Pregnancy Massage

Massage has been a vital part of prenatal and postpartum care in many cultures for centuries. In this country, women have only recently begun to experience the pleasure and benefits of pregnancy massage. Many of the stresses that your body undergoes as a result of pregnancy can be alleviated at the hands of a professional massage therapist who is specially trained in working with pregnant women. Some of the benefits of regular massage during pregnancy include:

• Relief from muscle spasms and cramps, especially in the back and neck.

• Increased blood circulation, which brings more blood o the tissues and to the placenta, providing greater nutrition to the tissues and enhanced waste product removal.

• Increased circulation of the lymphatic system, resulting in less swelling and more energy.

• Improved muscle tone.

• Increased relaxation, brought about by the sedation effect of massage on the nervous system, as well as by the release of endorphins.

• Reduction of stress.

• Development of sensory awareness.

• Alleviation of stress on weight-bearing joints.

• Emotional support and physical nurturance.

If you are interested in experiencing this type of therapy, be sure to use a licensed massage therapist. He or she should be aware of any pregnancy restraints, such as the contraindication of deep tissue work.

You may prefer to have your partner massage you. This can be pleasurable experience for you both, as long as he uses gentle touch. You can sit up, straddling a chair and facing backwards, or you can lie down on the edge of a bed, in a side-lying position with pillows under your neck and abdomen, and between your legs. If you use the later position, your partner can kneel on the floor or sit in a chair, and massage one side of your body. Then you can role to the other edge of the bed so that he can massage your other side. Choose the position that you find most comfortable. Select a warm, quiet place, and use scented candles and soft music for soothing and relaxing atmosphere. The use of oil or lotion will make stroking easier. It is important that you take a few minutes to rest following the massage and have assistance when getting up. Make sure you drink plenty of water to flush out the toxins that are released during the massage.

The following are suggested massage routines for your partner to try on you. Your partner can vary the techniques according to your preferences and as he feels comfortable. Be sure to let him know if any of his stroking causes pain or discomfort.

For the Labor Partner: Back and Shoulder Massage

The following routines is excellent for relieving tension in the back and shoulder area:

1. Have the woman sit backwards on a chair, leaning over a pillow on the chair back. Stand, kneel, or sit on another chair directly behind her.

2. Pour a little oil into the palm of your hand and rub your hands together until they are warm.

3. Place your hands on the woman’s lower back, with your palms on either side of her spine. Slowly and gently move your hands up her back, across her shoulders, and then down along the sides of her back. Repeat this motion several times, covering her whole back with oil and checking for tension.

4. On the woman’s lower back, place your thumbs in the grooves on either side of spine. Using moderate pressure, make small circular movements with your thumbs, slowly moving up the back. When you reach the top of the spine, place your index fingers on either side and gently bring your hands down the back. Repeat this motion three times.

5. Massage the woman’s neck area by cupping one hand on the back of her neck at the base of the skull. Gently squeeze, then gradually move your hand down the neck, continuing to squeeze and release. Repeat this three times.

6. Cup your hands on the woman’s shoulders close to her neck. Squeeze her shoulders, using your full hands, and work from the neck out to the ends of the shoulders. Be careful not to pinch. Repeat this three times.

7. Finish with a light full-hand massage, beginning at the top of the woman’s head and slowly moving down her back to her buttocks. Repeat this three times.

For the Labor Partner: Hand and Arm Massage

The following routine helps to relax the woman’s hands and arms:

1. Have the woman sit backwards on a chair, leaning over a pillow on the chair back. Stand in front and slightly to the side of the woman.

2. Pour a little oil into the palm of your hand and rub your hands together until they are warm

3. Gently lift one of the woman’s arms at the wrist using both your hands. Apply gentle traction and use an easy jiggle motion to relax the arm.

4. Turn the woman’s palm up and use your thumbs to make small circles over the entire palm.

5. Turn her hand over and, starting at the pinky fingernail, lightly compress the entire length of the finger as you move toward the base. Apply gentle traction to the finger when you reach the base. Repeat with the remaining three fingers and the thumb.

6. Hold the woman’s wrist with one hand as you stroke the outer aspect of her arm, starting at the wrist and slowly moving up the entire length of the arm. You can use long strokes or a gentle cupping and squeezing motion. Repeat this motion three times.

7. Switch your hands and stroke the inner aspect of her same arm. Repeat this motion three times.

8. Massage the muscle at the top of her shoulder with your full palm, making circular motions.

9. Finish the massage by stroking down the entire length of the arm.

Repeat the sequence with the other hand and arm.

For the Labor Partner: Foot Massage

The following routine soothes not only the feet, but the entire body:

1. Have the woman sit in a chair; sit in another chair facing her. Rest her foot on a pillow in your lap.

2. Pour a little oil into the palm of your hand and rub your hands together until they are warm.

3. Place one hand on the bottom of the woman’s foot and the other hand on the top. Pull down and off her foot as if you were “pulling” out her tension. Repeat this motion three times.

4. Cup your hand around her heel. Gently squeeze the back of her foot.

5. Place your thumb just below her ankle bone and gently circle this area with firm pressure. It is important that you do not go any higher than the ankle bone. An acupressure point is located just above the ankle, and stimulating it could initiate labor.

6. Gently work the arch with your thumbs, using circular motions to cover the entire arch area.

7. Lightly stroke each toe, working from the big toe to the little one.

8. Finish by again putting one hand on the bottom of the woman’s foot, one hand on top of her foot, and pulling down and off the foot. Repeat this motion three times.

Repeat the entire sequence with the other foot.

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