I find there is a misconception in the public sphere that prenatal massage is just a luxury, a nice treat for wealthy women who need to relax during pregnancy. This actually couldn’t be further from the truth. Of course, relaxing the nervous system has many benefits for mother and baby, but there is so much more a therapist can do. A knowledgeable, nurturing prenatal massage therapist can really round out any pregnant woman’s wellness team, as we address the pains specific to pregnancy, provide a crucial increase in body awareness, balance the ligaments and muscles in the pelvis, provide postural alignment and comfort tips for everyday, and support a woman’s confidence in her inner wisdom – ALL of which make for an easier pregnancy AND, most of the time, an easier labor. I love partnering with my pregnant clients, serving as a support for them throughout the duration of their pregnancy and beyond. I deliberately keep my prices reasonable, so that women on almost any budget can afford to come for an hour once a month. I also volunteer my services through a non-profit organization for those who otherwise really wouldn’t have access to massage. I am passionate about this work because I see what a difference it can make. As I have said many times, “It’s not just rubbing oil!”
Most trained prenatal massage therapists are proficient in deep tissue techniques to ease the specific complaints of pregnancy. Most of my clients experience low back pain and hip pain as their pregnancy progresses. Many also have tightness in the outer calf, discomfort in the neck and shoulders, and occasionally in the head and jaw. Regular massage can help alleviate all of these aches. For the uncomfortable swelling in the legs and feet, manual lymphatic drainage massage helps to bring some welcome relief. The increase in body awareness is a wonderful collateral benefit to touch, as many women are not aware of how much tension they hold and where exactly in the body they hold it. Labor becomes much more comfortable if a woman is already practiced in recognizing where she is holding tension unnecessarily and has learned how to let it go.
Besides the hands-on time we have together, I love to show clients little things to make them more comfortable at home and during daily living. The right pillow propping so that the belly and legs are properly supported can make all the difference in a night’s sleep. Learning how to fill the lungs with air when there is a baby pushing up against them makes it easier to avoid shallow breathing. Postural education can be so helpful as the center of gravity starts to shift forward. Doula training has given me some excellent tools to teach my clients and their partners, and many of them can be used during labor to give baby a little more wiggle room if there is a stall. Some of my favorites involve the use of the rebozo, a brilliant contribution to birth learned from Mexican midwives. Partners can use the rebozo in a “sifting” motion, to give mama temporary relief from the baby weight and allow the abdominal muscles to relax. The rebozo also takes the strain off of the uterine ligaments. With repetition, this can serve to decrease imbalances in the body which can cause hiccups in labor. It also just feels great!
Pregnant women need support – LOTS of it. (Postpartum women need even more, but that is for another post.) Along with a great doctor or midwife, birth education provider and doula, a caring prenatal massage therapist adds much benefit to a woman’s pregnancy team.