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Massage during pregnancy has gained a lot in popularity within recent years. Originally, it tended to be limited to groups of women who favoured alternative therapies. But now it is seen as a valid and useful means of reducing general pregnancy discomfort. Recently research and evidence have shown a scientific basis for its benefits, though pregnant women seemed to have known this for a very long time.
If you are thinking about having a pregnancy massage, it is important to find a qualified therapist who specializes in the field of ante-natal massage. Ask your midwife or obstetrician who they generally recommend, or look in your local yellow pages for a practitioner. An internet search may also provide some contact details. When you do find a massage therapist, ask them about their qualifications and what training they have had.
The Association of Massage Therapists Ltd. (A.M.T.) is the oldest massage association in Australia though there are others with practitioner membership groups also. Some physiotherapists have a particular interest in obstetric (pregnancy) massage and provide massage services as well.
One of the most popular forms of pregnancy massage uses the principles based on Swedish massage techniques. This is because of its particular benefits in reducing muscle tension and improving blood flow and lymphatic drainage.
Some massage therapists use aromatherapy oils and burn incense to heighten the sensory experience. There is however, a range of oils which need to be avoided as they can prompt uterine contractions. These include oregano, peppermint, thyme, basil, sage and rosemary. You may prefer the massage therapist uses non-scented or very low scented oils.
How much skin you expose during your massage is entirely up to you. Some women are comfortable wearing very little clothing; others want to feel more covered. It is worth bearing in mind though, for you to get the most benefit from your massage, the therapist needs to be able to access as much of your skin surface area as possible.
Ante-Natal massage differs from general massage because there can be some risks if particular pressure points are stimulated. These are located within your wrists and ankles and massaging them can stimulate the uterus to start contracting. There also needs to be a level of sensitivity and gentleness extended by the therapist, which factors in the baby as well.
Some expectant couples book a massage therapist to give them both a massage and they find this is a good way of connecting and enhancing their emotional connectedness. You may find that your massage therapist is willing to show your partner some massage techniques you could try for yourselves.
Equipment required for pregnancy massage can be a little different to the standard issue. Body position during prenatal massage is important in order to maximise the effectiveness of the massage and to fully gain its benefits. Many health and massage professionals recommend a side-lying position for pregnant women during massage.
Current research supports the use of standard massage tables, rather than those which have a hole cut out in them to accommodate the pregnant belly. “Cut outs” can allow the abdomen to dangle unsupported and cause stretching of the uterine ligaments. However if cut out tables or pillows are used, these should not be utilised for extended periods of time e.g. 10-15 minutes is the maximum recommended timeframe.
NB It may be useful for you to contact your massage therapist before your initial appointment and clarify which position/s you will be placed in during your massage.
Lying on your back is not recommended past the first trimester so your positioning will be restricted to your tummy or your side. The massage therapist should have a range of pillows and foam cut-outs to support your belly and avoid extra muscular strain.
Some therapists offer a mobile massage service and have portable massage tables which fold up into a suitcase size. If, because of the size of your pregnant belly you feel insecure or unstable on the massage table, tell your massage therapist. Between both of you, you can decide on a comfortable and safe alternative as a base to lie on.
Prices vary for pregnancy massage services though a rebate is available through some health insurance funds. This is dependent on the level of ancillary cover.
Massage can also be used very effectively during labour to relieve back pain and generalized muscle tension. It is a good, practical way, of helping partners feel they are contributing. Not all women like to be massaged when they are in labour though, and find it to be distracting and a major irritation. Some massage therapists or doulas use aromatherapy oils to induce labour. These combined with massage are thought to enhance the progression of labour.