Nurturing touch during pregnancy, labor, and the postpartum period is not a new concept. It is tailored to a woman’s need and comfort as her body wonderfully blossoms through the various stages of pregnancy. At the start of the session, various pillows and bolsters are provided to ensure maximum support and comfort in her position. Cream/oil is used during the session while she is positioned unclothed between the sheets properly draped for her privacy and comfort.
Throughout history, massage and movement during the childbearing experience was, and continues to be, a prominent part of many health care approaches. Pregnancy massage has been proven to help in numerous ways.
Massage involves the manipulation of the soft tissues by stroking and stretching of muscles, tendons, and ligaments. One major physiological effect of this manipulation is an increase in blood circulation to the muscles being massaged. This results in more oxygen and nutrient transported in blood and available in tissues. In addition, enhanced blood flow will remove metabolic waste products that have built up in the muscles. Some other major physiological effects of soft tissue manipulation include improving muscle pliability and joint flexibility, decreasing muscle tension, and calming nervous irritability.
A typical massage therapy session can address pregnancy’s various physical challenges: edema, gastrointestinal discomforts, postural changes, and pain in the lower back, pelvis, or hips. Swedish massage may facilitate gestation by supporting cardiac function, placental and mammary development, and increasing cellular respiration. It also reduces edema and contributes to sympathetic nervous system sedation. Deep tissue, trigger point, and both active and passive movements alleviate stress on weight-bearing joints and myofascial structures, especially the sacroiliac; and balancing and postural
reeducation reduce neck and back pain caused by improper posture and strain to the uterine ligaments.
Prenatal massage therapy can also facilitate ease of labor by preparing the muscles for release and support during childbirth. Effective prenatal massage sessions can provide emotional support and relaxation for the mother to be. This support and relaxation help combat the effects of stress by activating the parasympathetic nervous system which creates healthy immune system functioning and emotional states; and reduces fear and anxiety.
A thorough session takes at least one hour. Only the part of the body being worked on is exposed. It is fine to interrupt the massage to use the rest room, but, for maximum comfort, it is recommended that you avoid heavy eating and drinking 2 hours prior to the session. A body cushion is used for maximum comfort during the massage and allows the mother several choices for body positioning. Please take note of the contraindications, as well as the benefits, of pregnancy massage listed below. Working closely with your primary care provider to insure your and your baby’s safety is of the utmost importance.
- Reduces stress and promotes relaxation.
- Provides emotional support and physical nurturing, particularly for those who are alone in the process, either literally or by the emotional absence of the partner.
- Reduces and alleviates neck, back, and joint pain caused by posture, muscle weakness, tension, extra weight, or imbalance.
- Relieves muscle spasms, cramps, and fibrosis.
- Alleviates stress on weight-bearing joints and musculo-fascial structures (sacro-iliac joint, mid-back and lumbar spine, hips).
- Combats tension, fatigue, and headaches, soothe nerves to help with sleep problems, and possibly reduce blood pressure through relaxation and stress reduction.
- Increases blood and lymph circulation and supports the physiological process of gestation, by supporting the work of the heart, increasing cellular respiration,
reducing edema, and contributing to sympathetic nervous system sedation.
- Reduces the possibility of problems with swelling, varicose veins, and leg cramps.
- Helps maintain skin elasticity to ease stretch marks and uncomfortable tightness.
- Assists with the management of digestive complaints such as constipation, gas, nausea, and indigestion.
- Encourages deeper, easier breathing.
- Enhances self-esteem and self image, helping the pregnant woman feel more at home in her changing body.
- Develops the sensory awareness and relaxation necessary to be an
active and responsive participant in the birth experience. (in order to birth, the musculature of the legs, back, abdomen, and pelvic floor must release to allow the uterus to labor with no resistance).
- Provides a pregnant woman with the experience and model of loving, nurturing touch that encourages her to touch her baby lovingly.
