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Massage in Pregnancy

June 26th, 2013

Massage in Pregnancy has been something that has been used in many cultures for many years. In fact cultural and anthropological studies reveal that massage and movement during the childbearing experience was and continues to be a prominent part of many cultures healthcare’. A study revealed that ‘most of the more peaceful cultures use touch prominently during pregnancy’, as a way of treating a pregnant woman and allowing her to accept her body. Massage allows a pregnant woman to develop a bond with the baby she is nurturing, as well as treating any physical discomforts.

Pregnancy massage as a treatment is performed, generally, in a side lying position from around 16 weeks. Prior to this, massage can be done in the traditional way if the client is still comfortable lying supine (on their back) and prone (on their tummy). Women require a massage for several reasons; be it to relax and get some ‘me time’ or to help with aches and pains, as they may have done prior to the pregnancy.

Research has shown that ‘pregnant women massaged twice a week for 5 weeks experienced less anxiety and leg and back pain. They reported better sleep and improved moods, and their labours had fewer complications, including less premature births. Studies show that when women received nurturing touch during later pregnancy, they touch their babies more frequently and lovingly. It has also shown that massage ‘can address pregnancy’s physical challenges’ such as ‘pain in the lower back, pelvis or hips’ all which, as shown, are the symptoms of Pelvic Girdle Pain.

There are many different massage techniques that can be used, all dependant on what the Therapist is aiming to treat, and the desired outcome of the treatment. For clients with PGP, deep tissue, trigger point, and both active and passive movements’ are required as they ‘alleviate stress on weight bearing joints and Myofascial structures, especially the Sacroiliac and lumbosacral joints, lumbar spine, hips and pelvic musculature’. This clearly shows the benefit of massaging a woman with the condition as this is the main area of discomfort for her. By relieving some of the stress on the joints by relieving the hyper tonicity, this will in turn allow her to maintain a better posture in standing or walking. It has also been shown that using ‘specific structural balancing techniques and postural re-education’ will help to ‘reduce back pain caused by improper posture and strain to the uterine ligaments’.

A study was undertaken in America, whereby 26 pregnant women were split into two groups. One group were given massage therapy, and the other relaxation therapy, for five weeks. They all had twenty minute sessions twice a week. At the end of the study ‘only the massage therapy group reported reduced anxiety, improved mood, better sleep and less back pain’ Field et al. The report states that massage as a therapy has not been properly studied as a ‘treatment associated with pregnancy’ but that it has been shown to ‘decrease lower back pain’ and also to have a ‘positive impact by decreasing stress hormones and potential stressors, such as anxiety, leg and back pain’.

Apart from relieving pain and discomfort, massage in pregnancy has many other benefits.

  - It can provide women with the ‘emotional support and nurturing touch provided by nonsexual human touch and energy’.

  - It also ‘Soothes and relaxes the nervous system by releasing endorphins. As a result the Mother feels more relaxed and will also sleep more easily and deeply’ as many of my clients tell me!

  - It helps to stabilise hormonal levels and helps to ‘relieve depression or anxiety caused by the hormonal changes’. Evidence points strongly to maternal and newborn health benefits when therapeutic massage is incorporated into regular ante natal care.

  - ‘Supports the return of blood to the heart and increases the blood flow to the uterus and placenta. In pregnancy blood volume can increase up to 60% compared to pre-pregnancy levels’.

  -  A reduction in swelling of the joints, which can be caused by reduced circulation. Massage ‘stimulates the soft tissues to reduce collection of fluids, and improve the removal of tissue waste carried by the body’s lymph system’.



American Pregnancy Association - Massage and Pregnancy - Prenatal Massage

Field et al (1999:1,2)




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