Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Massage in early pregnancy

Having trained in pregnancy massage last year, and learning how wonderfully supportive it can be for an expectant mother, I was fully planning to spend my pregnancy on the couch for hours, soaking up all that care, nurturing and all round wellness for myself and my growing child.
Lucinda Cracknell massage - hands on abdomen
Pregnancy massage can provide care, nurture
and coddling for you and your precious cargo
from the earliest weeks.

Then I actually got pregnant, and reality turned out a little differently! Nausea and exhaustion meant I wasn't up to hours of kneading, or even gentle effleurage. So have I turned against early pregnancy massage? Not at all. At the stage where most people around you aren't aware of the enormous changes you're facing, being able to share your experience and get some care and coddling can be invaluable. I just realised that, for me anyway, I needed to be more selective and specific in choosing my treatments.

Is massage safe in early pregnancy?

There is a misapprehension that massage isn't possible, or safe in the first trimester. This idea comes as far as I can tell, from two sources. There was an idea, even when I trained, that massage stimulates the system such that it can cause, or increase the likelihood of, miscarriage. This just isn't the case; any stimulation is no more than going for a walk, and except for rare cases with complications, will at worst do no harm. As long as certain simple safeguards are followed (like avoiding abdominal massage), there is no evidence  or reason to think that massage poses a risk to the pregnancy.

Unfortunately, many pregnancies do miscarry in the first trimester. There are a number of reasons for this, and most are unavoidable. However, if a woman has a massage just before a miscarriage, she may make a link between the two. Some therapists don't offer first trimester massage to avoid this situation, and a lot of insurance companies won't cover it for therapist who are not specifically trained in pregnancy massage. Hence you may see therapists who won't treat in the first trimester; you may need to seek out someone who does have pregnancy massage training.

How do I get the most from massage when I fall pregnant?

Every woman's experience of pregnancy is different, and even from one pregnancy to the next, but this is what I found useful to get the most from massage in the first trimester.

  • Little and often beats long sessions. I was quite tender, so didn't want to be lying still for extended periods, and too much of the kneading exacerbated my nausea after a while. So shorter treatments suited me better.
  • Find the right position. Later in pregnancy, you need to move into the side-lying or semi-reclined position; in the first trimester there is no bump to restrict you, but your body is already changing rapidly as your ligaments loosen up and your hormones surge, so what is comfortable for you may change. Discuss the options with your massage therapist, and experiment as necessary. You may find side-lying is gentler on a nauseous, tender abdomen, or that raising your legs eases your back. Maybe you need seated massage for a few weeks. If you need to change positions during the massage to be comfortable, that's fine too. You may like to mention it to your therapists in advance, so they have plenty of bolsters and pillows on hand for maximum flexibility.
  • Identify what you need/want from the massage. Especially for shorter sessions, if you are clear about this up front, and can therefore communicate it to your massage therapist, you're much more likely to come away from the treatment feeling happy and satisfied. What you need is likely to to different at each treatment - sometimes you'll need a specific area worked on quite deeply due to physical aches and pains, other times you may need calming and grounding as anxieties crowd your mind, or simply to rest as the first trimester can bring an exhaustion that caught me by surprise and wiped me out for a period of time.
  • Make it as easy as possible. This goes for everything during pregnancy, not just massage! So if you can, find someone near to home, or work, with hours that fit into your routine. If you are finding things a struggle anyway, you don't want to have a long trip out of your way for a massage, or to feel you have to rush back afterwards. If a particular time suits you, it may be worth booking up several sessions in advance, to reserve your preferred slot. This also means you don't have to think about repeatedly making appointments, and you may get a discount for booking a package of treatments!

These are my recommendations based on my own experience of early pregnancy. Do they strike a chord with you, or was your experience different? What other suggestions would you make for newly expectant mothers? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Be kind to yourself. Treat body and mind through compassionate, healing touch - visit Lucinda's website