Having a baby is no small feat. Your body is no longer your own, there are 10,023 things to be afraid of, every day is a new adventure and everyone has a different truth they must impart upon you for the journey. You’re racing heart first into the unknown… AND your baby’s nervous system is forming in response to yours. If massage isn’t yet part of your self-care routine, here are 10 reasons to change that…
1. Relaxation and stress reduction – Life changes are inherently stressful! Couple that with hormonal spikes, physical discomfort, sleep loss, and (you name it…) and you quickly lose track of what good feels like. Massage counters all of that by releasing muscle tension – relieving pain, calming the nervous system – decreasing anxiety, and flushing the lymphatic system – increasing immunity.
2. Reduce pain and strains – As pregnancy progresses and the uterus grows, the pelvis tends to rotate forward, increasing the lower back curve and stretching the abdominal muscles. Postural adjustments and weight gain both strain the muscles, ligaments and joints, creating fatigue, tightness and pain. Massage therapy techniques are helpful in providing relief on weight-bearing joints – alleviating tightness and pain in areas such as the lower back, hips, pelvis and ankles. Sciatica in the buttocks or legs as well as calf cramps are also commonly associated with pregnancy. Massage techniques and gentle stretching will also help decrease the pain in these areas.
3. Improve blood circulation – During the pregnancy all blood components are elevated to provide for fetal needs; by weeks 24 to 34, the plasma volume alone has increased by 40%. Resulting discomfort such as swelling, varicose veins and high blood pressure are common. The greatest change women notice is swollen legs and ankles. Swedish and lymphatic massage support circulatory function, thus reducing swelling. Massage therapy helps provide regular blood flow to the uterus, placenta and fetus, promotes the delivery of oxygen and nutrients, and accelerates the removal of waste products, improving both mother’s and baby’s tissue health.
4. Prepare for labor – In order to give birth with less effort, the musculature of a woman’s back, abdomen and pelvic floor must remain relaxed to allow the uterus to labor without resistance. Therapeutic massage increases muscle and joint flexibility, a huge benefit for labor and recovery. Receiving bodywork during pregnancy also contributes to self-awareness and relaxation that are necessary to actively participate in the birth process.
5. Improve respiratory and GI functions – Most expectant women tend to feel short of breath, a result of the growing uterus restricting the diaphragm area. Common digestive system discomforts include indigestion, heartburn, nausea and vomiting. By easing tension in the diaphragm and intercostals (ribcage muscles) we create more space for your organs and baby’s body – so air and food can move for smoothly.
6. Sleep Better – Relaxation is felt when the parasympathetic nervous system turns on, which is also the system that carries us into deep sleep. Relaxation combined with less pain / discomfort make for deeper, longer sleep cycles.
7. Relationship Health – You don’t get a break from pregnancy, so you need a lot of support along the way. Think of it as outsourcing – having multiple sources of support takes pressure off of your partner so that you both have more energy for eachother as a couple. And of course, when you’re feeling better, you make better company.
8. Postpartum Recovery – Not only will you have more ease in labor, you will recover faster. Massage increases immunity and blood circulation, which supports all organ function. Regardless of what mode of birth your body goes through, the benefits of therapeutic massage will continue to support you in the recovery process.
9. Making Self-Care a Habit – Many women feel selfish prioritizing self-care, but it’s actually one of the most important things you can do for your family. Relaxation makes us more available, aids healthy attachment, and decreases emotional reactivity. Habits created before or during pregnancy are much more likely to be carried on than attempting to create them in addition to being a new parent. You (and your partner) are also your child’s first role models, so do for yourself what you’d wish for them.
10. Baby’s Health & Well-Being – Everything that your body goes through, your baby’s body also goes through – pain, pleasure, stress, joy, are all experienced in baby’s developing nervous system. The more you can do to feel good emotionally and physically, the more solid of a neurological foundation baby will have.