I am so excited to share with you, my first guest blogger – Kristin Garcia of Relaxing Restorations Massage Therapy. She is an expert in prenatal massage and will be sharing the many benefits of prenatal massage for expecting mothers. I’ve talked about this before, but it is so important for mothers to take some time for themselves and do a little self-care. It makes us better mothers! Kristin goes into all the positive effects prenatal massage can have, from stress relief to baby bonding. It’s amazing and so worth it to treat yourself during this incredible time!
Prenatal Massage – The Why’s, The How’s & The Ahhh’s
If you’re already someone who receives regular massage or uses other types of relaxation therapy such as acupuncture, yoga or meditation – you likely already know about the wellness benefits that come along with participating in them. If you’re not fully aware of the direct physiological effects of massage, there are many. Regular massage contributes to a healthy lifestyle, boosts the immune system, alleviates both acute and chronic pain. It can even help you stand just a little bit taller. Literally.
If you take these benefits and multiply them by at least 10, you’ll find that prenatal massage has profound positive effects for you and baby during pregnancy. Pregnancy is a beautiful time where you and your little one are inextricably linked. Massage gives you additional opportunities to deepen your bond and feel connected, during this incredible time. What’s better; receiving massage in your 9 months of pregnancy has proven to create lasting effects for you during and after childbirth. It also has lasting benefits for your newborn long after that first cry into the cold, bright world that they’re about to discover.
Why Prenatal Massage
So how and why, exactly, does prenatal massage result in an easier, more relaxed pregnancy, labor and postpartum period?
First, stress. A 4-letter word these days. It’s present in everyone’s lives. And as you experience the emotional ups & downs as early as week one of your pregnancy – conflicting feelings of excitement, anxiety, fear, and anticipation – these changes are having real-time effects on your little one. Most of these changes and feelings result from a hormonal shift, particularly the elevated levels of estrogen and progesterone, which are increased to nearly 10 times their normal levels.
So if stress is a “natural” state, even during (maybe especially during) pregnancy, why is it important to mitigate its effects? Prenatal predisposition to stress can profoundly affect in utero development and may predispose babies to a higher risk of disease. Severe stress during pregnancy has also been linked to newborn physical and neurological disabilities, including; cleft lip and cleft palate, hypersensitivity, low birth weight and behavioral problems such as ADD. And this is just the short beginning of a long list.
Additionally, stress dampens the effects of a hormone known as oxytocin, which is produced by the pituitary gland. This is also known as the “master gland” of the body. Oxytocin’s release is vital during childbirth. Its continuous loop of distribution saturates the bloodstream to begin uterine birthing contractions. It works to expel the placenta from the uterus and to assist in milk ejection from mammary glands for breastfeeding. Perhaps most importantly, oxytocin is the hormone responsible for mother-child bonding. Low levels of oxytocin in the bloodstream after childbirth have been linked to higher incidences of postpartum depression. This can further delay psychological and physical development for precious newborns.
The Benefits of Prenatal Massage
Prenatal massage brings about additional and important physiological effects to help reduce stress for you and baby. Massage, in addition to a nurturing, supportive touch from an experienced practitioner fosters deep relaxation. Receiving high-quality touch sedates and restores the nervous system and increases the release of serotonin in the brain, which produces that “feel-good” and sometimes euphoric response that you often experience after an amazing massage. Everything you feel is transmitted to your baby through biochemical agents, which leaves lasting patterns for your little bundle of joy.
Prenatal massage also addresses many of the physical discomforts experienced during pregnancy – things like abdominal pressure, heartburn, sinus congestion, swelling and drastic changes in structure, with a necessarily shifting pelvis that creates shortening of soft tissue associated with muscle pain, tension, and headaches.
Every system in the body is undoubtedly affected by pregnancy. The good news is; massage mechanically (directly) or reflexively (indirectly) produces positive results for every system in the body. Perhaps most directly, prenatal massage affects the musculoskeletal system to address the structural changes you are experiencing during pregnancy. As you progress through all 9 months and the baby increases in size, the uterus detaches from the pelvic cavity and ascends into the abdominal cavity. This displaces digestive organs and sometimes creates chronic heartburn and labored breathing. Massage focused on the apex of the front ribcage can help to relax the cardiac sphincter muscle, which aids in reducing the pain associated with heartburn. Muscles that are involved in forced breathing and that have been stretched due to a widened ribcage can also be relaxed through massage. This can make breathing easier and more comfortable.
Realigning the Core
The structural integrity of the pelvis, the keystone at the core of the body, becomes compromised as hips widen. This creates misalignments in the spine and the soft tissue that surrounds it. The lumbar spine becomes compressed and trigger points, commonly known as “knots” in soft tissue, begin to develop in the low back and gluteal muscles. This may affect movement and your gait while walking, leading to additional tension.
As your body attempts to find balance with this change, the upper spine is pushed out of alignment. This often leads to a forward-head position and can strain muscles in the neck, leading to headaches. Massage with direct pressure on these areas immediately releases trigger points and increases blood flow. This delivers essential nutrients including oxygen to soft tissue and reduces pain. And while it’s important to take special care with passive stretching during pregnancy due to higher levels of the hormone elastin, there’s good news! Massage practitioners can safely use trigger point therapy and other deep tissue techniques throughout your pregnancy, which brings about long-lasting relief.
How Prenatal Massage Can Help You and Your Baby
Finally, at the top of the benefits list when it comes to prenatal massage is the benefits for your baby. Including the baby, as they receive direct touch from the massage therapist, can have long-term benefits. A light, gentle abdominal massage from an experienced practitioner stimulates touch receptors for your little one, early in development. In addition, some practitioners may use a specialized cream or oil to increase moisture for your dry skin. This helps with the discomfort and itchiness as the skin stretches to make room for your growing babe.
Pregnancy is a beautiful time where you and baby have the opportunity to bond and connect. The best thing you can do for you and your precious little one is to find some time for deep relaxation and less stress. Prenatal massage has long-lasting benefits that are proven to make 9 months and beyond easier for you and your newborn. And frequent, consistent message has cumulative effects that last a lifetime.
I feel so fortunate that I get to call this work. Who else gets to wake up every single day and help families celebrate life & love? I love that I get to tell their story. It is incredible to be able to create a moment in amongst all of the chaos that is new parenthood, where new moms and dads can really just focus on that amazing, tiny human that they created. I am pretty lucky if you ask me!
If you are expecting or know someone who is, I would be honored to craft a completely custom portrait experience for you!