Complications of pregnancy, which would contraindicate massage therapy (if resolved,
participation is possible with physician’s release):
- Threatened miscarriage
- Early labor
- Placental dysfunctions
- GEPH (Pre-eclampsia)
- Gestational diabetes
- Eclampsia (Toxemia)
Other conditions contraindicating participation in massage therapy (if resolved,
participation is possible with physician’s release):
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease (3rd trimester)
- Kidney and bladder diseases
- Any infectious disease
- Cancer or undiagnosed lumps
- Severe varicose veins (contraindicated for affected for affected area only)
- Thrombophlebitis (contraindicated for affected for affected area only)
- Skin irritation and/or discharge (contraindicated for affected area only)
- Lupus erythematosus and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (contraindicated for affected area only)
High Risk Pregnancies, as defined by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (in some cases, requires physician’s release):
- Pre-pregnancy diabetes mellitus
- Cardiac, pulmonary, or liver disorders
- Chronic hypertension
- Previous problem pregnancy
- Multiple pregnancy
- Mother’s age under 18 or over 35
- Asthmatic mother
- RH-negative factor or maternal genetic problems, including DES exposure and other uterine abnormalities
- Risk of fetal genetic disorders
- Convulsive disorders
- Intrauterine growth retardation, abnormal fetal movement or heartbeat
- Systemic lupus erythematosus and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrom
Reflexology can help expectant mothers stay calm and relaxed throughout their pregnancy and provide relief from a variety of symptoms such as morning sickness, insomnia, fatigue, backache, heartburn, etc. Maternity Reflexology is a supportive therapy specifically tailored to assist with the conditions of sub-fertility, IVF support, pregnancy, and childbirth. Maternity Reflexology promotes deep relaxation and homeostasis of the body. It is a calming and enjoyable treatment that complements all stages of pregnancy.
The most important developments in the womb take place in the first few months of pregnancy. Because of this, it is ideal to use reflexology, nutrition, and exercise to place the body in the optimum state for conception and early fetal development. It is recommended to begin preparing about 4 months before attempting conception. This gives the body a chance to clear itself of toxins.
Since the potential father will also be playing a key role in the conception, he should be making an effort to contribute healthy sperm by ensuring that all of his body systems are functioning optimally. Reflexology treatments, good nutrition, and exercise can be of similar benefit to the father.
The body undergoes miraculous changes in order to cater to the growing fetus. Since every system is affected, it is important for the health of the expectant mother and for the health of the new baby that steps be taken to ensure everything is kept in balance. It is a precious time when you, the mother, need to be nurtured and cherished. Sequences and techniques are adapted specifically for pregnancy. It can help with a variety of symptoms. By promoting good blood flow within your whole body, maternity reflexology helps ensure oxygen and other vital nutrients are reaching your baby.
Pregnancy is often a time of heightened emotions and vulnerability. Treatments can also provide you with an opportunity to discuss issues that are concerning you. This is the ultimate opportunity for you to relax and communicate with your unborn child.
Timing of treatments
Treatments can begin early in the pregnancy and continue at regular intervals, becoming more frequent as the delivery date approaches. While this is ideal, reflexology is often not considered until the later months of pregnancy. Fortunately, even beginning sessions at a later stage can still have tremendous benefits for both the mother and the baby.
Labor and birth
There are increasing reports from new mothers who believe that regular reflexology sessions and a healthy lifestyle throughout the pregnancy helped them have a good birth experience. Maternity reflexology works to put you in the best possible state to cope and to make a good recovery.
Mother and newborn
Although giving birth is a joyous time in a woman’s life, there can also be exhaustion, soreness, and mixed emotions that overshadow the wonderful event. Your body and mind has gone through a great deal during the pregnancy and birth. Reflexology can help restore balance and harmony back to the non-pregnant state. A session following the birth provides you with an opportunity to relate your experience, discuss your feelings, and give you some much needed time for yourself. Sessions also provide you with the opportunity to show you how to work the baby’s feet to help with minor problems.
“Sub-fertility is the state of being unable to conceive after one year of unprotected intercourse and the term may be used to refer to a state of having never conceived or that of having difficulty in conceiving again after having previously conceived”
Many couples who are having difficulty conceiving are told there is nothing wrong physically and that their problem is primarily psychological. Worrying about being infertile can make the situation worse – you can’t fall pregnant until you relax and you can’t relax until you fall pregnant. Anxiety and worry can create the very physical problems that prevent conception.
Non-physical causes of sub-fertility often lie in unnecessary stress and worry. Reflexology encourages a deep relaxation which alleviates stress and tension so that conception may take place.
Reflexology works on balancing all of the body systems to provide a healthy body for conception to take place. Gentle pressure to reflex points balances the hormonal system and stimulates the reproductive organs. Both women and men can benefit from treatments for individual reasons, such as regulation of menstruation and stimulation of sperm production.
The stress reduction benefits of reflexology cannot be under estimated. Anything that can assist in boosting endorphin production (feel good hormones) and reduce stress hormones can only be a good thing. There have been studies carried out recently to back up the positive effect of endorphins during fertility treatments.
This wonderful image of a pregnant foot is
copyright of Susanne Ezner
(www.maternity-reflexology.co.uk) with whom
I trained in Maternity Reflexology.