process. Postpartum massage includes time to share one’s birth story (if she chooses) in a nurturing environment, as well as receive therapeutic bodywork to help increase circulation, re-balance soft tissue and help the whole body and mind realign. In the months post-birth, abdominal, back and hip massage are important for healing and recovery. Also, in addition, a mom’s upper back and neck are often sore from leaning over and caring for a newborn. Postpartum Massage can soothe this pain before it becomes intolerable or leads to headaches or other back pain.
A Postpartum Massage therapist provides the space and time for moms to feel relaxed as they adjust to motherhood. This is crucial in supporting women through their postpartum feelings and emotions. Women who I see for postpartum massage are invited and encouraged to bring their babies to their sessions, so baby can stay close by their side at this important time.
Pregnancy is an incredible, natural and transformative time of a woman’s life. Along with 9 months of wonder and amazement, also come common aches and pains as the body goes through tremendous change. During the childbearing years, massage therapy is the ultimate form of body-mind self care. Feel empowered in your pregnancy and beyond, by experiencing Prenatal and Postpartum Massage.
Jenny is a Certified Prenatal & Postpartum Massage Therapist. She sees clients at Waddle n Swaddle Poughkeepsie on Fridays, and at her New Paltz office most other days.