Massage Therapy and Pregnancy
Pregnancy is a very exciting time, but can also be demanding on a woman’s body. The changing body brings with it aches and pains, including back pain, leg and foot pain, and other muscle pains. Massage therapy can have many of the same goals during pregnancy as during any other time, whether that be relaxing tense muscles, improving mobility or easing sore spots; however it is tailored to the specific needs and experiences of pregnant women and their changing bodies. Research has shown that pregnancy massage can be an integral part of a woman’s prenatal care, and is a safe and effective way to assist in a woman’s positive experience of pregnancy.
Mood and Outcome
In one study, after receiving regular massage therapy, women reported decreased depression, anxiety, leg and back pain. Cortisol levels decreased and, in turn, excessive fetal activity decreased. In a subsequent study, in which pregnant women were massaged for 16 weeks, in addition to all of the beneficial effects previously stated, pregnancy outcomes were improved, and there was a lower rate of premature birth.
Studies have explored the use of massage therapy to help manage pain among women in active labour. At a hospital in British Columbia, Swedish massage was administered for up to five hours by a Registered Massage Therapist during labor. One finding of this pilot study was that women who received massage therapy, as opposed to standard care, delayed their use of epidural analgesia. Massage therapy can decrease pain in all three stages of labour (latent, active and transition) and is a safe treatment that will complement the care you are receiving from your doctor and other healthcare providers.
Low-back pain is a common complaint among pregnant women, which can negatively impact their quality of life. It is estimated that 50% of women will suffer from low-back pain during their pregnancy, and one third of those women will suffer from severe. Only 50% of women experiencing pregnancy related low back pain will seek advice from a healthcare professional. Massage therapy is one of the common treatments sought for the management of pregnancy related low-back pain. There is an emerging body of evidence that massage therapy may be an effective short-term option for non-specific low-back pain. According to researchers at Group Health Research Institute and the University of Washington in Seattle, massage therapy can also help relieve chronic low-back pain more effectively than the usual medical treatment.
Massage Therapy and Pregnancy
Massage therapy can improve overall prenatal health for pregnant women, and should be considered an important option to consider along with regular prenatal care. In addition to relieving the typical aches and pains associated with pregnancy, massage therapy has also been associated with better pregnancy outcomes and a reduced risk of premature birth. Massage therapy during pregnancy, as with any condition, should depend on the needs and experiences of the individuals, and should be discussed with the RMT before treatment.
MTAS gratefully acknowledges the Registered Massage Therapists' Association of Ontario (RMTAO) for their generous permission to use the material in this section.
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