Pregnancy is a magical time for most mothers-to-be, however as their bodies change and grow, it can also be an extremely uncomfortable time. Some women can find themselves tired, sore and riddled with problems for the entire nine months of pregnancy. On average, a baby is born every two minutes in Australia alone so there is a considerable number of mothers looking for some relief to their discomfort. While pregnancy massage can be daunting for some Therapists, it doesn’t need to be. It’s a sought after treatment that until now has not been readily available to new and expectant mums.
The benefits for the mother
Massage therapy during pregnancy can reduce stress and anxiety, relieve muscle aches and joint pains, improve sleep and reduce swelling around feet, ankles and face. Many women suffer from sciatica, lower-back pain, hip pain, pelvic pain and upper-back pain and can benefit enormously from regular massage treatments. Massage can even allow for an easier labour as it increases muscle flexibility and blood flow!
Studies have shown that women who received regular massages every couple of weeks had lower levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and norepinephrine while higher levels of serotonin and dopamine, your feel good hormones. These changes in hormone levels can lead to fewer problems during birth and fewer instances of newborn complications. Unborn babies can be affected by their mother’s tension. A happy, comfortable mum means a happy healthy baby. Massage therapy can be incorporated into each pregnancy as an emotional and physical health supplement shown to improve pregnancy outcome and maternal health.
Is it safe?
For the most part, many Therapists and doctors will agree there is no risk to either the mother or the baby. However, when it comes to the first trimester there is a lot of debate whether or not having a massage during this stage is safe. Some Massage Therapists will not massage a woman during this period because there is an increased chance of miscarriage within in the first 12 weeks. However, the idea that you cannot have a massage during your first trimester is a myth. There are certainly precautions to be mindful of such as working directly over the lower pelvic area near the uterus, this is a big no-no! Generally, I would recommend only Therapists who specialise in prenatal massage and are confident in their technique perform treatments during the first trimester. Certified prenatal Therapists have received training beyond the national standards for massage and know how to address specific pregnancy and massage needs. If you do not specialise in prenatal massage you can always do a short course or workshop to build on your technique and knowledge for this area so you can open your doors to women throughout their entire pregnancy!
What’s the best position?
There are particular techniques and positions that need to be used when handling pregnant clients. For example heavily pregnant women cannot lay flat on their back, they need extra support and you need to be able to manoeuvre them properly and as comfortably as possible. The best position for a pregnant woman during a massage is lying on her side. Many Massage Therapists will purchase pregnancy massage tables that have a circle cut out in the middle so the belly can fit through. While these sound like a great idea, I don’t believe they are necessary; with the stomach being placed through the hole it can put pressure on the mothers abdomen and can cause stretching and damage to ligaments. Plus, pregnant belly’s come in all different shapes and sizes. It is best to position the woman on her side and provide additional support through the use of pillows or foam.
What products are suitable?
Pregnancy is one time in particular where women start to take notice of what they put on and in their body. For this reason is it extremely important that you are careful with the products you choose to use during your treatment. Always make sure you are using oils made from high quality ingredients and have a good reputation as these are less likely to cause irritation. Skin can become extremely sensitive while pregnant and things that normally would not irritate it can all of a sudden cause irritation and breakouts. Make sure you ask your client whether they are allergic to anything or have reacted to anything since being pregnant. It’s imperative you have unscented oil or massage gel on hand. Common essential oils such as jasmine, nutmeg, peppermint and rosemary actually fall under the list of “safe but may have adverse effects during pregnancy” for this reason it is not uncommon for women to request no essential oils at all to be used as a safety precaution. Not to mention, a mum-to-be’s sense of smell is also extremely heightened during pregnancy. Certain smells can cause nausea, vomiting or headaches, which is the last thing your client wants when they have come in for a relaxing treatment! While it is helping to relieve aches and pains it is also a relaxing time where the mothers should feel taken care of and pampered.
Although massage during pregnancy is completely safe it is always best to encourage your customer to ask their doctor prior to their first appointment; this is just good practice. Not only will it ensure your client is 100% relaxed and comfortable when they walk in for their massage, but for us as Therapists, without knowing their medical history it is always better to be safe than sorry. Communicate with your client; explain the benefits prenatal massage has for both them and the baby. Talk them through why you may or may not be working on certain areas and let them know they are in good hands. It can take a while for the body to recover and realign post birth. Providing exceptional massage treatments during a pregnancy could guarantee you a returning customer after the baby arrives too!
Lilliane Caron is Owner & Director of Caronlab Australia and Hydro 2 Oil. If you’d like to ask Lilliane for some advice on your own salon, email [email protected]