I’m 24 weeks pregnant, and work is starting to become difficult. I get lower back pain from sitting at my desk all day. I tried a coworker’s standing desk, but that doesn’t provide much relief because my ankles are swollen and my legs get sore. A friend mentioned trying massage therapy. She said it would also help my anxiety and mood swings. I’ve had a massage before, and I was laying on my stomach. I know I couldn’t do that now! The suggestion got me wondering – how would a massage work in my condition? Would massage be safe for the baby?
Massage is not only safe for your baby, it is highly recommended by as part of your prenatal care, according to an article in the Expert Review of Obstetrics & Gynecology.[i] A prenatal massage not only alleviates your aches and pains, it reduces the swelling, muscle tension, and headaches experienced by many pregnant women.[ii] Regular prenatal massage therapy also regulates your hormones, increasing your dopamine and serotonin levels. Low levels of these hormones can lead to depression, so prenatal massage may actually decrease the chances that you’ll have to deal with postpartum depression after your baby is born.[iii]
As your baby grows, you may feel pressure on your nerves – especially your sciatic nerve. This can cause lower back pain, which can be exacerbated if you’re sitting at your desk all day at an office job. Prenatal massage uses gentle, nurturing movements to relax the muscles surrounding your nerves and ease the pressure on them. This may help reduce your back pain.
Your heavy uterus also places pressure on major blood vessels, reducing your circulation and leading to the collection of fluid around your joints. Massages can stimulate the soft tissues to help release this fluid. Over time, you might notice less swelling around your ankles, or less stiffness in your joints.
Prenatal massage is different from any massage you may have had before. You’ll lay on your side, surrounded by supportive cushions to help keep you stable and balanced. Your massage therapist incorporates gentle Swedish massage techniques to areas where you have the most stiffness or discomfort.
You’ll also practice guided, deep breathing exercises for further relaxation. This calm will help you maintain your hormonal balance while also focusing on yourself and your body. Regular prenatal massage may decrease the pain you experience during labor, and also shorten your delivery time. A study revealed that expectant mothers who had regular prenatal massage had on average three hours shorter labor, with less need for pain medication.[iv]
At 24 weeks, you’re a prime candidate for prenatal massage, although you should bring it up with your obstetrician and make sure there are no potential concerns. While women can begin massage therapy at any point during pregnancy, some massage therapists decline to work with women in the first trimester, when risks are greater.[v]
To get the greatest benefit of prenatal massage, consider rebooking with the same therapist twice a week for at least five weeks. You could call a massage therapist into your home for a massage after work. With regular prenatal massage you may start getting better sleep as well, which is not only important for the baby, but also for you as a working mom.
[i] Expert Review of Obstetrics & Gynecology: “Pregnancy and labor massage” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2870995/
[iii] American Pregnancy Association: “Massage and Pregnancy – Prenatal Massage” http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/prenatal-massage/
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