How a massage can help your pregnancy

Pregnancy can often be a confusing time. Physical changes, varying hormonal levels, emotional upheaval can be mixed with feelings of joy and excitement. The physical changes transform posture and gait to compensate for the increasing size of the woman's uterus and breasts.

Relationships may alter with her partner, loved ones around her, friends and colleagues as her priorities change. Older women and IVF pregnancies or holistic conceptions may result in pregnancies with greater significance and investment of emotional energy.

Our expectations of a perfect birth coupled with media images of pregnancy/childbirth as a blissful time can increase the anxiety levels if we fail to meet these expectations. Other health issues, including concerns for baby’s health, can lead to women being apprehensive about their pregnancy and the childbirth process.

Because of all of these issues, pregnant women may feel increasing levels of stress. Research has demonstrated that stress can have many negative effects both prenatinally and perinatally. These effects include:

  • Reduced blood supply to the uterus, resulting in lower fetal heart rate and reduced oxygenation of blood.

  • Increased maternal blood pressure, heart rate, toxemia and immune system dysfunction.

  • Higher incidence of miscarriage and premature births

  • Hampering the development of the baby’s brain and central nervous system.

  • Increased fetal distress which may lead to increased restlessness, crying and digestive disturbances post-natally.

Learning how to relax is an integral part of how to have a safe and enjoyable pregnancy.

Relaxation can activate the parasympathetic part of the autonomic nervous system to increase steroid production. This helps to create balance in the pregnant woman’s body which may be characterised by steady blood pressure and pulse and a healthy immune system. Regardless of how relaxation is achieved, all experts agree on the positive benefits of relaxation.

Massage therapy can be tremendously relaxing.

Massage received in an environment conducive to relaxation is extremely beneficial for labour preparation (particularly in the last six to eight weeks). Whether the massage is your home or in a clinic depends upon your home circumstances (and the availability of a therapist that you can feel comfortable with). Once your pregnancy has reached about 18-20 weeks then most therapists will position you with you lying on your side, the safest position.

An experienced massage therapist can provide you with the nurturing and soothing touch suitable for the relaxation you require. Regular touch can also be an integral part of your support network. In addition to skilled, nurturing touch, a caring therapist can provide individualised attention to needs, emotional support, education in stress reducing activities and a non-judgmental ear for listening.

For more information about massages during pregnancy, please contact the expert contributor.

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