Maisey Wooten was in the third trimester of her pregnancy when she came down with a cold and cough, which caused her to pull a muscle in her ribcage. “Since I was pregnant, I didn’t want to take pain killers. So I asked my doctor about going to a prenatal massage therapist,” recalls this mother of two. “He thought it was a great idea.”
Jennifer Stempel was three months pregnant with twins when she received her first prenatal massage. “I got large so quickly and was having a lot of leg cramps and lower back pains. I talked with my doctor about it, and she highly recommended it.”
Many women are seeking relief from the aches and pains of pregnancy through prenatal massage therapy. “It has been proven to safely eliminate or reduce many of the normal discomforts of pregnancy,” says Kathy Roberts, a 25-year veteran registered nurse and licensed massage therapist.
Beth Alexander, another licensed massage therapist, agrees. “When you get pregnant you’re going to have pain. The ligaments are loosening up, the spine and skeleton are shifting, and there is a lot of stress on the joints. Since you want to avoid taking drugs, massage therapy is a good way to take care of those discomforts without the use of medication.”
Stempel found this to be true. “During my second pregnancy, I had a lot of sciatic pain—to the point where I couldn’t walk. The massage therapist worked on me for three days in a row, and when I left I was fine.”
Though pain relief is the main reason mothers go for prenatal massages, there are emotional benefits too. “Some women may have had a hard time getting pregnant or may be stressed during their pregnancy,” states Alexander. “The massages can help you relax.”
Before getting a prenatal massage, women should check with their doctor. “If a woman has had a miscarriage before or has any sort of predisposition to anything that may be of concern, she should check with her doctor first,” suggests Alexander.
There are also acupressure areas that may bring on contractions. But according to Roberts, this should be of little concern with the right massage therapist. “If a mother goes to someone certified in prenatal, the therapist will know what areas to avoid and how deep to work.” “With a regular massage, we work deep tissue,” says Alexander. “But with a prenatal massage, we have to work at a lighter level.”
Positioning is different too. “I have a special prenatal massage table so we can do face down if we need to,” says Roberts. “We also do side-lying positions—it’s whatever the mom prefers.”
So where does one look for a massage therapist? Ask your doctor or childbirth class instructor for a recommendation, or check with friends who may have had prenatal massages, suggests Roberts. Most importantly, call and talk with the therapist. “Ask specific questions and find out what his or her background is. Be sure the person is a licensed massage therapist, nationally certified in massage and body works, and certified in prenatal massage.” The American Massage Therapy Association has a website (www.amtamassage.org) with a link to find a therapist in your area.
When labor and delivery is over, consider the benefits of returning postpartum. “I went back regularly for months after my son was born,” concludes Wooten. “It was just what I needed. Some women may think the money can be used for something else, especially when she’s raising a family. I know—I used to think that too. But I found it made me a better wife and mother. It was worth every dime!”
Grace Catron is a freelance writer from Delaware.
Check out our website for a list of the physical benefits of prenatal massage therapy and the questions to ask when looking for a therapist.