Pregnancy is an exciting time for many people; it is the initial journey into the brand new world of parenting. This is often one of the most daunting, yet exciting life changing experiences that two people are faced with. As a couple navigate their way through each trimester, there are many exciting, yet sometimes challenging moments to get through. Some of the anatomical changes that women are faced with can often bring about some unpleasant effects. Although this is a fascinating time, it can often become quite demanding on the mother’s body too.
Pregnancy massage can offer relief for many of the effects of pregnancy, as well as improving the quality of a mother’s sleep. Massage has been shown to increase the production of serotonin and melatonin, the two neurotransmitters that regulate sleep rhythm (Field et al, 1999).
Stress and anxiety can often be experienced during pregnancy. Massage has been shown to reduce cortisol, our bodies stress hormone, while increasing the feel good hormones, serotonin and dopamine (Field et al, 2004). Increased serotonin can reduce depression and cortisol levels, which can be expected to reduce the incidence of premature birth. Serotonin has also been shown to reduce substance P; a chemical that causes pain, therefore higher serotonin may contribute to a reduction in leg and back pain. While the increase in dopamine that massage contributes to dampens norepinephrine levels, decreasing feelings of anxiety (Field et al, 2004). Higher levels of dopamine have also been shown to improve renal function and urine output in postpartum women suffering with high blood pressure, therefore it may provide some benefit for pregnancy related issues such as pre-eclampsia (Field et al, 2004).
A reduction in heart rate and blood pressure has also been seen in pregnant women having massage therapy (Fink et al, 2012). While swelling of the legs and feet is also a common issue that is seen during pregnancy, foot massage has been shown to move the lymph fluid through the extremities, minimising the swelling, pain and tightness that is experienced in oedema (Cobin & Sirin, 2010).
As we can see, there are several areas that massage can assist with during pregnancy. However, often just the sense of touch and deep relaxation that massage can bring is enough to offset some of the negative ramifications of pregnancy.
Cobin, A., & Sirin, A. (2010). Effect of foot masdsage to decrease physiological lower leg oedema in late pregnancy: A randomized controlled trial in Turkey. International Journal of Nursing Practice, 16(5). 454-460. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20854342
Field, T., Diego, M. A., Hernandez-Reif, M., Schanberg, S., & Kuhn, C. (2004). Massage therapy effects on depressed pregnant women. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology, 25(2). 115-122.
Field, T., Hernandez-Reif, M., Hart, S., Theakston, H., Schanberg, S., & Kuhn, C. (1999). Pregnant women benefit from massage therapy. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 20(1). 31-38. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10212885
Fink, N. S., Urech, C., Cavelti, M., & Alder, J. (2012). Relaxation during pregnancy: What are the benefits for mother, fetus, and the newborn? A systematic review of the literature. The Journal of Perinatal & Neonatal Nursing, 26(4). 296-306. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23111717