The Difference Between a Prenatal Massage and a Regular Massage

Carrying a baby is hard work, particularly in the later stages when their rapid growth and increasing weight places your body under a great deal of pressure. Aches and pains are entirely normal, especially since you are almost certainly adjusting your posture to compensate for your changing center of gravity. As a result, your spine shifts and tendons and ligaments that might not normally work too hard to support you are suddenly under strain. 

A prenatal massage is a name given to massage that is carried out on a pregnant patient. Their condition means that many of the techniques used in conventional massage are not suitable for them. Prenatal massage isn’t something that is new, and its roots can be traced back more than 3000 years. However, more recently it has enjoyed a resurgence as a very popular way to support maternal health in the pregnancy period. 

How is prenatal massage different from regular massage?

The main way in which prenatal massage is different from regular massage is in the techniques that are used during the treatment. It should also be noted that since expectant mothers shouldn’t lie on their abdomen at any stage of pregnancy, the treatment will take place when the patient is lying on their back or side, depending on their size and what is comfortable for them. Cushions and bolsters may also be used to enhance the support that their body has during the treatment. 

Prenatal massage predominantly uses the Swedish massage technique, which focuses on long, sweeping strokes with only minimal pressure applied to the body. Deep tissue pressure, which is common in other therapeutic massages, won’t be used as it could potentially be harmful to mother or baby. 

Those therapists that offer prenatal massage typically have experience in recognizing which areas of the body will benefit most from therapeutic attention and will tailor the patient’s experience to meet their individual needs. For example, they may pay particular attention to the feet in order to reduce swelling and pain in this area.  

It should be noted that massage should never be carried out in the first trimester of pregnancy, and only later on with the approval of your doctor. 

Benefits of prenatal massage

There is a wide range of benefits associated with prenatal massage, making it a popular choice of treatment for women in the second and third trimester of pregnancy. Some of the advantages include:

  • Reduced swelling. Swelling is a very common side effect of pregnancy as the body naturally retains water and circulation is reduced, increasing pressure on the blood vessels. Gravity often means that swelling and inflammation affect the legs and ankles, making walking uncomfortable or even painful. Fortunately, massage has been proven to stimulate the flow of oxygenated blood around the body, helping to reduce water retention, eliminate toxins, and reduce swelling. 

  • Sciatica relief. Sciatic nerve pain is particularly common during pregnancy and occurs as a result of the uterus resting onto the pelvic floor and lower back muscles, pinching the sciatic nerve and causing pain that extends down the lower back, buttocks and into the legs. Massage naturally reduces inflammation in the nerves by helping to release the tension placed onto the sciatic nerve. 

  • General pain relief. One of the core benefits of massage is to help relieve tightness in the muscles – something that occurs all too often in pregnancy. By manually working the muscles in prenatal massage, your chiropractor can stimulate blood flow that releases the tension, relaxing the muscles, and any associated stiffness and pain that the patient may be experiencing. 

  • Relaxation. Pregnancy can be a very stressful time, and this isn’t helped by the fact that hormones tend to fluctuate significantly. Massage has been shown to help patients to regulate their natural levels of the key hormones that control stress, relaxation, and mood. This helps to reduce mood swings and the risk of anxiety or prenatal depression. Some studies have also indicated that regulating hormones in pregnancy can help to reduce the risk of low birth weight or complications associated with delivery. 

  • Increased energy. Low energy is a definite problem in later energy when apart from the nesting instinct, many women experience heaviness and fatigue as their body copes with the increased weight and pressure. Although it is normal to feel a little sleepy after a massage, the subsequent boost in circulation can help to increase patient energy levels.

If you would like to find out more about the difference between a prenatal massage and a regular massage, or if you would like to schedule an appointment, please contact our chiropractic office today (773) 917-0900.