Over the past 10 years, working as a RMT, I have seen a huge increase in the demand for pregnancy massage. I am very excited that more and more mothers-to-be are incorporating prenatal massage into their health care regimes. Although massage therapy is very safe during your pregnancy, it is still important that you inform yourself about how massage can help, as well as how to find the right therapist. This short article will cover the musculoskeletal changes that occur throughout pregnancy, how massage therapy can help, as well as how to find a qualified Pregnancy massage RMT.
Changes that occur in the body during pregnancy
AS a mother-to-be you have probably already started to read up on what's going on with your baby, how it's growing, and how to keep it safe and happy. Unfortunately many women are so focused on the baby they forget to think of themselves as well. As the baby grows, there are many changes that need to occur in the mothers' body in order for the pregnancy to progress normally. These changes vary from temporary to, in some cases, permanent.
In the earlier stages of the pregnancy these changes are very small, and in some cases cannot even be felt by the mother. Most of the changes felt are usually hormonal, that can often cause, fatigue, irritability, nausea, and water retention. As the fetus starts to grow, the body must change in order to support it, and make room. The body allows these changes to occur with the help of a hormone which is released later in the pregnancy. This hormone is called relaxin, and its job is to circulate in the body and cause all the ligaments in the body to become a bit more relaxed. This is important because as the baby grown the ribs need to shift and flare out, and the pelvis needs to widen to make room. Although these changes are natural and necessary they can also cause mild to moderate muscle and joint discomfort. As the ligaments loosen, and the joints become more unstable there is a significant increase in stress placed on the muscles. This increase in stress can cause muscular aches and pains, which can be easily alleviated with pregnancy massage.
As the uterus grows, the posture of the mother to be will progressively change along with it. Normal postural changes during pregnancy are:
- An increase in the lordotic curve ( curve in the low back) This can lead to joint compression and muscular tension and the low back, causing pain and discomfort.
- The pelvis will drop forward, and widen, increasing the strain on the muscles of the legs, hips and feet.
- The ligaments along the Anterior and posterior aspect of the spine, as well as the ligaments of the pelvis will stretch out, predisposing the mother to ligaments sprains.
- The shoulders will round forward causing a tightening of the pectoral muscles, and over stretching the mid back muscles. this can cause pain between the shoulder blades, and tightness in the chest.
- The head starts to rest in a more forward position, leading to neck, and shoulder pain.
- The abdominal muscles stretch out, and in some cases separate. This causes to muscles of the back to have to work way more to stabilize the spine.
Although these changes are completely normal, and will happen to every woman throughout their pregnancy they can be uncomfortable, and in some cases quite painful. Pregnancy or prenatal massage not only helps decrease muscular tension, and pain, but can also prevent excessive changes to occur, helping you stay as straight, and stable as possible. A qualified RMT can also give you some strengthening exercises to help stabilize the body (as much as possible) in order to prevent injury, and pain.
Due to hormonal changes, increase in blood pressure, and lack of mobility fluid retention can occur throughout the pregnancy. In most cases, this presents as puffiness, in the hands and feet, and legs. This puffiness can cause mild to moderate discomfort, and in some cases can even compress nerves. This can lead to conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, causing numbness in the hands, and arms. Pregnancy massage can help drain out the stagnant fluid by pushing it back towards the heart, and allowing it to be re-circulated and peed out.
How is pregnancy massage done?
Now that I have explained why pregnancy massage is extremely beneficial for most expecting mothers I will quickly explain how pregnancy massage is performed. Pregnancy massage should always be performed by a registered massage therapist qualified in prenatal massage. This ensures that your therapist will be able to safely and effectively perform the massage treatment.
In the early phases of pregnancy there are very few modifications to the treatments. The expectant mother can lie on her stomach to receive her treatment. The only modification will be a decrease in pressure in the low back, and perhaps a small bolsters placed under her shoulders to lift some pressure of her breast. (Can sometimes be tender). There are also shiatsu points in between the shoulder blades, as well as around the ankle bones that need to be avoided, as they can cause uterine contractions
As the uterus grows, the mother to be will be asked to lie on her side to receive the massage treatment. Once the back and legs have been treated she can turn onto her back, where she will be proper up on pillows to a semi-seated position. A small towel roll will be placed under her right hip in order to shift the baby off the major veins of the torso, so the mother-to-be doesn't get light headed. Most pregnancy massages include the back, legs, feet, arms, upper back, and neck, but every massage can be tailored to each individuals needs
During the pregnancy massage, or prenatal massage, pressure does not need to be modified, and can be tailored to what is more comfortable to the expectant mother. There is however some modification that needs to be made, such as no joint mobilizations or aggressive stretching. This can lead to injury because of the natural ligament laxity in the joint throughout the pregnancy.
As you can see, pregnancy massage is extremely safe and beneficial for most expectant mothers. However it is important to note that prenatal massage may not be safe for those who have complications during pregnancy. In those cases it is important to consult with your MD, OBGYN, or mid wife before booking a pregnancy massage. It is also important to note, that even if all RMT's have received basic training in pregnancy massage, not all therapists are comfortable, or experienced in the treatments, so inquire about the RMT's experience with prenatal massage.