My plan for a relaxing week prior to the planned birth of my daughter was anything but relaxing. That's because I actually gave birth a week early. However, that won't stop me from revealing what I learned in the process, even though I didn't actually experience it. I'm talking about massage therapy.
I met a lady through my dentist who specializes in prenatal massage therapy. Since my lower back had been killing me, I decided I'd give it a try. But as I mentioned before, I wasn't able to make the appointment because I went into labor.
The massage therapist told me that prenatal massage is becoming more and more popular and, why not, considering the benefits. She told me massage therapy enhances the function of muscles and joints, improves circulation and general body tone, and relieves mental and physical fatigue. In pregnant women, one study revealed that massage actually reduces stress hormones in the body. Other benefits of prenatal massage include decreased insomnia, neck and back pain relief, preparing the muscles for childbirth, and reduced swelling in hands and feet.
Massage therapy is usually safe for most mothers and it can be done in different ways. Women can lie on their sides or their bellies, thanks to a specially designed pillow with the middle cut out to allow for the growing belly. Although some therapists believe it is much safer to perform the massage while the woman is on her side. In fact, some therapists will only do massages this way because of the potential harm of abdominal pressure from lying on your belly.
I've had a handful of massages in my lifetime, just never one during pregnancy. After learning more about massage through my friend's therapist, I found out it may have helped during my recovery from stroke years ago. My rehabilitation included physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy. Unfortunately, I was never told about massage therapy, probably because of the lack of scientific evidence. We do know that massage therapy helps to relax, reduce stress, improve circulation and decrease pain. And, I did find two studies on the subject. A Swedish research study investigated the importance of massage in the recovery of stroke patients. It was done in 1998-1999 and sampled a small group of patients. The patients who received tactile massage experienced a higher quality of life, showed improvement in general hygiene and mobility, and used less medication for pain and depression.
Another study done in 2004 at a Hong Kong hospital looked at the effects of slow-stroke back massage on anxiety and shoulder pain in elderly stroke patients. The patients received 10 minutes of massage before bedtime for seven nights. The results showed the 10-minute massages significantly reduced pain, anxiety, blood pressure and heart rate compared to patients who received only standard care.
I do feel better after a massage and I think massage therapy can help anyone, not just pregnant women and stroke patients. In fact, I'm hoping it will help this tired, postpartum mother. Of course, always check with your doctor first before having any kind of massage therapy.