In 2016, there were almost 4 million babies born in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). With so many children being born, there is a growing need for massage therapists that have prenatal and postpartum massage training.
Prenatal massage is a technique involving deep bodywork to improve circulation, take strain off muscles and joints, and help during prenatal and postpartum pregnancy phases. Massage therapy can help minimize the discomforts of pregnancy. Prenatal and postnatal massage can help by relieving back strain, headaches and ease postpartum stress. There are prenatal massage guidelines that a massage therapist should abide by to ensure safe sessions. Prenatal massage has many benefits such as hormone regulation, reducing swelling, improvement of nerve pain. This type of massage can also aid the circulatory and lymphatic systems, improve mood and lower stress levels. Postpartum massage helps mothers after delivery to restore their body and ease postpartum depression.
What is Prenatal Massage?
Prenatal massage helps pregnant women relieve stress and discomfort in pregnancy. Many pregnant women experience discomfort in the back, neck, and legs. Prenatal massage helps relieve headaches and swelling from increased blood flow. Prenatal massage is especially beneficial later in the pregnancy, as the baby grows and causes strains and discomfort for their mother.
What is Postpartum Massage?
Postpartum massage helps pregnant women relieve stress, stretch marks and improve moods after birth. Having a baby can cause stress and paired with hormones, some new moms may experience intense mood swings. The usual “Baby Blues” can start a few days after delivery and can last a few weeks. In more severe cases, it is considered postpartum depression. With the assistance of medical treatment and therapies (including massage), new moms may be able to ease their depression.
Discomforts of Pregnancy
In order to help expecting mothers, massage therapists should understand the cause of discomfort. Pregnant women may have anemia, backaches, breast tenderness, edema, elimination problems, headaches, leg cramps, nausea, and/or respiratory conditions.
Anemia – During pregnancy, women increase their blood volume. The body reacts by creating less red blood cells that can dilute the blood, causing anemia. This may lead to fatigue and exhaustion.
Backaches – As the baby grows, pregnant women lean back to compensate for the additional weight. This can put stress on the joints, lumbar spine and abdominal muscles.
Breast Tenderness – As the breasts begin to produce milk in anticipation of the child’s birth, they may also become increasingly tender to the touch.
Edema – There is an increase in fluid volumes later in pregnancy, which leads to excessive swelling.
Elimination Problems – Pregnant women may experience frequent urination due to the reduced size of the bladder, compensating for the enlarged uterus. The pregnant women may also suffer from constipation as the organs in her body are moved for the growing fetus. Hemorrhoids are common during pregnancy as the pregnant women may exert pressure due to constipation.
Headaches – Many things can contribute to a headache including congestion, stress, dehydration and increased muscle tension.
Leg Cramps – The extra weight of the fetus can press on the blood vessels and cause leg cramps during pregnancy.
Nausea – Many pregnant woman have morning sickness early in their pregnancy.
Discomforts of the Postpartum Phase
Understanding the causes of the discomforts of pregnancy is important for the massage therapist to learn about to better help a pregnant woman after delivery. The postpartum phase can cause “Baby Blues”, postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis, stretch marks and vascular problems.
Baby Blues – Can start a few days after delivery and usually only lasts a few weeks. New moms may suffer from mood swings, anxiety, sadness, limited appetite and sleeping issues.
Postpartum Depression – Postpartum depression is a more severe depression and includes mood swings, withdrawal from family and friends, loss of appetite and difficulty bonding with the baby.
Postpartum Psychosis – A rare condition that develops within the first week of delivery. The signs and symptoms include confusion, obsessive thoughts about the baby, hallucinations, excessive agitation, and paranoia.
Stretch Marks – With the increase weight gain in pregnancy, women may experience stretch marks on the body.
Vascular Problems – Pregnant women may experience varicose veins from an increase in pressure in leg veins.
Prenatal Massage Guidelines
Prenatal massages should last around 10 to 30 minutes. The massage table should be lowered so that pregnant women can easily get on and off the table. Pregnant women may also be sensitive to strong odors from scented lotions and aromatherapy. The massage therapist must be careful when massaging the medial thigh, as blood clots may be produced. These blood clots can be loosened with massage and become lodged in the heart or lungs. It is recommended that only gentle pressure be used in the medial thigh region.
Prenatal Massage Benefits
Massage therapy during pregnancy can reduce anxiety, decrease depression, relieve muscle aches and joint pains. Prenatal massage is especially beneficial later in the pregnancy, when extra weight causes back strain. Many of the benefits of prenatal massage include:
Hormone Regulation – Hormone levels, along with relaxation and stress may be improved when massage therapy is part of a woman’s prenatal and postpartum care.
Reduction of Swelling – Massage therapy stimulates soft tissues and reduces the collection of fluids in swollen joints.
Improvement of Nerve Pain – Massage therapy relieves inflammation of nerves and helps to release tension on the muscles.
Aid the Circulatory and Lymphatic Systems – Prenatal massage improves blood flow to both the mother and the baby.
Improve Mood and Lower Stress Level – Prenatal massage can help reduce headaches and strains on the body.
Postpartum massage can help reduce tension and soreness. It can help restore the body, realign the body and tone the over-stretched skin on the belly. Postpartum massage will also help relieve pressure on varicose veins.
Since many new moms will suffer from “Baby Blues,” postpartum massage helps relieve stress, headaches, fatigue and promotes better sleep. Endorphins released through postpartum massage may also help to relieve these feelings, in conjunction with care from their physician.
Did this information interest you in becoming a massage therapist? If you are interested in the healing powers of massage, you can begin your career in massage therapy at Minnesota School of Cosmetology. Our short-term massage therapy training program is designed to be completed in as little as 5 months with full time enrollment*. Our massage therapy training program is designed as a holistic program that will prepare students to focus on body mechanics of their clients as well as develop positive habits for the therapist. Together, those two areas will provide a foundation that can lead to longevity in the career field.
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*Completion time for this program is defined by 35 hours per week.