Getting pregnant is amazing, maybe the biggest thing you can be a part of. But it has its price: the body becomes heavy, legs and feet inevitably take a beating, and many also suffer from accumulations of fluid in the body. In addition, there may be other disorders such as sciatica, joint loosening and carpal tunnel syndrome (nerves that get pinched in the carpal tunnel on the inside of the hand joint, usually caused by fluid collection).
Then pregnancy massage is effective – provides relief both in body and in soul! The pain is relieved and your well-being increases. In addition, when you are pregnant, the massage can be a moment just for yourself, which is perhaps just as much needed.
The massage for pregnant women is carried out lying on the stomach on a special pillow designed especially for this purpose. Please note that there are no studies that provide evidence that massage can trigger miscarriages. However, if you are early in your pregnancy (less than 12 weeks), the treatment is still slightly softer, just in case. If you feel unsure, consult your midwife just to be on the safe side. Treatment is aimed at providing relief in the specific areas of discomfort that you are experiencing.
There are studies that demonstrate the benefits of prenatal massage during pregnancy. Examples of positive effects include reduced anxiety, improved mood, better sleep and less back pain. Furthermore, fewer complications during childbirth and fewer prenatal births have been found. Link to the study
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Massage has long been used by people for a wide range of purposes. It is common to use massage mainly to reduce stress levels, increase blood circulation or relieve pain and tension. Many types of massage, such as connective tissue massage, are familiar to most people. However, pregnancy massage may sound like a contradiction in terms to most people, as pregnancy is often perceived as a period of quiet rest at home and nothing else. However, there is nothing stopping pregnant women from enjoying a beneficial massage. On the contrary, as you will learn here, pregnancy massage can have many benefits, making your pregnancy more bearable and preparing you well for both childbirth and postnatal recovery. Many people combine pregnancy massage with lying on a spiked mat for a while to further boost blood circulation.
There are a few things that distinguish massage for pregnant women from other types of massage. These differences become both more apparent and more important the further along the pregnant woman is. A clear example of this is the type of massage table that is often used. A standard, or traditional, massage table, as we know, has a groove or hole where the face is placed when the person being massaged is lying on their stomach. When massaging pregnant women, a corresponding cavity is required for the growing belly when massaging the pregnant woman's back and behind. This can be solved by using a specially designed bench where a hole, similar to the one for the face but larger, is provided for the stomach. It is also common to use a special pad that lifts the entire upper body but has a groove that allows the belly to be relieved. It may also be worth noting that the deeper and often harsher technique used in the aforementioned connective tissue massage is not used in pregnancy massage.
Instead, this type of massage focuses on relief and relaxation and doesn't go as deep. In the later stages of pregnancy, even lying down can cause discomfort though, especially if you lie still in one position for too long. It is therefore common for pregnancy massage to be performed in shorter sessions compared to regular massage. With a session equivalent to about half or less of the time traditionally devoted to massage, even the heavily pregnant can often endure. This also allows for the beneficial effects of massage, which in some cases can mean faster recovery after childbirth. Pregnancy massage is also a proven method of reducing the risk of injury during childbirth. We'll come back to some other differences between traditional massage and massage for pregnant women later in this article.
As mentioned in the introduction, massage can provide several benefits for both health and well-being. Pregnancy massage, like traditional massage, provides a moment of relaxation. But the most valuable effect of massage comes afterwards, when the so-called feel-good hormones are released. The endocrine system is the collection of organs, often glands, that produce and secrete hormones in the body. Some of the hormones secreted by the endocrine system are called endorphins, and these are sometimes referred to as the body's own morphine. This is because they have a pain-relieving and sedative effect and bind to the same receptors as morphine does.
So, what does this have to do with massage for pregnant women? Well, a massage of around 20 minutes can activate the body's secretion of endorphins and thus provide quite a bit of relief from the pains that are sometimes experienced during various stages of pregnancy. It has been proven that the body's own pain relief kicks in after a one-hour massage and the effect lasts long afterwards. At some point in the middle of a pregnancy, just after four months, it is very common to experience back pain. This is mainly caused by the growing belly and the extra weight the body has to carry. These pains can come both earlier and later, and some pregnant women avoid the pain altogether. However, for those who are still among the large number of sufferers, massage for pregnant women is a good idea. As mobility is often limited, especially towards the end of a pregnancy, it can be difficult to soften the back yourself. Softening with a massage is therefore an easy way to become softer, and with the release of endorphins as described, pain is relieved for some time afterwards too.
However, the beneficial effects of pregnancy massage and the hormones it releases are not limited to the endorphins described above. Both serotonin and dopamine are also secreted during massage. A steady secretion of the former keeps your mood in balance, and its name may be familiar to you from contexts where depression is discussed. In fact, many of the medicines used to treat depression adjust serotonin levels. But when you get a massage as a pregnant woman, you get a boost naturally, from the masseur's hands and from your own body. Even if you're not suffering from depression linked to your pregnancy (or otherwise), serotonin makes you feel good. When it comes to the latter hormone, dopamine, it's worth mentioning that it's one of the body's most important neurotransmitters. Dopamine performs many functions in the central nervous system and many of these functions are closely linked, for example, to happiness, motivation and the ability to focus or concentrate. Dopamine is also often described as playing a key role in our reward system in short.
