By Kim Boomhower, LMBT
Did you know that massage is not just pampering and relaxation? While massage can definitely help you to feel relaxed and indulgent, it also has a whole range of benefits that you’ve probably never thought of before. Massage can ease the stress of trying to get pregnant and can help to increase your chances of becoming pregnant. Once you’ve achieved your goal, it can help you have a more comfortable pregnancy, help support the major work that your body is doing to create and sustain life as well as helping to prepare your body for the trials of labor. And don’t forget postpartum care. Once you’ve given birth your journey is not complete, it’s only beginning. Massage can help you to assimilate all the amazing changes your body goes through after giving birth. By taking care of yourself with regular bodywork, you will be more present in your body, and thus able to adjust to taking care of your new family.
Fertility requires a delicate balance of hormones to produce, release, fertilize and implant an egg. This balance can be affected by many conditions within the body, including stress. Whether daily stress, or a one-time big events, stress can cause changes in ovulation and cycle length and studies have shown that stress during an IVF cycle causes a decrease in the number of eggs developed, retrieved and transferred. Not only does stress cause a physical reaction in the body, but also an emotional reaction. Stress can magnify the feelings of fear, worry, emptiness and anger. The combination of mental and physical reactions can lead to a downward spiral and feelings of a loss of control. Techniques that help women work with and release stress can enhance feelings of control. Massage-based techniques and movement therapies help to break the vicious cycle by encouraging relaxation. More specifically, they can help relax tense muscles and tight connective tissues that may constrict blood vessels, and thus enable blood to flow more freely. Soothing massage helps reduce emotional tension, calm stress-related conditions and may help women with hormone-related difficulties.
In addition to managing stress levels, fertility massage can also be very effective in reducing adhesions in the pelvis and increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs. Adhesions are bands of scar tissue that bind two parts of tissue together and may appear as thin sheets of tissue similar to plastic wrap or as thick fibrous bands. Pelvic adhesions can form after an injury or inflammation, such as endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, and bladder or yeast infections, as well as from general stress in the body. These bands of tissue can affect any organ in the pelvis including the uterus, fallopian tubes and bladder, as well as surrounding muscle tissue. Pelvic adhesions affect the function of reproductive organs, slow blood circulation, and may hinder conception. Abdominal and pelvic massage is a safe, non-invasive technique to reduce or eliminate adhesions, restoring movement, blood flow, and optimal function to the reproductive organs.
There is no better time for women to experience the many benefits of bodywork than during pregnancy. A pregnant women’s body is challenged, changed and stressed in many ways. Discomforts such as stretching tendons and skin, weight gain, structural alignment changes, raging hormones, constricted organs and pressure on various body structures are a normal—albeit uncomfortable—part of pregnancy. Massage gives special attention to the mother-to-be, and also nurtures the new life growing within her. By helping her cope with all of the rapid body changes occurring, regular bodywork can help an expectant mother to have a more positive pregnancy and labor experience.
In addition to stress relief and relaxation, pregnancy massage encourages more efficient waste elimination, reduces muscle pain and discomfort, balances hormones, relieves headache and sinus congestion, reduces edema, and supports restful sleep. Your growing baby can also reap the benefits—massage increases circulation, which helps get nourishment to your baby more efficiently, as well as creates a soothing, quiet environment for mom and baby to bond with each other. Not feeling as happy about your body as you did pre-baby? Regular bodywork can help women who feel uncomfortable with their body image gain a new sense of self esteem and appreciation for their bodies, and can emotionally support women as their bodies (and hormones) change during pregnancy.
Massage is an excellent support and a refuge for your body and mind—as well as baby’s—as you make your monumental journey into motherhood!
After labor and delivery of your newborn, your body is still going through significant changes. This healing process includes a rapid reduction in uterine size that may include mild to severe cramping. Your chest becomes enlarged, sore, and sensitive as the milk ducts go into production; your pelvic floor may be very sore from delivery. In addition, your GI tract may fluctuate in reaction to the tremendous changes to your abdomen such as regained space. Your abdominal muscles now relax and may be toneless—if your abdominal muscles have detached during labor, you may feel especially weak when attempting to sit up. With all the demands of motherhood, it's important the new mother takes time to heal herself and massage is one way to find that relief.
As a new mother’s body starts to revert to its pre-pregnancy status, or even undergoes additional changes brought on by surgical procedures or breastfeeding needs, women often begin disassociating with their physical self. Massage can bring you back to your body, allowing you to begin appreciating it and the hard work it's just been through. Postpartum massage can help to re-establish the structural integrity of the pelvis after birth, supports encourages milk letdown and supports healthy lactation and reduces stress hormones. Bodywork during the postpartum period can also aid in maintaining a healthy emotional state, preventing or alleviating postpartum depression. And massage is as good for baby as it is for mom—studies show infants receiving regular massage from their mothers gain weight faster, perform better on learning and development tests, and have less health problems such as colic, diarrhea and constipation and sleep pattern issues. Massaging your baby on a regular basis also serves as a simple way to reinforce the powerful bond between mother and baby. A massage therapist who specializes in infant massage can instruct new parents on how to massage their babies.