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Kate Machi: Backache is one of the most common ailments of pregnancy, and certainly of labor. Amanda today is going to help me out here, and how are you doing, Amanda?
Amanda: I'm doing good.
Kate Machi: Great. And how far along are you?
Amanda: I'm 25 weeks right now.
Kate Machi: Twenty-five weeks. Wonderful. Is this your first baby?
Kate Machi: Congratulations.
Amanda: Thank you.
Kate Machi: Great. You have a lot to look forward to. So Amanda's sitting on my kitchen chair. You can use a dining room chair, any chair that doesn't have any armrests and that's comfortable for your partner to straddle. You'll need a pillow.
We're going to start with some nice easy grounding positions. Just my hands on Amanda's shoulders. Partners, I want to remind you how important it is that you breathe along with your partner. It's going to make all the difference in the massage. So let's take a nice deep breath together, Amanda. Great.
Now I'm going to do a nice, long nerve stroke, starting at the top of her neck and all the way down to the sacrum. And about 10 of these, maybe 12, just to get mom relaxed and you as well. The nice, easy rhythm.
Okay, now we're going to start with the hips. I'm going to start with my fists, just leaning in, the hip-bone area. First, I'm actually going to start down at the buttocks. You can see that I'm kneeling. I've got one knee up and one knee down. That gives me stability, and I'm just going to move – I'm just going to use my body weight. That takes the strain off of you, the partner. How does that feel?
Amanda: That feels good.
Kate Machi: Is that about right?
Kate Machi: Okay, great. Okay, so I'm just keeping a straightish arm, and as I move inward, my elbows go out a little bit. I just want to relax with this, and I actually want to breathe with Amanda. So take a nice deep breath in. And then I'm going to press in as she exhales. And then I'm following her rhythm, as she breathes in, and I'm going to press in. Just sort of gently rising, so that by the time you get up toward her shoulders, you'll be standing and leaning in.
Tennis balls in a sock
Okay. Now if for any reason your fists are getting tired or your hands, you can put a couple of tennis balls into a sock and do it the same way. You just have to press into the balls. So we press, starting again down here at your partner's sacrum area, and then just pressing in like that, okay? And I would say, partners, try to always keep your back somewhat straight, so that you're not bent over, but you're just again leaning into your hands, through your legs. You see, so my back isn't getting tired at all by doing this. And so this is another way you can do this. Very simple. Okay? And then I would just finish with nerve strokes again.
The more you practice together, the easier it will be for her to relax. This may be the most important thing you pack before you go to the hospital.
What is prenatal massage?
Prenatal massage is a type that's similar to regular massage – it aims to relax tense muscles, ease sore spots, improve circulation and mobility, and just make you feel good. But prenatal massage is also customized to the needs of pregnant women and their changing bodies, and therapists trained in prenatal massage adjust their techniques accordingly.
Carrying a baby inside you changes your center of gravity and puts a lot of stress on your back, neck, abdominal muscles, and shoulders. Pregnancy also relaxes your ligaments, meaning your pelvic joints are less stable, and it also changes your posture, pulling your pelvis forward. Add to that the extra weight you're carrying and you may end up with an aching lower back.
A trained prenatal massage therapist knows where a pregnant woman's sore and swollen spots are likely to be and may be able to provide some relief. She'll also know which techniques and areas to avoid.
What are the benefits of massage during pregnancy?
Research on the therapeutic benefits of massage for pregnant women is limited, but small studies suggest that prenatal massage may:
- Improve mood and lower stress levels
- Reduce prenatal depression and anxiety
- Lower the risk of preterm birth and low birth weight in infants of women with prenatal depression
- Reduce swelling in the legs (after foot massage)
Getting a pregnancy massage can also put you in a more relaxed state of mind to help you cope with all the big changes that are going on in your life.
If you decide to get a massage, it's important to tell your massage therapist which areas of your body need attention. Let her know right away if anything – including your position – causes discomfort during the massage.
How can I find a good prenatal massage therapist?
Get recommendations from your hospital, healthcare provider, or friends. If you already have a favorite massage therapist, ask whether she has training in prenatal massage or can recommend a colleague who does.
You can also visit the American Massage Therapy Association and use their online referral system for therapists in the United States, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Canada.
Some massage therapists want clearance from your doctor or midwife before treating you, so ask about that ahead of time. When you meet your therapist, remind her that you're pregnant before you begin your session.
How much does a prenatal massage cost?
An hour-long session can cost anywhere from $60 to $150, depending on where you live. Check your health insurance benefits: Some plans cover part of the cost of a massage if you can get a prescription from your midwife or doctor for a medical reason, such as back pain.
If your health plan includes a health savings account (HSA), or if you have a flexible spending account (FSA), you can pay for the massage out of either account and save money in taxes. You'll just need paperwork from your provider showing that the massage is medically necessary.
How do I lie on the massage table when I'm pregnant?
Right from the start of pregnancy, it may be uncomfortable to lie facedown because of your tender, swollen breasts. And you can't lie facedown on a traditional massage table once your belly has started to grow.
You can lie on your side with pillows, wedges, or a full-length body pillow for support. Some prenatal massage therapists even use a special table or pad with hollowed areas and pillows to accommodate your belly and breasts, so you can lie facedown.
If lying facedown on a special pregnancy massage table stresses your lower back, try lying on your side or ask your therapist to help you find a comfortable position.
And remember that it's not a good idea to lie flat on your back, especially once you're past midpregnancy, because the weight of your uterus puts too much pressure on the vein that returns blood from your legs to your heart.
What prenatal massage techniques can I try at home?
If a professional massage isn't an option, ask your partner or a friend to give you a hand. Pick up an instructional book or check out online videos on prenatal massage.
He or she may not be professionally trained, but a gentle, loving touch may provide the comfort you need. You might even try massage oils.
When is a prenatal massage unsafe?
Having a prenatal massage may be risky in a few situations, such as if:
- You have a blood clot or a bone fracture.
- You have a skin injury or condition that could be aggravated by rubbing. These include burns, open wounds, skin infections, or eczema.
- You've had an allergic reaction to massage oils.
If you have concerns about whether it would be okay for you to have a prenatal massage, talk to your healthcare provider.
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