For many women, pregnancy comes with aches, pains and fatigue. A massage during pregnancy, also known as a prenatal massage, can help provide relaxation, rest and tranquility for moms-to-be.
The goal of prenatal massage is to loosen tense muscles, ease sore spots, and improve circulation and mobility. At Sharp, massage therapists — certified in prenatal massage — tailor the massage session to the needs of the pregnant woman and her changing body.
"Pregnant women want to relieve the tension building up in their joints and muscles," says Marjeanne Estes, CMT, a certified massage therapist at the Cushman Wellness Center, at Sharp Memorial Outpatient Pavilion. "There is so much we can do as massage therapists to help make them comfortable and alleviate some of those discomforts during their pregnancy."
Prenatal massage can be beneficial throughout an entire pregnancy; however, women who are considered high risk should talk to their doctor before seeking a massage therapist.
"My main concern during massage sessions is to keep the woman and baby safe," says Gloria Sobol, HHP, a certified massage therapist at the Cushman Wellness Center. "It is important to seek a massage therapist who is specialized in prenatal massage."
A woman's positioning during the massage is important to her safety and the baby's safety. The massage is often performed on the woman's side in the "side-lying" position to support the baby and ensure blood supply isn't blocked.
As a woman's body changes during pregnancy to accommodate the growing baby, her posture and balance can be affected. Some posture changes can add to edema, or excess fluid in the body's tissues. Massage therapists can use techniques to help a pregnant woman find a better posture so she is more aware of how she is sitting and standing.
Prenatal massage is offered at the Cushman Wellness Center and as a service to patients at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns.
"It has helped to temporarily relieve lower back pain, tightness in my hips and cramping in my legs — all associated with my pregnancy," says Chelsey Koga, a Cushman Wellness Center prenatal massage client. "It's a great way for to moms-to-be to relax. I enjoy the time dedicated to taking care of myself."
In addition to easing discomfort associated with pregnancy, prenatal massage can help the mom-to-be prepare for labor by training the muscles for release and support during childbirth. Women who receive regular massage therapy can feel more connected to their body, which can help shorten and lessen complications during labor and delivery.
"I always think a happier mom makes a happier baby," Sobol says.