What to consider before getting a massage during pregnancy
Massage can be an excellent way to ease sore muscles, relieve tension, increase blood flow, and generally promote relaxation, all of which are especially important during pregnancy. However, the manipulation of muscles and body tissues can have serious effects, especially for pregnant women. Before indulging in a pregnancy massage, make sure you know the risks and how to avoid them.
Risks of Massage during Pregnancy
The biggest risk of massage during pregnancy is triggering uterine contractions by focusing on the wrong acupressure points (particularly on the ankles and wrists). Other risks include using contra-indicated massage oils during pregnancy and putting pressure on the uterine ligaments or interior vena cava through inappropriate body positioning. Of course, all of these risks can generally be avoided through the careful selection of a qualified prenatal massage therapist.
Certified pregnancy massage therapists are specially trained in which pressure points affect the uterus and which can relieve symptoms such as joint and back pain, leg cramps, headaches, swelling, stress, and pregnancy insomnia. Furthermore, they are skilled in pregnancy massage techniques specifically designed to avoid the former and stimulate the latter.
Although certain aromatherapy and essential oils can complement a pregnancy massage, aiding in relaxation and relieving tension, others can stimulate contractions and, therefore, should be avoided. Some scents to consider include ylang-ylang, tea tree, and mandarin. Scents to avoid include jasmine, juniper, and fennel. For a complete list, contact a qualified pregnancy massage therapist or your healthcare provider. Of course, if you prefer, your massage therapist should be able to provide a fragrance-free massage using a plain, safe oil.
Note that while pregnancy massage tables with a special cut-out for the belly are available, most experts agree that the best position for pregnancy massage, especially in the later trimesters, is lying on one side. Even with a pregnancy massage table, undue pressure may be put on the abdominal muscles and uterine ligaments, leading to discomfort. Similarly, lying on one's back for a long period of time can put pressure on the back muscles, aggravating back pain. Plus, it stresses the interior vena cava, a vein carrying blood from the legs back to the heart and essential to maintaining optimum blood flow in the uterus.
If you are unsure whether a pregnancy massage is right for you, consult your healthcare provider and/or a registered massage therapy specializing in prenatal massage for more information.
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