By Michelle Kinsey
As any expectant mother knows, pregnancy brings with it a wide range of physical and emotional changes—and often plenty of discomfort, particularly in the lower back and hips. For many women, prenatal massage offers a naturally relaxing way to alleviate the aches and pains that can result from increased weight, shifting posture and fluctuating hormone levels.
A form of therapeutic bodywork intended to meet the unique needs of pregnant women, prenatal massage promotes better function of muscles and joints, aids circulation, improves overall body tone, and helps decrease mental and physical fatigue. The chemical-free benefits of regular massage can even carry over into labor and delivery, helping mothers relax and breathe more easily through contractions.
After your baby is born, postnatal massage therapy can help reduce anxiety and relieve muscle strain and soreness.
What to expect:
Before your first massage, the therapist will conduct a detailed intake questionnaire to find out how your pregnancy is going, when you last saw your doctor and where you’re experiencing the most discomfort. The recommended frequency of massage depends on your specific issues, but typically one session a month or more is recommended beginning in your second trimester and continuing until you deliver.
Your massage therapist may also suggest exercise, acupuncture and other complementary techniques to help you address particular concerns.
Massage sessions may be scheduled for 30, 60 or 90 minutes. Depending on your size and how far you are in your pregnancy, you may lay on your back and/or your side, propped with pillows. Commonly used techniques include a soothing combination of light to medium pressure, mild stretching, and possibly some deep tissue massage. During and after your treatment, you can expect to feel the release of muscle tension, more energy and heightened awareness. Some women also feel their bodies move more easily and enjoy increased range of motion and flexibility.
Try it—you’ll like it:
Massage therapy supplements regular prenatal care from your physician, who should always be consulted before beginning treatment. Be sure to find massage therapists specially trained in prenatal massage. And as an extra bonus, many massage therapists can help you get your baby off to a relaxed start by demonstrating infant massage techniques.
A certified massage therapist, Michelle Kinsey has been in practice for seven years. She became interested in massage therapy when she found it helped her minimize pain from chronic headaches.
She is the lead massage therapist at Spa Harmony in the Wilfred R. Cameron Wellness Center of The Washington Hospital. For more information, visit www.spaharmony.org.