Pregnancy can be an exciting time in a woman's life -- it's also an achy one, as carrying around that extra weight and fluid puts strain on her back, joints and legs. Booking a prenatal massage is the first step to seeking relief. We asked Alexis Nahoum and Becky Raik, licensed massage therapists and co-owners of the Brooklyn massage studio Melt Massage and Bodywork, about what they think every woman should know before they book a prenatal massage.
Why you should book a prenatal massage
Prenatal massage is a wonderful way to address the physical and emotional changes a woman experiences throughout her pregnancy. It can relieve the many common symptoms, such as muscle and joint tension, leg cramping and nerve pain. Its circulatory benefits can increase blood flow, flush out toxins and decrease swelling/edema in arms and legs. And like regular massage, it's an effective stress-reducer.
Stress can have many negative effects on the pregnant body. It can increase the maternal heart rate and blood pressure, reduce blood supply to the uterus and contribute to a higher incidence of miscarriage and premature birth. A nurturing and soothing massage presents a powerful experience of relaxation and support that benefits both mother and baby.
What to look for in a massage therapist
While all licensed therapists are qualified to perform prenatal massage, therapists who are prenatal-certified have additional knowledge and experience. Find someone who will take the time to talk to you about your goals and adjust the session for any complications or specific needs you may have.
There are some caveats
Although some therapists prefer not to work on women in their first trimester, prenatal massage can be practiced safely throughout the entire pregnancy up until and even past the due date. It is common for women to book sessions close to or after their due dates have passed, as working specific acupressure points and promoting relaxation can be an effective and healthy means of stimulating labor. However, it is always good to get any adjunct therapy cleared with your doctor or midwife first, especially if there are any complications.
What to expect
The optimal position for prenatal massage is side-lying, as even specialty tables with cut-outs for the belly strain the uterine ligaments and increase intra-uterine pressure. Pillows are used to put the client in a position that doesn't create any additional strain. Techniques address the needs specific to pregnancy and incorporate stretching, traction and Swedish/deep tissue massage.