Massage benefits pregnant women in numerous ways. It can decrease tension, increase circulation, reduce swelling of ankles and feet, and relieve low back pain, which the majority of pregnant women suffer from during gestation. Women who receive pregnancy massage recline on their back or their side, rather than the traditional face-down position. Often therapists will employ cushions or pillows to ensure a comfortable and safe massage session.
“I love the fact there are two people I’m massaging and not just one,” said Ashley Sacco, a Dreamclinic massage practitioner.
Studies indicate that massage during pregnancy can reduce anxiety, decrease symptoms of depression, relieve muscle aches and joint pains, and improve labor outcomes and newborn health.
Studies done in the past 10 years have shown that hormone levels associated with relaxation and stress are significantly altered when massage therapy is introduced as part of women’s prenatal care. It leads to mood regulation and improved cardiovascular health. In women who received bi-weekly massages for only five weeks, hormones such as norepinephrine and cortisol (hormones associated with stress) were reduced, and dopamine and serotonin levels were increased (low levels of these hormones are associated with depression).
These changes in hormone levels also led to fewer complications during birth and fewer instances of newborn complications, such as low birth weight. The cumulative evidence strongly suggests there are maternal and newborn health benefits when therapeutic massage is incorporated into regular prenatal care.
Sciatic nerve pain is commonly experienced by many women in late pregnancy as the uterus rests on muscles of the pelvic floor and lower back. The pressure of the uterus spreads tension to the muscles of the upper and lower leg, causing them to swell and put pressure on nearby nerves. Massage therapy addresses the inflamed nerves by helping to release the tension on nearby muscles. Many women have experienced a significant reduction in sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy through massage.