Traditional folk healers have always touted the health benefits of massage. Now medical science has documented a myriad of benefits massage has for new and expectant mothers. If you’re pregnant or have just given birth, the best thing about massage is that it’s something your husband or other loved ones can do for you, for free, and with love.
If you’re about to have prenatal massage, do consult your doctor first. It’s not recommended for high-risk, problematic pregnancies, especially during the first trimester, because of the very nature of the massage. A prenatal massage usually lasts from 30 minutes to an hour, with the pregnant woman slying on her side or sitting at a slight recline. And whether it’s a professional therapist or your loved one doing the massage, proper care must be taken to learn which pressure points to touch, which induce relaxation rather than premature contractions.
Likewise, post-partum or postnatal massages are best done after consulting your doctor. This is especially true if you gave birth with a C-section—in fact, you’ll need to wait for your wounds to heal, well beyond 12 weeks, before undergoing massage.
Benefit #1: Hormone regulation
We tend to associate hormones with adolescence or menopause. Actually, hormones are a regular part of our bodies’ daily functions. That includes the function of getting stressed. When under stress, the body produces a few so-called “stress hormones” for this purpose, among them cortisol and norepinephrine. But too much of these, and too little of the “relaxation hormones” dopamine and serotonin, creates a hormonal imbalance associated with anxiety, depression (i.e., post-partum depression), and even cardiovascular illnesses (i.e., hypertension).
Such an imbalance can also happen to pregnant women. But adopting the habit of prenatal massage can help prevent this. As the American Pregnancy Association reports, research from the past 10 years reveals that prenatal massage promotes a better hormonal balance, mood regulation and cardiovascular health in expectant mothers. It even reduced the risk of complications in childbirth, reduced painful inflammations associated with pregnancy, and possibly strengthened their immune systems.
Benefit #2: Better circulation
Massage has traditionally been used to stimulate and improve the circulation of blood around the muscles of the body. Improved blood circulation means better distribution of oxygen and nutrients through your muscle tissues.
In pregnant women, massage brings better blood circulation that reduces the natural swelling they experience in their joints. It also relieves musculoskeletal pains like back aches, foot aches, and compressed nerve pains. This is especially helpful in dealing with pressure on the sciatic and femoral nerves, which causes pain in a pregnant woman’s legs.
Benefit #3: Looking svelte
Postnatal massage and the improved circulation it brings helps get rid of cellular waste, toxins, and excess water from a new mother’s body. It could even help her lose a few excess pounds. So if you’ve just given birth, massage will help stimulate your body’s muscle tone, helping you slim down and look less “flabby.”
Benefit #4. Maintaining lactation
New mothers, when stressed, tend to have difficulty producing enough milk in their breasts for their newborn babies. By engaging in postnatal massage, stress is reduced and the body becomes relaxed enough to concentrate on milk production.
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