February is officially the month of LOVE! I may have made that up but Valentine’s Day immediately comes to mind when I think of February. And local stores make it hard to not think of love since all the hearts and pink and red décor that accompany this manufactured holiday are up well before January has gotten off to a good start.
Regardless, for the purposes of this post we will accept that February = Love. Got it? And while my title (inspired by Monster’s Ball) may suggest that this is going to be a romantical post…IT IS NOT. Instead, this post is about self-love! In fact, I am hoping that I can convince at least one mom or mom-to-be to make a commitment to themselves this month out of pure love for SELF. Women (moms in particular) being born nurturers, spend a great deal of time loving on and caring for others and often forget that they need love too. In that spirit, I am going to share my love for MASSAGES. I hope it will encourage you to sign-up for one, sooner rather than later, AND to make it a regular part of your “love thyself” routine. Loving yourself, caring for yourself is the healthiest living of all! Your significant other, your children, family and friends all benefit when you take time for self.
If my memory serves me well my first professional massage was gifted to me back in college. My love for massages was instant. I probably got a massage maybe three to four times a year once I became gainfully employed. Before babies, my single and more carefree self, considered a massage to be purely a pampering session. Although I thought about it, I never got a prenatal massage with my first child. But after speaking with a mom during my second pregnancy about the benefits of massage therapy and chiropractic care I made sure I added massage to my prenatal to-do list. Today post-baby #2, I have a new found appreciation for just how truly beneficial a massage can be. It is indeed a great way to pamper and it is also dedicated time alone BUT most importantly it is therapeutic to mind and body. I feel completely recharged after a 50min session.
I received my first prenatal massage at around 12 weeks. Most information that I’ve read indicates it is safe to go sooner but this is when I felt most comfortable. There are a great deal of places that do not offer massage during first trimester. Be sure to ask this when you call to schedule. The masseuse asked if I was still comfy lying on my back and belly because they also offered a special table for side lying. My bump was still small so I was good to go. My previous complications with HELLP had me a little anxious about my current pregnancy. I did my best to keep from worrying but in all honesty sometimes it got the best of me. I can’t begin to tell you what this massage did for that anxiety. After this initial visit I signed up for a monthly membership. By 2nd trimester, the massage was just what the doctor ordered for my achy back, my sore feet and the sciatica that cropped up. I made it a point to go at least twice a month until just around 34wks. I noticed I slept sooo much better the first few nights after my massages. If you’ve ever been “good and pregnant” you know sleeping well can be challenging. The icing on the cake was that my insurance actually covered a few sessions under alternative medicine. YES! *Psst…past your due date?!? Massage could help jump start labor. There are pressure points in the feet and around the ankles that bring on labor. When you’re going into 41wks you are open to trying anything. Why not relax at the same time?
Post-baby I wasn’t able to resume my massages until about 4.5mos after the baby. C-section recovery plus trying to settle into my new normal with two kids just made it difficult. Once I made my way back, I immediately remembered what I was missing. My general back pain during pregnancy had morphed into lower back pain that needed some TLC. I also knew my shoulders and neck had a great deal of tension after a week home with sick babies. If your masseuse is EXCEPTIONAL he/she will massagebonus areas like your scalp; a place I never knew even needed a massage but boy does it feel great. I am back in the practice of my regular massages and my body is all too thankful. And while I’m sure there is something else that I could be doing on my never ending list I NEVER regret carving out time for my massages. They were a key item in my pregnancy survival toolkit and are a formidable force post pregnancy as well.
But just in case my anecdotal reflections aren’t enough to encourage you to try massage I wanted to share what the research says about massages during and after pregnancy. I think you will see that there is more than one good reason to at least give massage therapy a try. If your schedule and budget will allow, consider establishing routine visits. Memberships can make this more affordable.
PreNatal Massage Benefits
- Reduce stress, anxiety and decrease symptoms of depression
Let’s face it pregnancy is exciting but it can also be an anxious time. This can create stress for even the veteran mom. In addition to that, pregnancy brings on major shifts in hormones. These hormones can create changes in mood that also result in anxiety or depression.
- Relieve muscle aches and joint pains
Swollen joints and stretched ligaments and muscles are par for the course during pregnancy. Essentially, everything is making room for baby. As you gain more weight more stress is placed on the body resulting in tired and achy muscles and joints.
- Reduce swelling
A growing baby means a growing uterus. This growth, especially in new moms, results in pressure on major blood vessels and slow circulation. Increased water retention is also a major factor during pregnancy. Together these result in swelling. Massage can help alleviate the pressure and restore optimal circulation.
- Improve nerve pain
I would never wish sciatica on anyone. It’s a literal and figurative pain in the a**. Pressure from the uterus puts pressure on the pelvic floor which then adds pressure to surrounding muscles that then inflames the nerves. Massage helps to relieve that tension thereby reducing nerve pain.
Once you have the baby and are settled (I use this term loosely) into mommy-hood I highly recommend restarting massages. At the top of the “Things That Keep Mommy Sane” list fighting for the #4 spot with wine is massage! Seriously, it can be life changing. The benefits are largely similar to those during pregnancy. Here is a quick run-down of a few of them:
- Aids the healing process and boosts immune function
Massage increases circulation and lymphatic drainage to facilitate the elimination of excess fluids and waste products which can aid in healing and boost the immune system. Additionally, the connection between immune function and stress levels as well as sleep are well established. Massage therapy counteracts many of the negative effects of stress and induces a state of relaxation which thereby improves sleep.
- Reduces stress, anxiety and depression
Those same hormones responsible for all the emotions during pregnancy are working overtime post-partum trying to regulate themselves. If you’re breastfeeding levels may be even more off balance. Add to that the fact that you now have a living breathing little person that you are responsible for and your stress and moods may be all over the place Massage assists in hormone regulation and the relaxation lowers stress. Further it boosts serotonin and dopamine levels which are responsible for stabilizing mood.
- Improved sleeping
Let’s face it, you hosted another human being for 9+months. Then you made it through labor and delivery or even surgery. Now you’re on a nap only sleep schedule. Your body is exhausted! Massage eases fatigue and promotes relaxation. Studies have shown an increase in delta brain waves (those that accompany deep sleep) with massage therapy. That is why it is very common to fall asleep during a massage. The good vibes can be long-lasting.
- Improved breastfeeding
The mind-body connection is powerful. Successful breastfeeding requires a relaxed state of mind and body; which massage has been proven to accomplish. Additionally, massage has been linked to increased levels of prolactin, a hormone responsible for milk production. This alone makes massage therapy well worth it. Relax and let it flow!
- Relief from back pain, muscle aches and joint pain
Your body went through a great deal of changes to prepare for your baby and childbirth, now it’s time to readjust. As you get back to your pre-pregnancy state it is normal to have some aches and pains. Plus you can only imagine what carrying 7lbs+ around on a regular basis can do for your lower back, shoulders and arms. Regular massage helps to find that balance.
*While I fully endorse massages given by significant others the information above is based on care from a licensed massage therapist with experience in prenatal massage. Please do your research and always consult your doctor before starting massage while pregnant.
*PS. Consider combining massage with aromatherapy for even more benefits. Essential oils can be infused in the air or used as a massage oil. Studies have shown that certain oils may bring hormone and mood balance. A licensed massage therapist will be able to assist you in selecting the best options.
You DESERVE to feel good! Now there is evidence that massage not only helps you feel good but it is also good for you. Why not give it a shot? Your well-being is important. Now you know just what to ask for this Valentine’s Day. LOVE YOURSELF!