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Pregnancy Massage: Considerations and Techniques for Successful Treatments

November 06, 2016 4 min read

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Pregnancy Massage: Considerations and Techniques for Successful Treatments

 

Many pregnant women seek relief in the form of massage and who can blame them? Pregnant women have a lot to deal with – the aches and pains can be endless, the extra weight can put strains on parts they didn’t even know were there until the pregnancy developed; overall, the bodily changes can mean big challenges for many pregnant women. So you the therapist will occasionally find your phone ringing with a tired, expecting mother on the line looking to you for a bit of relief.

For those therapists that are familiar with pregnancy massage, there may be no surprises. But for therapists who are less familiar with pregnancy massage, the first few times can be a little daunting. First there is the obvious – the client may be unable to lie on her stomach, and this alone can mean confusion because your standard massage techniques are going to have to be adapted. There are pregnancy massage tables on the market with holes cut out so that women can lay on their fronts, but if you don’t have a table designed for this, it doesn’t matter too much – there are ways around it.

Women in the early stages of pregnancy may not present too many difficulties for you as a therapist, except that you need to be aware of the effects of your massage on her body and how much pressure to apply. This kind of massage will be a little different to the usual Swedish style though, and as the stages progress, the more adaptations you will need to make to your routine.

Physical symptoms can be reduced, so annoying and unsightly issues like fluid retention (edema) are alleviated when massage stimulates the soft tissues holding the water. Due to pressure on the pelvic floor and lower back, painful conditions like Sciatica often arise, causing pregnant ladies a lot of pain; it isn’t just the sciatic nerve that is affected, as the leg muscles can swell too, pressurizing surrounding nerves. Regular massage relieves this inflammation and tension.

It isn’t just the physical pain that is a problem for pregnant women either; their moods can be hugely affected by fluctuating hormones. Stress hormones can cause adverse conditions for the baby, resulting in the child being underweight. Depressed mothers-to-be are often perked up by a relaxing massage, so they may well come to you regularly for a pick me up during their pregnancy.

How to ensure you give the best possible massage

If you haven’t done a course, even just a one day or week-end course as an extra after your main qualification, then it would be wise to do some research and watch some videos demonstrating good techniques. It is always important to find out from the client how far into the pregnancy she is and ask her what her particular issues are – take as many specific details as you can about where she may be feeling physical discomfort, when it’s at it’s worst etc., so that you can decide whether the areas should be massaged or avoided. Check that she has consulted her doctor about the suitability of massage at her stage of pregnancy. This way she will feel confident that you are concerned with her condition and are going to take a lot of care during the massage itself.

Prone positioning is simply not going to work for a pregnant woman and can be quite detrimental to her pregnancy, compression or exerting strain on the pelvic and lumbar regions as well as the joints and ligaments. Back discomfort, which is likely to be what they came to you for relief from, will be aggravated greatly. Equally, supine position can cause a few problems with some women reporting dizziness and difficulty breathing. Others may be totally ok with this, so you can ask them how they feel but it may be better to err on the side of caution, especially with heavily pregnant women.

It is much better to position the client on her side and ensure that she is fully supported using pillows and/or bolsters. If you think you will be doing regular massages it could be wise to invest in a body cushion, otherwise known as a prenatal cushion; these are designed for pregnant women and can take the pressure off all round. Lying on the side is the most comfortable and is generally accepted as the safest position for a pregnant woman to receive a massage. Regardless, care must be taken not to exert too much pressure so that the woman is not moved onto her abdomen.

Swedish massage is the generally accepted massage treatment for pregnant women due to its efficacy in reducing the many discomforts pregnant women are going through. Most massage therapists started with Swedish so you are likely to be familiar with the necessary techniques and the benefits this type of massage produces. Pregnant women benefit from relief from muscular tension, lymphatic drainage and improved circulation more than most clients. Effluerage, petrissage and tapotement are the main strokes required.

How do you feel about pregnancy massage as a therapist? Do you find it easy and feel comfortable treating heavily pregnant women? Do you have any tips for successful pregnancy massage, and what props do you use for comfort? Please share your ideas with us!


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