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Benefits of Prenatal Massage Therapy

Educate yourself on how a massage might help you during your pregnancy!

Benefits of Prenatal Massage Therapy

March 15, 2017

There are a lot of blog posts on the internet about prenatal massage. I'm going to add my two cents about how massage during pregnancy can benefit your overall health, your labour, and potentially your baby as well.

If your pregnancy is considered high risk, as a precaution I suggest obtaining approval from your health care provider before seeking prenatal massage.

1.Hormone Regulation

Massage during pregnancy has been shown to benefit hormone regulation. In a study of women who received biweekly massages for five weeks, it was documented that they had decreased levels of cortisol and norepinephrine (stress hormones) and increase levels of dopamine and serotonin (mood boosting hormones).

These hormone changes led to fewer birth complications like low birth weight. Evidence suggests that there are benefits for parent and baby when massage is incorporated into prenatal care.

Study found through Field, T. (1999). Pregnant Women Benefit From Massage Therapy. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Mar;20(1):31-8.

2. Edema (Swelling)

Lymph fluid is the excess fluid in your body that is not picked up by veins and is left in the interstitial tissues.As pregnancy progresses, it is common to get swollen wrists and/or ankles. Massage is known to reduce swelling by helping with lymphatic return. By using massage to aid lymphatic return, you can reduce any discomfort causes by this increased lymph volume.

3. Sciatica and Carpal Tunnel

The increase in baby weight during pregnancy can cause increased pressure on your low back. This can sometimes put pressure on the sciatic nerve, causing shooting pain down the legs.

Massage can help to release the muscles that may be putting pressure on these nerves and offering you some much needed relief.

Some women develop carpal tunnel during pregnancy as well. Depending on the cause of your carpal tunnel, your massage therapist may be able to help with this as well either by reducing fluid that could be compressing your carpal tunnel, decreasing tension in your forearm muscles, or providing gentle joint manipulation to carpal bones that may be slightly out of place.

4.Postural Education, Stretches, and Home care

As your belly grows, your centre of gravity will change. This shift typically causes an increased arch in the low back and a forward curve in the upper back.

Your massage therapist can work to decrease pain and tension in areas caused by your new posture. They can also give you stretches and home exercises to keep your body in the best posture possible throughout your pregnancy.

5. Muscle Tension and Headaches

Your new posture will likely cause tension in your neck and shoulder muscles (as if most of us don't have enough of that already!).

If muscles get tight enough they can cause something called referred pain. This is when you feel pain in the body somewhere other than it's actual source. Every muscle has a typical pain referral pattern, and the ones in the shoulders and neck often refer into the head- hello, tension headaches!

Your therapist can work with you to decrease the tension in your neck and shoulders and therefore decrease or eliminate your headaches.

(As a side note, headaches are often also caused by dehydration!)

6. Pelvic Floor Education

Have you ever seen a picture of a pelvis? Have you noticed they have a large hole in the bottom?

Your pelvic floor is a network of muscles that creates a hammock in the bottom of your pelvis with which to hold up the organs and in your case, a baby!

During birth, a baby needs to come through that pelvic floor! Massage can help to loosen the muscles in the pelvic floor, decreasing the likelihood you will tear during birth. While I cannot personally massage your pelvic floor (AKA Perineal Massage), I can educate you verbally and give you resources on how to do it yourself at home.

I would also like to mention here that during pregnancy and birth, the growing baby can put a lot of pressure on the pelvic floor- sometimes causing muscles to be strained, cause tearing, and often create incontinence issues. If you are suffering from any of these issues I highly recommend seeing a pelvic floor physiotherapist. Pain and incontinence have been perceived as normal postpartum experiences. However, new studies are showing that with treatment this doesn't have to be the case.

7. Abdominal Massage: Positive touch, abdominal relief, and low back pain

Abdominal massage is a lovely way to introduce positive touch to an area that during pregnancy may be treated very clinically. In addition to this, abdominal massage is a great way to find temporary relief from the weight of your growing belly. Having someone else take the weight of your belly using lifting techniques temporarily relieves the stretching on your skin and uterine ligaments.

Fascial work and work to the abdominal muscles can also help to relieve the "pulling" sensation of your growing belly, and increase circulation to the area.

Through access to the abdomen I can also work on the diaphragm (see number 8: Improved Breathing below) and the hip flexors. Working on the hip flexors can sometimes assist in low back and hip/leg pain. Your Iliopsoas muscle attaches to your inner spine and inner hip. When it gets tight it pulls on the spine to create an increased arch in the low back. By working on this muscle massage can help to decrease your low back pain and improve posture.

Massage in the First Trimester: It is suggested to all RMT's that massage in the first trimester is contraindicated due to the risk of miscarriage. However, this suggestion arose more out of fear of litigation than fear for miscarriage. About 80% of miscarriages happen in the first trimester. In order to not be associated as possible risk RMT's began to avoid massaging these clients at all. I always recommend clients make informed decisions about what is right for them. You can read more on massage and the risk of miscarriage here, here, and here.

8. Improved Breathing

You may find it difficult to breath as your baby begins to take up more room in your abdominal cavity. Their legs may press on your diaphragm, a muscle under your ribs that separates the abdominal cavity from the chest cavity. This muscle is responsible for helping you breath- and we all like to do that!

Massaging this muscle can help to reduce any tension in it that may be caused from the constant pressure of the baby, allowing you to breath a little easier.

9. Local Referrals

As a local healthcare professional, I can also recommend many other health services in peterborough that will be safe during pregnancy and helpful for your condition.

I am working on creating a community referral page on the website, but for now to name just a few:

Holistic Health Physiotherapy: Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy

Pulse Physiotherapy: Pelvic FloorPhysiotherapy

Kim Payne: Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy

Definitive Chiropractic: Prenatal and Pediatric Chiro

Core Chiropractic: Prenatal Chiro

Kelly Proulx: Registered Dietitian with years of prenatal experience

Available for private consultations only


For more resources, please visit another site I built:

Peterborough Doula Services Resources Page

Wondering How to Book?

Click here to be directed to the 360 Wellness Clinic online booking page, or call 705-400-8454

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