Pregnancy does a lot of things to a woman’s body. It pushes against her lower back, makes her core muscles weaker, and puts tremendous pressure on her legs and feet. With prenatal massage, these issues can be managed.
If you have a baby bump, your muscles will absolutely love a massage, considering you have to carry around all that extra load. Moreover, as your baby grows, its weight can bring muscle tension and inflammation. One result of this is the inflammation of nearby nerves, which then leads to sciatic nerve pain. Mild pressure applied to your muscles helps bring down the swelling because of the stimulated blood flow.
On top of tight muscle relief, other advantages await you when you have prenatal massage. Researchers have found that pregnant women who get a massage on a weekly basis have lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels and higher serotonin and dopamine (feel-good hormones) levels. Such hormonal changes are associated with fewer childbirth difficulties, as revealed by a decrease in premature births in depressed women by 75 percent. You sure don’t have to be depressed in order to benefit from prenatal massage, but another study showed that pregnant women going through depression dramatically improved their moods as they received 20-minute massages twice a week.
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Obviously, prenatal massage is not the same as traditional massage. For one, you will be either sitting in a semi-reclined position or lying on your side. You cannot lie on your back to avoid putting your tummy under so much pressure, which can restrict blood flow. To reduce lower-back pain and make sure your spine is well-aligned, your therapist will probably use specially designed pillows or bolsters that support your feet and knees. Or you may simply lie with your face down on a table with a hole that lets your tummy through. Prenatal massages are also typically shorter – 30 to 45 minutes against the normal 60 to 90 minutes.
Contrary to what many people think, there are no parts of the body that are completely off-limits to massage – even a pregnant woman’s feet. According to some people, certain areas of the foot can start labor when stimulated; if this were true, then all overdue pregnant women could simply be given a foot massage instead of having to be induced by a physician. Most likely, this misconception comes from the fact that reflexology links pressure points on the ankles with the uterus and ovaries. However, pushing against these areas will not necessarily start contractions. Prenatal massage is deemed safe, unless your pregnancy is considered high risk. In any case, speaking to your ob-gyn before getting any massage is always advisable.
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The requirements for massage-therapy training are unique from one state to another, and there are massage therapists with zero prenatal experience. Choose one who has prenatal massage certification.