Let’s admit it ladies, pregnancy is not easy and can take its toll not only physically but mentally and emotionally. As beautiful and amazing as childbirth is, ten months is a long time to be sharing your body with an ever-growing babe (or multiple babes)! Have you considered getting a massage during pregnancy?
Exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet are obvious ways to combat fatigue and maintain a healthy mindset. But what about the aches and pains that constantly change throughout pregnancy, and after delivery?
In addition to stretching regularly and staying hydrated, prenatal massage can be a game changer both physically and mentally. Estrogen and progesterone hormones changes don’t only affect you psychologically but also physically.
Here at Kneading Hands, we love nurturing expecting mothers! Many of us have kiddos and know what it is like to grow tiny humans in our belly. It is a magical thing, but also grueling! We believe we can help combat some of the hardships with massage. We want you to feel the best you can despite all the changes, anxiety, and complexity of emotions you are experiencing!
A Few Of The Pregnancy Hormones And How They Affect Your body
An ovarian cyst called the corpus luteum produces progesterone. At ten weeks the placenta takes over the production of this hormone.
Progesterone relaxes the smooth muscles in the body, including the muscle wall of the uterus. It also causes relaxation of blood vessels throughout the body.
The effects you may feel from this hormone include; lower than normal blood pressure, dizziness, gastrointestinal problems such as acid reflux, burping, vomiting, gas, and constipation. This hormone can also lead to hair growth in strange places!
Is also initially produced by the corpus luteum until the placenta takes over production.
Estrogen triggers the growth of many organs and biological systems in the fetus and is a key player in the development process. In addition to the development of the fetus, estrogen also enlarges milk ducts in the breasts. This prepares them for milk production and enhances the uterus, allowing it to respond to other hormones such as oxytocin.
The effects associated with this hormone include increased appetite, nausea, spider veins, and changes in skin. If you’re lucky, you might experience the pregnancy ‘glow’ caused by estrogen levels.
Is a pregnancy hormone that is produced by the placenta to soften the cervix and tissues of the birth canal in preparation for childbirth (hence the name).
In addition to softening your reproductive system, this hormone also loosens muscles, joints, and ligaments. This can put you at higher risk of sprains and strains during your pregnancy as well as reduce your stability and balance. Looser ligaments can also mean the widening of your feet and the flattening of your arches, which can cause some serious aches and pains and also may affect your posture.
Emotional Challenges During Pregnancy And Postpartum
In addition to hormones affecting you physically, they can also cause mental and emotional changes. Some common side effects include but are not limited to moodiness and irritability, problems sleeping and forgetfulness. Fluctuating hormones can also attribute to crying spells and fatigue.
Hormones aside, bringing new life into the world can be a daunting thought. Many fears such as finances, work, your relationship with your spouse, and the unknown of motherhood can cause a great deal of stress.
Motherhood, unfortunately, doesn’t come with a manual and the thought of not having all the answers and not knowing exactly how to care for this new human can be very stressful,(these thoughts don’t exactly help the sleeplessness caused by hormone changes!)
Another source of anxiety for many pregnant women is their changing body. Weight gain, stretch marks, varicose veins and not knowing if your body will ever return to normal after birth can be very concerning for many expecting mothers and can be a source of added anxiety and stress.
Postpartum is an especially vulnerable time for new mothers. Depression is more common after giving birth. Due to a sharp drop in estrogen and progesterone after birth up to 80% of women experience the “baby blues,” symptoms include problems sleeping, feeling sad and overwhelmed and frequent crying. Luckily, baby blues symptoms will usually subside within two weeks of giving birth.
Benefits Of Prenatal And Postpartum Massage
Prenatal and postnatal or perinatal massage can be a great way to prevent and treat many of the physical tribulations of pregnancy as well as help ease mental and emotional stresses.
Many studies indicate that prenatal massage can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, relieve joint pain and muscle aches, and improve labor and newborn health. The Touch Research Institute specifically, in 1999 confirmed that massage during pregnancy produces higher levels of dopamine and serotonin, and lower levels of cortisol and norepinephrine. An Institute funded for years by Johnson and Johnson.
Hormone regulation through massage is also a great benefit. In the past ten years, studies have shown that hormone levels associated with stress and relaxation can be significantly altered with prenatal massage. This can improve not only mood but also overall cardiovascular health. In recent studies, hormones associated with stress such as cortisone and norepinephrine were reduced, and serotonin and dopamine were increased.
Implementing massage into your prenatal care can also benefit baby during birth, fewer complications such as low birth weight are associated with the regulation of said hormones. Labor may also be easier for mom as massage can have a sedating effect on the nervous system. This promotes stress relief and relaxation.
Speaking of relaxation, massage can significantly improve sleep. Which can be hard to come by throughout an expecting mother’s entire pregnancy.
There are also many physical benefits associated with prenatal massage.
During pregnancy, blood volume increases by up to 60%. Massage promotes healthy blood circulation throughout the body can reduce the swelling of joints, increase blood flow to the mother’s heart as well as the placenta and uterus, and help maintain healthy blood pressure. Increased blood circulation also stimulates the lymph system, increasing the removal of toxins and increasing overall immunity. Healthy circulation also delivers more oxygen and nutrients to the mother and the growing fetus.
Sciatic nerve pain is a common side effect of pregnancy. As the fetus and uterus get larger they apply more pressure on the muscles of the pelvic floors as well as the lower back causing pressure and swelling of the nerves in the area. Releasing tension of the muscles through massage can reduce the pressure on the inflamed nerves resulting in a significant reduction in nerve pain.
In addition, prenatal massage can help remedy many other common pregnancy discomfort. Such as headaches, leg cramps, tension and knots, shortness in breath, acid reflux and heartburn, swelling, constipation, nasal congestion, lower back pain, varicose veins, and joint pain. You may also notice improvements in your posture and flexibility. Hooray!!
Postpartum massage can help reduce many of the discomforts of pregnancy and birth. After doubling your body fluids during pregnancy, your body must find balance. Massage can assist in lymphatic drainage and help facilitate the removal of excess fluids.
Massage also assists your body in shifting excess water to the correct places.
Improved breastfeeding is another great benefit; massage increases prolactin levels (lactation hormone) and relaxes the body, which also helps milk production.
Self-care is important in every stage of life, but pregnancy is especially strenuous on the mind and body; so if you’re expecting or a new mother, treat yourself and your body to some much needed therapeutic touch!