What is prenatal massage?
Prenatal massage shares many of the goals of regular massage – to relax tense muscles, ease sore spots, improve circulation and mobility, and just make you feel good. But it's also tailored specifically to the needs of pregnant women and their changing bodies, and therapists who are trained in prenatal massage adjust their techniques accordingly.
How do you lie on the table?
Most women find it uncomfortable to lie facedown right from the start of pregnancy because of their tender, swollen breasts. And you can't lie facedown on a traditional massage table once your belly has started to grow. On the other hand, it's not a good idea to lie flat on your back either, particularly once you're past mid-pregnancy, because the weight of your uterus puts too much pressure on the vein that returns blood from your legs to your heart.
For these reasons, some prenatal massage therapists use a special table or pad with hollowed-out areas and special pillows to accommodate your belly, and often your breasts as well, so you can lie facedown. If you find this position stresses your lower back, or if only a traditional massage table is available, you can lie on your side with pillows, wedges, or a full-length body pillow for support.
How can prenatal massage help me?
The therapeutic benefits of massage for pregnant women haven't been studied very much. There's some evidence that massage may help people who suffer from low back pain and possibly those with chronic headaches, but the studies weren't done with pregnant women. In any case, massage may decrease stress and promote relaxation, helping you cope with discomfort even if it doesn't specifically alleviate or prevent it.
Carrying a baby inside you changes your center of gravity and puts a lot of stress on your back, neck, abdominal muscles, and shoulders. Pregnancy also relaxes your ligaments, so that your pelvic joints are less stable, and changes your posture, pulling your pelvis forward. Add to that the extra weight you're carrying and you may find you've got an aching lower back.
A trained prenatal massage therapist knows where a pregnant woman's sore spots are likely to be and may be able to provide some relief. (She'll also know which areas and techniques to avoid.) Still, it's important to communicate with her and tell her where you need attention. Let her know right away if anything during the massage – including your positioning – is causing you any discomfort.
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