What Are the Benefits of Prenatal Massage?

What Are the Benefits of Prenatal Massage?

The duration of a pregnancy can be a stressful time for mothers-to-be and those around them. The emotional stress of bringing a new life into the world is normal, as is the stress caused by bodily changes and shifting hormones. However, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do to help relieve the stress and pain associated with pregnancy. 

Prenatal massage is a safe way for expecting mothers to relax, improve their sleep, reduce aches and pain, lessen their anxiety, and improve blood flow in the body. There’s plenty of evidence to support prenatal massage, and it’s a safer alternative than some common pregnancy medications. 

What’s the Difference Between a Regular Massage and a Prenatal Massage?

The major difference between a regular and a prenatal massage is the techniques the massage therapist uses to provide the same benefits of a regular massage. Because of the changes that the body goes through during pregnancy, it’s important to focus on certain areas in certain ways that differ from regular massage therapy. 

So if you’re ever had a regular massage, getting a massage while pregnant will differ in some significant ways:

  • Instead of lying on your stomach, which can put pressure on the baby and cause discomfort, you’ll likely lie on your side or your back, depending on how far along you are in your pregnancy. 
  • Instead of deep-tissue massage, your massage therapist will most likely use the Swedish massage method, which uses gentle kneading strokes and some light tapping to promote blood flow, relaxation, and pain relief, among other benefits.
  • Your massage therapist will focus more on certain parts of your body, avoiding others to ensure you stay comfortable and that you receive the full benefits of the prenatal massage. You can expect focus on your feet, shoulders, neck, and back, which is where mothers-to-be often need the most relief.  

The Benefits of Prenatal Massage

We’ve mentioned a few benefits of prenatal massage already, but let’s take a closer look to give you a better understanding of what to expect. 

1. Stress and Anxiety Reduction Through Hormone Regulation

It’s no secret that hormone levels can fluctuate wildly during pregnancy. It’s fairly common for expectant mothers to experience depression and anxiety, which may affect the health of the baby. However, prenatal massage can help to regulate hormone levels, relieving stress, anxiety, and depression. 

2. Reduced Swelling

Pregnant women retain more water, which can cause swelling throughout the body. Swelling of the joints due to the constriction of blood vessels in the uterus and hampered circulation is also a common issue during pregnancy. Luckily, prenatal massage can help to reduce this swelling by increasing circulation.

3. Pain Reduction

All kinds of aches and pain can crop up during pregnancy. Sciatica, headaches, carpal tunnel, muscle aches, and a general feeling of discomfort are all common during pregnancy. And prenatal massage can help with them all!

4. Improved Sleep

Through relaxation, hormone regulation, swelling reduction, and pain relief, prenatal massage can be a huge help for sleep during pregnancy.   

What Evidence is There That Prenatal Massage Helps?

Now that we’ve covered the potential benefits of prenatal massage, let’s look at some of the evidence that these benefits are possible.

Massage Therapy for Depression Among Pregnant Women

This study compared two small groups of pregnant women. One group received prenatal massage therapy for 20-minutes at a time, twice a week for five weeks. The other group received a relaxation protocol that didn’t involve massage therapy. 

Although there were some benefits to both therapies, only the women who received prenatal massage reported improvements in back pain, mood, anxiety, and sleep. The study also found that the women from the massage therapy group experienced reduced stress hormone levels as measured in their urine.

Massage Therapy and Hormone Levels

Another study of 84 depressed pregnant women sought to measure the benefits of massage therapy during pregnancy. The women were split into three groups and compared to a control group of non-depressed pregnant women at the end of the study.

The authors of the study found that the massage group reported less back and leg pain, less anxiety, and improvements in depression. They also had higher levels of dopamine and serotonin and lower levels of stress hormones cortisol and norepinephrine. In addition, the massage group had lower levels of prematurity and low birth weight among them

When Should You Get a Prenatal Massage?

Discomfort can start at any time during the pregnancy. However, many massage therapists will avoid performing prenatal massage therapy during the first trimester out of an abundance of caution. If you’re experiencing depression, anxiety, back pain, or sciatica during the first trimester, you may want to see a chiropractor instead of a massage therapist. 

Before you see a massage therapist or chiropractor during any point in your pregnancy, it’s important to talk to your practitioner or prenatal care giver. Some pregnant women with other health conditions such as high-risk pregnancy, preeclampsia, severe headaches, and high blood pressure should definitely discuss prenatal massage beforehand. 

A Safe Alternative to Medication

While taking benzodiazepine medications during pregnancy is a somewhat controversial topic, the recent use of SSRIs or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors among pregnant women is widely considered safe. However, even SSRIs can have negative side-effects, such as crying, trouble feeding, and jitteriness. So we recommend using only safe, natural means of promoting relaxation and improving the symptoms of depression during pregnancy. 

Prenatal massage has been shown to be safe again and again in studies. And while certain medications may also be safe, there are an increasing number of women who want to avoid any medications that could have negative side effects.  

Massage Therapy and Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy

In addition to massage therapy, seeing a chiropractor during pregnancy is safe, effective, and beneficial. When these two natural, non-invasive therapies are combined, they help relieve pain, improve mood, and enhance sleep.

Since the body undergoes drastic changes during pregnancy, many of which cause back pain, chiropractors are ideally positioned to provide pain relief and make adjustments to help the body during and after the pregnancy. 

Chiropractors can also provide sciatica sleeping tips during pregnancy, which is one major reason for sleep interruption for many women. They also present a wide array of other benefits, including:

  • Reduce tension on the pelvis.
  • Help make delivery easier. 
  • Enable your ability to perform light exercise during pregnancy. 
  • Reduce the body’s stress hormones.
  • Improver overall health and wellbeing. 

At Better Health Chiropractic and Physical Rehab, we offer prenatal chiropractic care and massage therapy under one roof. We’ve helped make pregnancy easier for thousands of Alaskan women, and we would love to help you! Contact us today to schedule an appointment.   

Prenatal Massage Benefits: Conclusion

Prenatal massage has many benefits. Recent studies have shown that regular massage during pregnancy not only helps the mother-to-be, but it can help the health of the child, as well, by reducing the chances of low birth weight and prematurity.

By relieving pain, improving mood, reducing anxiety, and improving sleep, prenatal massage can help make the pregnancy smooth. It can help with depression both during and after the pregnancy, and it has been shown to be safe when applied properly. 

When combined with chiropractic care, this type of massage can provide a wide range of natural benefits in the form of non-invasive, scientifically-proven techniques.  

Resources:
https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/massage-therapy-what-you-need-to-know
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/01674829909075574
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01674820412331282231
https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-can-you-manage-anxiety-during-pregnancy-202106252512

Dr. Brent Wells - Anchorage Chiropractor
About the Author

Dr. Brent Wells, D.C.

Dr. Brent Wells has been a trusted chiropractor since moving his family from Oregon to Alaska back in 1998 and founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab – B.S. from Univ. of Nevada, Doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College, volunteer for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Foundation, and member of the American Chiropractic Association. As a chiropractor his focus is on family, including his 3 children and wife of 20+ years, his clinics, and ongoing education.

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