A View into Prenatal Massage
Waubonsee Community College
A View into Prenatal Massage
Pregnancy massage has been practiced for centuries and has emerged through the years to become a well-known practice nowadays. Prenatal massage focuses on targeting the special needs and discomforts of pregnant women and helps prepare their bodies for the upcoming changes while child-bearing. Massage will also assist to maintain the woman’s overall health pre- and postpartum. The women undergoing pregnancy, for the most part, rather than feeling hopeful and happy for their expected baby, they may also experience a physical and emotional stress. This again is due to the changes that are inevitable for the growth of another human being within her body. The benefits of massage for this special population are many and not limited to only the mother-to-be but also for the unborn child.
What exactly are these benefits of prenatal massage? Since women experience different symptoms of pain and changes during the 9-month period, the benefits of pregnancy massage may include less back and leg/arm pain, headache relief, among others, which overall could result in less fatigue and more energy, better sleep, and stress reduction. With massage levels of serotonin and dopamine increase so therefore those who experience anxiety and depression may likely notice improved mood levels. Massage also fights the effects of stress by decreasing the body’s levels of cortisol and epinephrine. By the third trimester, massage can assist with relieving signs of poor circulation, swelling, and possible varicose veins. Massage can be beneficial throughout all the stages of pregnancy, during labor and even postpartum. Stress effects can include the following; increase maternal heart rate, blood pressure, vomiting, nausea, spontaneous abortion, pre-eclampsia, immune dysfunction, etc. Stress will reduce blood supply to the uterus by up to 65% and cause low fetal heart rate too. Providing nurturing touch through massage along with a safe environment will decrease these stress effects therefore benefiting both the mother and child.
In the contrast to the benefits, there are plenty of contraindications that therapists should be familiar with for the sake of the women’s and baby’s safety. For this reason, although not required by state laws, it’s highly recommended and wise for the therapists to get advanced training in this particular area of pregnancy massage. In addition to having to know the physiological changes that the women who go through pregnancy, one must always be updated in certain medical procedures, medications, and even special preparation and/or techniques to promptly keep the client safe: such as special draping and positioning. Carole Osborne (2011), author of Pre- and Perinatal Massage Therapy, best explains that “If a client comes in and tells you they had their non-stress test today, you want to know what they’re talking about.” By knowing this procedure a Massage Therapist will understand that it is performed when there are complications or high-risk situations. As a result, they are more knowledgeable and best prepared to support the client and know if the massage could proceed or not due to any possible contraindications.
Opening the practitioner’s stream of knowledge is great; however, it can also be a bit more challenging on how to wisely deal with personal and emotional boundaries and what falls out of professional’s scope of practice. Prenatal massage programs typically include 24 to 32 hours of specialized training over the period of 3 to 4 days. In order to be certified, depending on different workshops, they may require an additional number of hours. Women in this stage of their lives are vulnerable and seek out for support and may seek out for a therapist’s opinions and advices. Here is where the practitioner must draw the lines of boundaries to be diligent about what is being said and done for the client; for example, if they ask whether they should seek a doula’s or midwife’s help or if they should get an epidural for labor.
Learning how massage affects the pregnant human body and its great benefits is interesting to read. I personally had a massage while being pregnant with my 2nd child; therefore, this particular modality was appealing to me. I enjoyed the massage but I had my own expectations and wanted more depth and pressure. Now I understand the adaptations for pregnancy massage, and the contraindications that cannot be overseen, it’s crucial to educate future clients if I wish to pursue this route in my chosen career.
Preparing to work with women who are pregnant is a challenge from client to client because their needs aren’t the same. However, the environment should be comfortable and safe. As the therapist, being comfortable with the positioning of pregnant women will also make them comfortable and make them feel safe too. Typically, to massage a woman by the second trimester there are two common positions that can be used: side-lying or semi-reclining. Positioning, itself, can help decrease pain and stress on the client’s back, legs, and hips. Adequate room temperature, unscented oils or lotions, and using extra pillows and a step stool all fall under being extra cautious for the client’s safety and comfort.
Before beginning the session, the therapist should address if there any contraindications. If so, he or she should have specialized advanced training, otherwise, avoid massage altogether. If the massage can procced, therapist will position client in the side-lying position and drape securely. After undraping the leg, he or she will apply effleurage stokes along with kneading of the whole leg. Following, the therapist will massage the foot (avoiding deep pressure all together) and use connecting strokes to finish off. Then, after re-draping the leg, the therapist will secure the drape under the hip and top arm and undrape the back. Using effleurage, circular friction along the parallel spine muscles and kneading of the shoulders and neck will help with relaxation and relieve pain. Some mild deep pressure can be used to address tender spots. Once the back is re-draped, effleurage and petrissage can be applied on the top arm. As the arm is supported with one hand, with the other hand squeeze around arm from shoulder to hand, then this area ends with effleurage and re-draping. To finish the entire side, the therapist may use passive touch at the shoulder and hip for about 5 -10 seconds. Afterwards, the therapist may assist the client, if needed, to turn to other side of the body to repeat the sequence. Moving around can be challenging. Therefore, it’s important to know how to assist the clients specifically and securely without exposing them too.
To conclude, prenatal massage is not limited for the pregnant woman only during this time but also for the labor, delivery, and recovery period. In addition, massage can be used for the benefits of both mother and infant after delivery. Not only does it help with changes of the women’s bodies but also in the development and growth of the baby when done by the mother herself. Its mutual nourishment and dual relationship of benefits and a great bonding. Therapists who consider this modality in own their practice open up more opportunities for their career and their business, while contributing to the health and well-being of soon to be mothers.
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