Lisa Bosveld B.Sc., R.M.T.
Pregnancy is an amazing condition in which there is another life growing inside a woman’s body. During pregnancy, a woman’s body goes through many physiological and psychological changes. Some of these changes can be exciting, but others can be very uncomfortable. Massage therapy can alleviate many discomforts during each of the three trimesters, allowing the mother-to-be the ability to enjoy this time.
During the first trimester many physical changes occur due to increased hormone levels. Increased levels of progesterone and relaxin have a relaxing effect on smooth muscle fibres of the uterus, GI tract and vein walls. Increased levels of estrogen aid in fetal and placental growth and breast development. An increase in breast size will place increased strain on muscles of the upper back and neck. Headaches may occur due to hormone changes as well as compensatory changes in the upper back and neck. Massage therapy can help to relieve headaches and upper back pain caused by these changes.
During the second trimester ligaments and tendons of the pelvis and low back are stretched, which can cause the surrounding muscles to spasm. Posture is also altered due to the increasing weight of the baby moving the center of gravity forward. Varicose veins may appear due to compression of the veins of the pelvis by the uterus which slows blood flow to leg veins whose walls have already been relaxed. Massage therapy can help to relieve backache, muscle cramping and leg cramps. It can also help to reduce the occurrence of varicose veins and swelling by improving circulation.
Many of the discomforts of the first two trimesters increase into the third trimester. Difficulty sleeping may also occur due to physical discomfort, stress, and emotional upset. Massage therapy can help with these sleep disruptions by addressing the muscular issues and helping to relax the individual. At this time Massage therapy can also help to relax the mother’s pelvic muscles to allow for an easier labour and delivery.
Throughout pregnancy, Massage therapy not only benefits the mother but also the developing fetus by increasing nutrient and oxygen flow to the fetus. Also, a relaxed and comfortable mother allows for a more favourable growth environment for the baby. The benefits of massage therapy do not end at birth. Massage therapy continues to help the mother with the many physical changes in her body postpartum. It is also very beneficial for the newborn baby. Infant massage can help increase the bonding experience between a parent and child, relax and sooth the infant, decrease growing pains, and can relieve gas and colic.
Having a child can be one of the best times in a woman’s life. Massage therapy can aid tremendously through alleviating discomforts as well as increasing the well being of mother and child. Consider consulting a Registered Massage Therapist to be part of your pregnancy care team.