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What is Prenatal Massage?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 December 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Prenatal massage is a special type of massage which is designed to accommodate the unique needs of pregnant women. There are a number of reasons for women to pursue prenatal massage, ranging from a desire to reduce the physical strain associated with pregnancy to a chance to indulge in some pampering before giving birth. Many massage studios and spas offer prenatal massage, as do freelance massage therapists.

Several things about the pregnant body pose unique challenges to massage therapists. The first has to do with the physical changes associated with pregnancy, which may make various areas of the body extremely sensitive or tender. Pregnancy can be especially hard on the legs and feet, as they adjust to carrying a markedly different type of body weight, and massage therapists need to be careful when working with pregnant women to ensure that the massage is comfortable and enjoyable.

Communication is crucial during a pregnancy massage, even when clients and massage therapists see each other regularly, because pregnancy can cause rapid and unexpected changes. A pregnancy massage should never be uncomfortable or painful, so it is important for clients to speak up. Massage therapists are also aware that their clients may be experiencing intense emotions which could come out during the session, and that their clients may need to take a break to pee or relax, so clients should never be afraid to ask for a brief break in their massages.

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Certain areas of the body are avoided altogether during prenatal massage, due to concerns that pressure on certain points could stimulate early labor. Massage therapists often focus on the back, arms, and legs during pregnancy, taking care to avoid creating edema, a buildup of lymphatic fluid in the extremities. They may also offer scalp massage, which can be very relaxing for some women.

The shape of a woman's body can also present challenges. Prenatal massage is usually offered in a side-lying format, as it is not comfortable to lie on one's stomach while pregnant, especially in the advanced stages. Massage therapists may use several pillows as props to support the pregnant mother and her belly while they work. They also tend to avoid scented oils, because pregnancy makes women's noses more sensitive.

In addition to reducing stress, prenatal massage can also address some of the muscle pain and soreness which occurs during pregnancy. Depending on which oils are used, prenatal massage can also help to mitigate stretch marks, by nourishing and hydrating the skin so that it will be more elastic. Some people also believe that prenatal massage fosters a bond between the expecting mother and her child, and that regular pregnancy massage can make labor and delivery easier as well, although no firm studies have proved this.

Due to concerns about the risk of miscarriage, many massage therapists prefer to wait until after the first trimester to perform prenatal massage, and they are happy to perform massages up to the day of delivery. Women should always make sure to specify that they are pregnant when they are booking massage appointments, to ensure that they get an appropriate therapist, and some massage therapists may ask for a doctor's note before performing prenatal massage, to ensure that massage is not contraindicated for their clients.

Most massage therapists who perform prenatal massage are also happy to perform postnatal massage, which is designed to help women recover from labor and delivery more quickly.

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