By Deborah VanderKruk, RMT
The pregnancy test comes back positive. A deluge of emotions ensues. Our responses may range from exhilaration and relief to anxiety and fear. We embark on the journey of preparing for a little one, navigating information overload, unsolicited advice, and loads of marketing. For some women, having regular massages during this period is a given. For others, a massage appointment may seem too difficult to coordinate or even ineffective. Massage therapy, however, offers many benefits to both the mom and her baby.
First, a massage will promote relaxation, encouraging the mom to breathe deeply, focus on her bond with baby and even sleep. Relaxation creates balance in the body, characterized by steady blood pressure, pulse and respiratory rate; regular blood flow to the uterus, placenta, and fetus; healthy immune system functioning, emotional states, and response to stressful stimuli; and reduced fear and anxiety.[i]
Second, massage has physiological benefits, including increased circulation, decreased edema, and less musculoskeletal pain. As the body shifts to make room for baby and prepares for labour, many women experience low back pain, pelvic pain and calf cramps as their pregnancy progresses. Massage can decrease the tight muscles and fascia in and around the pelvis, chest, arms and legs, bringing much relief and decreasing pain.
Finally, massage introduces touch and promotes connection with baby. Parents can connect with the baby in utero with gentle abdominal massage, singing and talking to the little one. The massage therapist can show both mom and partner safe, soothing techniques for use at home and for during labour.
Having provided pregnancy massage therapy to many women for the past 8 years, I can give you many examples of how fruitful massage can be. The positive feedback from women with high-risk pregnancies in particular has informed my practice. But there is plenty of research demonstrating the efficacy of massage. According to Tiffany Field’s published studies, “Women who received massage therapy reported decreased depression, anxiety, and leg and back pain. Cortisol levels decreased and, in turn, excessive fetal activity decreased, and the rate of prematurity was lower in the massage group”.[ii] If you are looking for more resources or have any questions, please contact the clinic.
[i] Osborne-Sheets, Carole, Pre-and Perinatal Massage Therapy, 2006, p.4
[ii] Field, Tiffancy, Touch Research Institute, University of Miami School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, Expert Rev Obstet Gynecol. 2010 Mar; 5(2): 177–181.