Pregnancy massage is a catch-all term for any hands-on massage during or after pregnancy (prenatal or postnatal massage).
A pregnancy massage typically lasts an hour. Some practitioners use a pregnancy massage table. That's a table designed to accommodate a woman's pregnant belly. Others use specially designed pillows called bolsters to position a woman comfortably on their side. This helps especially during the later stages of pregnancy. Lying on your side is often the most comfortable position.
Only a handful of small studies have focused on massage in pregnancy. No definite benefits have been established. But one study at the University of Miami School of Medicine suggests that massage therapy might have multiple positive effects, including:
There are more than 80 types of massage taught in roughly 1,300 massage therapy programs in the U.S. Examples of common types of massage include:
Pregnancy massage experts adapt their techniques to address the changes a woman's body goes through during pregnancy. For instance, blood volume increases dramatically as much as 50% during pregnancy. Blood flow to the legs often becomes sluggish. And the levels of anticoagulants in the blood -- designed to prevent hemorrhaging during delivery -- naturally rise.
These circulatory changes put a pregnant woman at risk of blood clots in the lower legs, typically in the calves or inner thigh. To be safe, pregnancy massage experts avoid deep massage and strong pressure on the legs. Using strong pressure could dislodge a blood clot. Instead, they use very light, slow strokes on the legs. Types of massage to avoid on the legs include deep-tissue massage, deep acupressure, shiatsu, cross-fiber friction, and percussive tapping.
Very light pressure on the abdomen is advised, if the belly is massaged at all. Some massage therapists avoid massaging the abdomen.
The postnatal massage is a full body massage that is given to a mum after birth.
Those following confinement have a massage every day for up to 40 days after the birth. These massages are usually given by maalishwalis or japa maids that specialise in postnatal and newborn massages. They either come once a day to your home at a fixed time to give the massages or move in with you for the first 40 days after birth. Live-in japa maids also help out with other baby care chores.
The postnatal massage is a wonderful traditional practice to help soothe new mums. It can be very relaxing in the midst of the chaos of bringing a newborn home.
But you will need to arrange for some help because taking a whole hour for yourself with a newborn in the house might be difficult. If your baby's grandmother or other trusted caregiver can watch your baby while you get a massage, you might find it one of the nicest practices of the postnatal confinement period.
A postnatal massage can:
If nothing else, a postnatal massage will give you some time alone. The break will give you the strength to meet the many needs of your baby and home. Or it might help you unwind for a nap if your baby is sleeping too or being looked after by someone else during that time.