The purpose of regular massage work during pregnancy is to stretch and relax overworked and shortened muscles that have tightened to protect the joints. The joints have lost their normal integrity due to a hormone called relaxin that allows the uterus to stretch, but relaxin also softens the tendons and ligaments. The hip/pelvic area is especially affected. Specific issues of low back pain, sore hips, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, and cramping in the calves are individually addressed. Another purpose of regular massage is to increase circulation; the baby benefits too from this increase. Massage also promotes a feeling of well being. The goal of prenatal massage is to maximize comfort throughout pregnancy and to help maintain ease of movement in walking. Many women experience pain free mobility through full term and sleep well too.
Frequency of treatment I recommend receiving prenatal massage work every two weeks for optimum comfort and mobility throughout your pregnancy. This helps women avoid becoming sore and achy, with low back pain and pain in their hips that makes walking difficult. My experience with over 1,000 mothers has shown the remarkable contrast between these late term mothers who have had no massage and those who receive it regularly from early on in their pregnancy. Regular massage clients are often pain free and move with ease through full term. With the mother lying on her left side, right side, and on her back (with right hip and shoulder elevated), this massage is done in three positions--all with generous pillowing. Three positions requires ninety minutes.
Low back, hips, sciatica Mothers who receive regular massage during their pregnancy experience a dramatic reduction of low back and hip pain/sciatica--pain caused by overworked muscles in the pelvic structure. The pelvic muscles respond to the increasing size of the uterus by getting tighter/shorter and staying that way to protect the hip and sacral joints. Expect range of motion (movement of the hips) to convey to the muscles that it is safe to relax. Specific work is done to soften muscles in the low back/hips that provides immediate and long term relief. Pelvic stabilization is a low back, stretching procedure recommended for the end of every prenatal massage. This unique stretch is the most important and effective procedure available. The end result is comfortable mobility, walking without pain through full term.
Cramping in the calves Many mothers are awakened by a cramp in the calf. For mothers who are experiencing this common problem, one can begin massage with stretching of the arch of the foot and lengthening of the calf muscles. Cramping often ceases with one treatment, but the procedure is usually repeated at each appointment for continued relief.
Carpal tunnel syndrome The increased blood volume that accompanies every pregnancy can magnify symptoms of CTS. Soreness in the forearm and elbow can be specifically addressed. Some relief is possible, but treatment is most effective after the baby is born, and blood volume returns to normal.
Postpartum massage Many mothers discover massage is equally important after giving birth. You can now be face down. The focus shifts to your neck and shoulders. Whether nursing or bottle feeding, all moms look down most of the time, and neck and shoulders get sore and tired. It's also important to continue pelvic stabilization, to help rotate the pelvis to its pre-pregnant position.
Every birth becomes a lifelong memory, and a birth doula can make that memory a very positive one. Mothers in labor need both emotional and physical support. A doula with a massage therapy background can focus on physical support that provides vital pain relief during contractions. A non-medical approach includes counter-pressure on the sacrum during contractions and hot packs on the low back between contractions. These support techniques provide such significant help that a majority of mothers can have completely natural births with no pain medication. With a doula present, the mother's partner is free to focus on her emotional needs. The mother, with this circle of support, feels safe and fully supported and she can let go of fear. With a lowered level of fear and an elevated level of trust, the birth process is given a better chance to work as nature intended. And it usually does. Witness the following reductions associated with the continuous presence of a doula. (These were reported in The Journal of the American Medical Association, Volume 265, No 17, May 1, 1991)
length of labor reduced by 25%
requests for epidurals reduced by 60%
the overall cesarean rate reduced by 50%
pain medication reduced by 30%
the need for forceps reduced by 40%
In addition you can expect to be encouraged to change positions often in order to make steady progress. Or you may spend much of your laboring time sitting on a birth-ball where gravity and movement serves to help your baby descend. The father will find he is also well supported as he provides crucial emotional comfort to his laboring mate.