Massage therapy involves the manipulation of muscles and other soft tissues of the body to relieve pain and heal injuries. Both pre-natal and postpartum massage help to relieve muscle soreness, manage stress and anxiety, and improve sleep quality. At Moon Rabbit, we encourage both moms-to-be and new moms to schedule pre- and postnatal massages; not only do they feel great, but they are also good for you and your baby’s health. Here are a few benefits to both pre and postnatal massage therapy.
The Benefits of Pre-Natal Massage
1. Relieves nerve and muscle pain. Many women experience joint pain during pregnancy. Prenatal massage therapy focuses on inflamed nerves by helping release tension in nearby muscles. This also improves blood circulation, reducing the swelling of the joints during pregnancy by stimulating soft tissue and decreasing fluid build-up around the joints. Additionally, improved blood flow helps the body’s lymphatic system (part of the circulatory and immune systems) work more efficiently by assisting in the removal of toxins and tissue waste. Along with joint pain, prenatal massage therapy can help reduce neck and back pain including sciatica, edema (swelling of the feet), and leg cramping.
2. Provides stress and anxiety relief. Studies have shown that prenatal massage helps to increase serotonin and dopamine—two of our happy, feel-good hormones—while decreasing stress hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine. Prenatal massage improves overall relaxation and health, including decreased depression and anxiety. A study including women who received bi-weekly massages for only five weeks, results showed reduced levels of cortisol and norepinephrine, as well as increased levels of dopamine and serotonin. Especially during a woman’s second and third trimester of pregnancy when women are typically most uncomfortable and in need of relief, prenatal massage can act as an effective tool to ensuring mental and physical comfort.
3. Improves labor outcomes and newborn health. The positive changes in hormone levels also lead to fewer complications during birth and less instances of birth complications, such as low birth weight. This strongly suggests that there are maternal and newborn health benefits when prenatal massage is included into regular prenatal care. In a study focusing on labor pain, women who were treated with prenatal massage therapy experienced significantly lower pain levels and their labors were on average three hours shorter with less need for medication. Additional evidence shows that massage can decrease carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy.
The Benefits of Postnatal / Postpartum Massage:
1. Improves lactation. One of the causes of the disruption of breastfeeding is the decrease in milk production. Postpartum massage has been shown to increase levels of prolactin, the main hormone involved in lactation. Relaxation in the chest muscles opens the shoulders, improving lactation; postpartum massage not only relieves breast pain, but also decreases sodium levels and improves newborn suckling. Studies determining the effectiveness of postnatal massage have shown that postpartum mothers experienced a significant positive effect on the production of prolactin, easing the sometimes emotionally and physically taxing process of breastfeeding.
2. Improves recovery time of uterus. “After pains” consist of the uterine contractions experienced after the delivery of the placenta. These contractions serve to restore the uterus to its pre-pregnant state and can be uncomfortable—hence, the name. Fundal massage is a uterine massage technique used by medical professionals to help the uterus go back to its usual size. Additionally, abdominal massage has been found to benefit mothers by encouraging uterine involution, the process of the uterus returning to its pre-pregnant state, and the expelling of lochia (postpartum bleeding).
3. Decreases stress and improves sleep. It’s common to feel exhausted after giving birth and especially as mothers take care of their newborns. Postnatal massage can ease fatigue, encourage relaxation, and improve quality of sleep. Research indicates that postnatal massage helped sleep quality among women who suffered from postpartum insomnia. Sixty postpartum women reporting poor sleep quality were randomly assigned to an intervention group (undergoing massage therapy) or a control group (no massage therapy). Those assigned to the intervention group reported significantly better sleep quality.
Both prenatal and postpartum massage benefit the mental and physical well-being of new mothers and their newborns. Keep these benefits in mind when scheduling pre and postnatal massage appointments can help ensure a more comfortable, manageable pregnancy and postpartum journey.