Therapeutic massage has been used for centuries to improve overall health, reduce stress, and relieve muscle tension. Pregnancy, with the extra stress and strain it brings both physically and emotionally can be a good time to experience the benefits of this therapy.
Studies indicate that massage therapy performed during pregnancy can reduce anxiety, decrease symptoms of depression, relieve muscle aches and joint pains, and improve labour outcomes and new-born health. Pregnancy massage aims to relax muscle tension and improve lymphatic and blood circulation through mild pressure applied to the muscle groups of the body, it addresses many common discomforts associated with the skeletal and circulatory changes brought on by hormone shifts. (1,2,3)
Studies published in the past 10 years have shown that hormone levels associated with relaxation and stress are significantly altered when massage therapy is introduced to women’s prenatal care. This leads to mood regulation and improved cardiovascular health.
In women who received bi-weekly massages for only five weeks, hormones such as norepinephrine and cortisol (hormones associated with stress) were reduced, and dopamine and serotonin levels were increased (low levels of these hormones are associated with depression). (3, 5)
These changes in hormone levels also led to fewer complications during birth and fewer instances of new-born complications, such as low birth weight. The evidence strongly suggests there are maternal and new-born health benefits when therapeutic massage is incorporated into regular prenatal care. (4, 7)
Reduction of swelling
Oedema, or swelling of the joints during pregnancy, is often caused by reduced circulation and increased pressure on the major blood vessels by the heavy uterus. Massage helps to stimulate soft tissues to reduce the collection of fluids in swollen joints. This also improves the removal of tissue waste carried by the body’s lymph system.
Improvement of nerve pain
Sciatic nerve pain is experienced by many women in late pregnancy as the uterus rests on muscles of the pelvic floor and lower back. The pressure of the uterus spreads tension to the muscles of the upper and lower leg, causing them to swell and put pressure on nearby nerves. Massage therapy addresses the inflamed nerves by helping to release the tension on nearby muscles. Many women have experienced a significant reduction in sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy through massage. (6)
Other potential benefits of prenatal massage:
- Reduced back pain
- Reduced joint pain
- Improved circulation
- Reduced oedema
- Reduced muscle tension and headache
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Improved oxygenation of soft tissues and muscles
- Better sleep
At York Clinic Debbie Priestley and Michaela Scott offer specialist pregnancy massage. To find out more about them you can take a look at their pages on our website or go to their individual websites (Debbie’s website, Michaela’s website or facebook page) To book an appointment email firstname.lastname@example.org or ring reception on 01904 709688
References and further reading:
- Field, T. (1999). Pregnant Women Benefit From Massage Therapy. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Mar;20(1):31-8.
- Field, T. (2004). Massage Therapy Effects on Depressed Pregnant Women. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Jun;25(2):115-22.
- Howell, Julie, NMT, PMT, Prenatal Health Through Massage Therapy: For Women and Their Babies.