by Julia Simmons
Massage is an ancient art of bodywork based on the universal benefits of touch. It aids the circulation of blood, lymph and neurological impulses. It helps the breakdown and elimination of waste products in the body and stimulates the production of endorphins to relieve pain.
In this at times overly medicalised western world, we forget that pregnancy is a natural process. Throughout history, massage has been an integral part of birth preparation and delivery. Sadly this has been lost in the more ‘civilised’ world. Things however can and are changing.
Massage during pregnancy and birth can be of great physical and emotional benefit. There is massage you can do yourself (perineal) which will reduce the risk of tearing during delivery; massage you and your partner can do together as you adjust to you changing lives, and there is massage by an experienced practitioner. All of which are beneficial to you, your baby and partner.
So how can massage help and support you during pregnancy?
Massage can help identify and address the inevitable postural changes that take place. These changes, in body shape, weight and centre of balance can cause muscular tensions, making themselves known as… backache, abdominal pain, sciatica, headaches and cramps…. Massage can increase muscle tone, release spasms and knots increasing flexibility and skin tone.
During pregnancy your body produces hormones to facilitate the delivery of the baby. Sometimes however this infusion combined with a pelvic floor weakness can cause a painful condition called symphysis pubic dysfunction. Massage can help stabilise the pelvis floor and help with pain management.
By improving the circulation of blood, massage helps maximise the flow of red blood cells, minimising anaemia and maximising the flow of nutrients to the baby. By improving the circulation of lymph, massage helps reduce swelling and oedema.
Massage does not just address the physical, it can and does address emotional issues. Pregnancy is a time of change for all involved. Massage helps facilitate bonding between mother and child, aids relaxation, and allows time to reflect, de-stress and be pampered.
There obviously some contra-indications (bleeding, fevers or after invasive procedures) and these would always be screened for and taken into account. Overall however, massage is a safe and supportive treatment for pregnancy, and can be used alongside other therapies