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Pregnancy, Birth & the 4th Trimester


Pregnancy postnatal massage

Pregnancy is a time of great change in many ways, including your posture! As your centre of gravity shifts further forward, deep core abdominal muscles start to stretch and separate, so your back muscles have to work harder to keep you upright. Throw in some relaxin (the hormone responsible for loosening the ligaments in your pelvis, so that it can widen and move during the birthing process) and things can start to feel a bit wobbly and achey as muscles tighten to compensate for increasingly mobile joints. Postural changes and the extra load can cause knees, feet, hips, pelvis and spine to ache and headaches to kick in. Pregnancy massage is an excellent tool in coping with the changes that pregnancy brings, both physically and emotionally. Pregnancy massage is usually suitable throughout low risk pregnancies and treatment can be adapted to meet your specific needs by a qualified practitioner. Massage can help with sleeping difficulties, aid digestion, reduce ankle and leg swelling and help with relaxation (Curtis and Hernandez-Reif, 2019) and has been shown to help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in the perinatal period (Field, Diego, & Hernandez-Reif, 2019). Massage has been long used as a pain-relief strategy during birth and can be especially useful in prodromal and early stages of labour.


Changes in posture pregnancy and postnatally lower crossed syndrome low back pelvic pain

Postnatal massage is also beneficial regardless of the type of birth you have. You may be recovering from major surgery where the abdominal wall needs time and care to heal, an assisted birth or complicated birth, or even the most straight forward birth. Your body is still surging with hormones, your core strength is at a minimum and new activities like carrying and holding a newborn for long stretches of time can take their toll. Postural changes, such as rounded shoulders, can persist until core strength returns. Sleep deprivation and the upheaval of having a newborn baby can increase stress, so massage is a wonderful way of having someone else take care of you, so that you can carry on taking care of baby. The 4th trimester refers to the 12 weeks post-partum where your body continues to adapt and change and recover from pregnancy and birth. It is considered the minimum amount of time required for your body to settle into it's new normal, however, it takes much longer in many cases and shouldn't be rushed. It took 9 months to grow and birth a new human being, it should take at least that to slowly rehab the body! Re-engaging those deep core muscles around the pelvis, pelvic floor and lower body (including the deep abdominals) is a great place to start once you have been given the all clear from a medical professional.


In addition to these specific benefits, both pregnancy and postnatal massage can offer general relaxation and stress relief, which is especially important during the challenging and transformative time of pregnancy and early motherhood. Massage therapy has been shown to reduce cortisol levels and increase levels of serotonin and dopamine, which can improve mood and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety (Field, 2019). Another study published in the Journal of Perinatal Education in 2019 found that postnatal massage can improve breastfeeding outcomes, increasing milk production and reducing breastfeeding difficulties (Mason, 2019) which needs a whole other post it is such a interesting topic!


Finding a practitioner who will also welcome baby too, is an excellent opportunity to get a massage whilst relaxing and bonding with baby. Baby massage has it's own set of benefits (see our blog post on baby massage here) and are always welcome at Melyn Therapies. If you would like any more information on pregnancy, postnatal or baby massage, rehab for regaining core stability and breastfeeding/chestfeeding support, do get in touch.

References:

Curtis, S. L., & Hernandez-Reif, M. (2019). Prenatal massage therapy: An evidence-based approach. International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, 12(4), 14-22.


Field, T. (2019). Massage therapy research review. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 35, 115-119.


Field, T., Diego, M. A., & Hernandez-Reif, M. (2019). Prenatal depression effects and interventions: A review. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 25(3), 237-251.


Mason, M. J. (2019). The effects of postpartum massage on breastfeeding outcomes. Journal of Perinatal Education, 28(1), 13-19.

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