Do massages help during pregnancy?

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Any woman who is going through pregnancy can attest to all stresses and anxiety that can be experienced during this exciting yet trying time. From factors such as having to alter your diet to even trying to pick the perfect name, tension comes from all angles during the various trimesters, which is why expectant mothers should be finding alternative solutions to managing stress.

While most people can benefit from receiving massages once in a while, the alleviation advantages of a good rubdown can be especially favorable to pregnant mothers. In fact, according to the American Pregnancy Association, expecting women who receive a massage may be enlightened to a number of health improvements, ranging from relieving sore muscles to reducing stress. If you’re pregnant and interested in learning if massages can help bring some much-needed ease and tranquility to your life, here are a few studies that shed some light on the subject, as well as precautions for receiving a prenatal massage:

How massages can help with anxiety during pregnancy

There has been a wide variety of studies compiled by the The Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami that specifically focus on how massages can benefit women in the various stages of pregnancy. Anxiety was one of the primary ailments explored through massage therapy, and one study published by the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology examined 26 pregnant women to see how they responded to five weeks of massage therapy sessions. In comparison to pregnant participants who only received relaxation therapy sessions or no therapy at all, only those in the massage group reported improvements in all the following areas: reduced anxiety, improved mood, better sleep and less back pain.

Birth-related complications

Another area that massage therapy has been linked to in regard to pregnant women is reducing the risks of birth-related complications, in both the baby and mothers. One of the more common conditions experienced before, during and after pregnancy can be depression. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an estimated 13 percent of pregnant women and new mothers are diagnosed with depression. The association between massages and depression has long been researched, and the American Massage Therapy Association even reports that massage therapy has been found to be an effective solution to reducing symptoms of depression.

A study published in the medical journal Infant Behavior & Development analyzed 112 pregnant women who were also diagnosed with depression to either take part in a group interpersonal psychotherapy session (which attempts to help a patient regain control over her moods) or a group that featured both interpersonal psychotherapy and massage therapy sessions. After the results were compiled, the researchers concluded that those in the group that implemented both forms of therapy experienced a greater reduction in both depression and anxiety, per their score on the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression Scale. One of the main explanations for this is the ability of a massage to help reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which, according to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, can spike during pregnancy and potentially result in early pregnancy loss.

Overall benefits of pregnancy massages

According to Pregnancy.org, there are several health benefits an expectant mother can experience after receiving a typical massage session. Some of these other advantages can include:

  • Alleviating sore muscles
  • Increasing overall flexibility
  • Reducing experiences of insomnia
  • Stimulating oxygen supply to the blood
  • Strengthening the immune system
  • Increasing the release of endorphins, a natural pain killer produced by the body

All of these benefits can not only lead to a healthy and successful pregnancy, but can also help your body and mind better handle the unexpected and inevitable steps that can make this process difficult at times.

Tips for prenatal massages

Of course, receiving a prenatal massage is certainly different than your normal massage. For starters, you want to make sure you’re receiving services from someone who is certified to give prenatal massages, and has experience dealing with pregnant customers. Positioning during the session is essentially the primary difference, and you’ll more often than not be situated in a slightly reclined chair while resting on your back. Body pillows are also used during prenatal massages to help prevent any discomfort to you, and most importantly your child.

A prenatal massage also tends to focus on areas of the body that aren’t close to your child, but are still affected by the pregnancy. Joints that bear most of the weight of carrying a child, such as in the lower body, will be given attention, which can help with your mobility during pregnancy. Other areas, such as the neck and shoulders, will be worked on to boost blood and lymph circulation, which in turn helps with everything from relaxing nerves to soothing tense muscles.

Even having your own personal massager handy can help ease strain during your pregnancy. Of course, before contemplating receiving a prenatal massage, discuss with your physician whether or not this should be a part of your pregnancy plan.

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