Life can be stressful, and mental tension can sometimes correlate to physical tension in the muscles and joints.
That’s why getting a nice, relaxing massage is a great way to feel better immediately.
Pregnancy comes with its own set of unique stressors.
But is it safe to get a massage when pregnant? What are some alternatives, and how else can you manage stress while pregnant? Here are your answers to those questions and more.
What Are the Benefits of Prenatal Massage?
Massage therapy is generally a safe and effective way to relieve physical and mental stress while pregnant. It’s been shown to provide a vast number of benefits.
Perhaps obviously, massages can help loosen the joints and muscles to improve circulation in the body.
Not only can this benefit yourself, but it can also have indirect benefits for the fetus. Massage may help reduce edema — or swelling of the joints during pregnancy — which can enhance your quality of life in multiple ways.
As far as mental wellness, a massage can also enhance your sense of relaxation, improve your sleep cycle, and allow you to feel more relaxed. There’s even evidence to suggest that prenatal massage can improve labor outcomes.
Hormone levels associated with anxiety and stress, like cortisol, are drastically altered during massage therapy.
Reducing cortisol can improve cardiovascular health while also working to regulate mood. Changes in hormone levels can also reduce the risk of complications during birth.
Finally, massage can improve sciatic nerve back pain, which is often experienced by women later in pregnancy as the uterus rests on muscles in the pelvic floor and lower back.This pressure causes tension in the leg muscles, which puts pressure on nearby nerves. Massage can release tension on nearby muscles.
Are There Any Precautions for Prenatal Massage?
While there are plenty of benefits to getting a massage as a pregnant woman, it might not be for everyone.
There are some situations in which you may want to think twice before getting a massage while pregnant.
Considerations for Women in the First Trimester of Pregnancy
While the American Pregnancy Association states that women can begin massage therapy anytime during pregnancy, many prenatal massage therapists will not accept new clients until at least the second trimester or third trimester.
The first trimester comes with an increased risk of miscarriage, and many massage therapists fear the increased blood flow during this period might be more harmful than anything.
Additionally, certain pressure points in the body are thought to initiate contractions and may potentially induce preterm labor. Many massage therapists will require a doctor’s release before providing a massage to an individual in the first trimester.
Considerations for Women With Certain Medical Conditions
Getting a massage helps to engage your circulation, which alters the blood flow in the body. Increasing blood flow is usually good, but it can adversely affect individuals with certain underlying conditions.
You may want to talk with a doctor before getting on the massage table if you have any of the following conditions:
- High blood pressure
- Recent injury
- Recovering from a recent surgery
- Recent organ transplant
- High-risk pregnancy concerns, like congenital heart disease
Seek the Right Provider
You also want to make sure that you’re going to a practice that is going to be safe and effective for you and your baby.
The most important thing to remember is that prenatal massage certification is completely different from becoming a licensed masseuse, so be sure your professional massage therapist is qualified to give you a prenatal massage.
Additionally, ensure the shop is free of dirt and grime and uses proper equipment and techniques. Most prenatal massage clinics will ask you to lie on your side, as lying on your back or your stomach can cause dizziness after prolonged periods.
What Are Some Alternatives to Prenatal Massage?
Prenatal massage might not be right for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy many of the same stress-relieving qualities.
Here are other great ways to relieve physical and mental stress that often coincide with pregnancy.
Stretching is important for anyone, even if they’re not pregnant. But this is a great way to relieve muscle tension.
Relaxin (a hormone that makes your ligaments looser) becomes more abundant during pregnancy, making you more flexible than normal.
Prenatal yoga is a fantastic way to stretch out those muscles while staying in shape. Not to mention, yoga is a cognitive exercise that can help balance your mood and help you feel relaxed from the inside out.
Heat and Cold
Heating pads boost blood flow and nutrients to areas of the body.
Heating pads are a great method for helping you gain relief if you feel stiff or help warm up muscles before activity. Try soaking in a warm Epsom salt bath for the added benefits of mental relaxation if your doctor advises you that a warm bath is safe.
Cold, on the other hand, can be used to constrict the blood vessels and reduce swelling. Using an ice pack is a great method if you’re experiencing short-term joint pain from a sprain or strain.
Either way, a combination of hot and cold treatments can easily and quickly relieve aching muscles in the same way as a massage.
The only difference is that this method is much more cost-effective and doesn’t include as many associated risks.
Acupuncture involves placing a shallow needle into acupressure points under the skin to relieve pressure.
While it might seem counterintuitive, this bodywork method can effectively reduce discomfort.
Acupuncture is considered safe for pregnant women, but you should consult with your doctor before seeking any alternative method of pain relief.
Essential oils are a popular method for reducing discomfort and initiating feelings of relaxation. For those reasons, it’s also a fantastic alternative to getting a massage.
Essential oils like peppermint, citrus, eucalyptus, or lavender can help make you feel calm, cool, and collected, reducing tension overall.
With that said, some pregnant individuals may experience an increased sensitivity to smell, so aromatherapy might be a bit uncomfortable.
There’s not much better than a relaxing massage or spa day, and this is a relatively safe experience for most pregnant women.
Massage has a ton of health benefits that might be able to help with some other symptoms of bearing a child.
With that in mind, pregnant individuals should be careful during their first trimester, as increased blood flow can make miscarriages more common.
Additionally, if you have underlying conditions like high blood pressure, you may want to speak to a doctor or OB-GYN before getting a massage.
Many alternatives, such as yoga, stretching, and acupuncture, can decrease stress and enhance muscle relaxation. It might take a bit of trial and error before you find a method that feels best for you.
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Bridget Reed is a Tampa-based content development manager, writer, and editor at GR0; specializing in content related to varying fields including medicine, health, and small businesses. Bridget went to St. Petersburg College and majored in Management and Organizational Leadership.
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