12 Benefits of Prenatal and Postpartum Massage for Mothers

prenatal and postpartum massage

Massage is Highly Beneficial for Expectant and New Moms

Becoming a mother is a beautiful thing. 

Any parent can tell you that welcoming a child into your family will change your entire life. But if you’re the one giving birth to that child, it will also change your entire body. While this process is also beautiful, it comes with its fair share of discomfort and even pain. Luckily, massage therapy can help! 

What’s so special about pregnancy massage?

If you’re asking that question, you’ve probably never been pregnant! Any expectant mother can tell you how wonderful it feels to get off your feet and have someone gently massage your aching muscles. But when it comes to the benefits of pregnancy massage, a chance for a rest is just the tip of the iceberg. 

A good massage therapist knows how to accommodate the individual needs of all of their clients, at every stage of life and health – including pregnancy and the postpartum period. They are able to modify the treatment to make sure that the massage is enjoyable, safe, and effective for both mother and baby. 

7 Excellent Benefits of Massage During Pregnancy

Easing aching muscles

Carrying a growing baby is hard work and affects how you move, so tight, aching muscles are almost inevitable. Your massage therapist can really help release tightness and soothe painful muscles.

Improving circulation and reducing swelling and edema

Pregnant women often experience swelling in their feet, ankles, and legs. This can be caused by fluid retention and the uterus putting pressure on major blood vessels. Pregnancy also causes an increase in blood volume. Massage therapy during pregnancy can improve circulation and help reduce uncomfortable swelling.

Swelling during pregnancy can be more than just uncomfortable, though. In rare cases, it can be a symptom of pre-eclampsia (pregnancy-induced hypertension). Massage therapists are not qualified to formally diagnose medical conditions like pre-eclampsia. But they are trained to screen their clients for symptoms and conditions that can determine whether it’s safe to perform massage; we call these “indications and contraindications.” Because of this training, your massage therapist can help you monitor your edema symptoms and may recommend that you see your doctor.

Minimizing stress on the sciatic nerve and reducing back pain

The pressure and weight of the uterus, with its developing baby and amniotic fluids can cause back and sciatic nerve pain, depending on the baby’s positioning. The sciatic nerve is a major nerve that passes through the buttock, through the thigh and into the foot and heel. Because it is such a large nerve, sciatic pain radiates through these areas and that pain can be debilitating. Gentle massage can help to relieve compression and inflammation of the sciatic nerve and affected areas.

Increasing energy and reducing stress

Prenatal massage can help boost energy by gently stimulating the nervous system and increasing levels of the “happiness hormones,” serotonin and dopamine. Massage has also been shown to decrease levels of cortisol and norepinephrine, hormones related to stress.

In addition to helping regulate your mood, stabilizing these hormones can improve your cardiovascular health and can even improve fetal health.

Reducing tension and headaches

Changes in posture, fluctuating hormones, and additional stress over the impending arrival can cause extra tension and headaches. Massage therapy can be very effective in reducing these symptoms.

Easing  foot and leg cramps

For many pregnant women, waking up in the middle of the night with foot and leg cramps is common. Massage can help reduce or eliminate these involuntary muscle contractions by gently stretching and exercising the muscles of the legs and feet.

Promoting general wellbeing

Getting ready to welcome a new family member can be overwhelming. Along with all the emotional and physical changes you’re going through, there are a million things to do to prepare for the baby. It’s easy to only think about the baby’s needs and forget about your own. Getting a massage can be the perfect way to take some time for yourself. 

Post-partum: Massage during the ‘Fourth Trimester’

Being able to hold your baby in your arms is a wonderful moment and the beginning of a new era for you and your family. But giving birth doesn’t mean that your body’s hard work is over. 

The post-partum period can feel like as much of a roller coaster ride for your body as pregnancy itself. As you are recovering from the physical ordeal of giving birth, your body is beginning to reverse some of the changes it made while you were pregnant. And all of this is happening while you’re busy caring for and feeding an infant! It’s no wonder that many people have begun to refer to the first weeks or months after giving birth as the “fourth trimester.” 

So even though you might feel like you have no time or energy to spare on anything other than feeding, changing, and loving your newborn, it’s important to take some time to look after yourself in this period, too. And that means continuing to visit your massage therapist. 

Just like during your pregnancy, your massage therapist will do everything they can to make sure that you’re comfortable during your post-partum treatments. If you’re not comfortable lying on your stomach, they can use pillows and special bolsters to support your body and have you lay on your side or your back instead. They will continue to tailor their techniques and pressure to your body’s needs. 

5 Excellent Benefits of Postpartum Massage

Helping relieve tension and stress from delivery

Birth is extremely hard work! Even the shortest and easiest labour puts a lot of strain on your body and can cause both physical and emotional stress. It’s very common to feel residual tension after giving birth. A specialized post-partum massage can help to soothe any musculoskeletal pain and help your body and mind recover from the stresses of childbirth.

Helping with arm, neck,and shoulder tension from feeding and holding your infant

No matter how careful you are and how fit you were before you became a parent being a new mother can really do a number on your arms, shoulders, and neck. Feeding one-sided, the constant lifting and carrying, hauling around a diaper bag…there’s no end to the list of reasons you’ll need a massage. Your massage therapist can target these areas to reduce pain and improve range of motion.

Helping clear excess fluids and postpartum swelling

A normal part of postpartum life, swelling (or edema) occurs when your body releases all the fluid retained while preparing for childbirth. Massage therapy can help speed up this elimination of fluid using special techniques like manual lymphatic drainage to help the fluid shift from the extremities.

Helping promote milk production via stress reduction and production of prolactin

Breast milk production is regulated by a complex combination of hormones in your body, including prolactin, oxytocin, and cortisol. Stress relief is one of the most well-known benefits of massage therapy. But did you know that by reducing stress, getting a massage could help increase your milk production? This is because stress is the “number one killer of breastmilk supply.” Massage therapy can lower your levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.  There is also some evidence that massage therapy can increase prolactin levels.

Helping you regain proper posture and body mechanics

This will be one of the long-term treatment goals that you and your massage therapist will work towards after your pregnancy. Pregnancy, labour, and being a new mother all take their toll on your body. With targeted massage treatments and personal homecare recommendations (including self-massage techniques), your massage therapist will help your body get back to full strength, so you can enjoy every moment with your new baby! 

Pregnancy and postpartum or postnatal massage has so many benefits for an expectant and new mother. Both mother and baby can benefit from receiving regular treatments from a licensed massage therapist. At MH Vicars School of Massage Therapy, you can train to become a registered massage therapist for a flexible, rewarding career for clients from all stages of life. MH Vicars students learn the theory and skills that they need so they can safely and effectively treat pregnant clients and new mothers. They also get hands-on practice working with pregnant clients at our supervised practicum clinics.  Call our admissions team at 1-866-491-0574 or RSVP for a live, virtual open house to learn more about becoming a qualified massage therapist. 

Robin Collum
Author: Robin Collum