Dopamine simply makes us feel very good, and the scientific explanation is thought to be that dopamine is supposed to get us "hooked" on things that are good for us and give us positive effects. These things can range from exercise (which also releases the hormone) to getting a massage when pregnant. While there are big differences between individuals in terms of how big the kick is when dopamine is secreted, as with serotonin, it is a fact that it always produces a range of positive effects.
The focus is on the back of the body during pregnancy massage, and almost the entire massage is performed with the pregnant woman lying on her stomach. Therefore, the support is of utmost importance when giving a massage during pregnancy. A growing belly makes it increasingly difficult to lie on the stomach, so a special base is used to give the belly the space it needs to lie with its back up. As for the technique that a skilled masseur uses in pregnancy massage, it is less harsh. This is primarily for the sake of comfort, as we have previously reviewed. However, if you are used to really strong strokes during a massage, you can of course tell your masseur that you would like him or her to do a little anyway. Since there is no risk of more serious problems, you should of course be able to get a massage when you are pregnant that meets your expectations. You and your masseur will agree on a procedure that you both feel comfortable with. But it will never be a really hard and deep connective tissue massage. Particular care is taken before week twelve of pregnancy, and this is just to be on the safe side.
In English-speaking countries, a certain type of massage with soft, sweeping and long movements is called "Swedish massage". This is often the massage that is recommended as the starting point for pregnancy massage. Here we call this method a classic Swedish massage, but it has been refined to suit pregnant women receiving massage. Another difference is the time allocated for a massage of pregnant women - there is a possibility to receive massage for a shorter time - 20 minutes.
Start by making an appointment for a pregnancy massage, preferably for a short session. You and your masseuse will talk through the massage, and as well as giving you information about the layout, you should also let us know if you have any particular areas you wish to avoid or focus on. This is also a good time to bring up if you have a problem with any particular scent. Oils used in massage can be perfumed and many pregnant women may have nausea that is triggered or worsened by certain scents. If you have had a classic massage at some point in the past, you can imagine that the whole thing will go something like this, but with you lying on your stomach on the special mat designed for this purpose.
Your masseur will pay more attention to how the massage is received, if any area feels more sensitive or if anything else is causing discomfort. This is an important difference between a massage when you're pregnant and, for example, a classic massage (where you just go through a programme to some extent). Pregnancy and massage are a good combination thanks to another hormone we haven't yet touched on - oxytocin. This is the main representative of feel-good hormones, and its production and secretion is increased after just a short massage. The hormone is normally secreted in large quantities when we eat good food, spend time with friends or touch someone we feel close to. It is therefore sometimes called both a love hormone and a pleasure hormone. Both classical massage and pregnancy massage are methods designed for relaxation and pleasure in the first place and are real oxytocin boosters. After you have had your relaxing massage, you will experience the effects for up to twelve hours.
A long-standing myth has led many people to believe that massage during pregnancy carries a risk of miscarriage. However, the truth is that there is no scientific link between miscarriage and massage during pregnancy. This is true throughout pregnancy and means that the pregnant woman can have a massage at any time without worrying about it.
During pregnancy, the body has elevated levels of a couple of hormones that are meant to prepare the body for the growing fetus' need for space and, a little further down the line, childbirth. The mechanism of these hormones can be briefly described as making the muscles a little "disconnected" and fragile. The underlying mechanism is that these hormones, which include relaxin, make the muscles more relaxed in themselves (as one might infer from the name of the hormone) and also less volitional. The latter is an understandable function, given that it is the body that temporarily needs to control the muscles rather than the brain. But during pregnancy, muscles can be a little softer and more sensitive than usual. It is therefore important that a masseur avoids certain hard grips and more robust techniques when giving a pregnancy massage, as there is a risk of damaging the muscles. However, a masseur who is trained and experienced in pregnancy massage knows what your body's muscles can handle, so there is no risk of leaving the massage bruised and battered. The only real limitations are related to your own comfort. So, as explained above, that is the reason for using a different, slightly softer, technique. Not because there is an increased risk of either miscarriage or other complications with pregnancy massage.
Since pregnancy massage does not involve any risks, but on the contrary a wide range of benefits, pregnancy massage can be performed during any trimester. As long as you can get to the masseuse, you can receive a beneficial massage for as long as you want. Pregnancy massage has the potential to relieve ailments related to your pregnancy, and these ailments often intensify towards the end of pregnancy. So it's important to remember that massage is risk-free throughout your pregnancy, right up until the last week before giving birth in fact. When pain and discomfort are at their most troublesome, massage will also be at its most beneficial. But regular massage throughout the period of pregnancy has benefits beyond pure pain relief and pleasure. Studies have clearly shown that there is a clear link between pregnancy massage throughout the nine months and fewer complications at birth.
There is also an equally clear link between massage and faster recovery after childbirth. This may be an argument for not stopping massage towards the end of pregnancy despite increasing immobility and less comfort, the good effects of massage simply outweigh the bad. All pregnant women are different, and so are all pregnancies. This is particularly true of pregnancy vaginas - some have a barely noticeable little lump throughout the pregnancy. However, most high-pregnancy women have a large belly towards the end of pregnancy, so it's good to know that it can be difficult to lie on your belly, despite the adapted and specially designed support. In these cases, the massage can be performed with the pregnant woman lying on her side. As you can see, there are not many obstacles to massage throughout pregnancy, on the contrary, there are many reasons and solutions.