When I was pregnant (the first time), I often found myself daydreaming about what was going on inside my body. I was obsessed with what size fruit my baby was, what changes happened that week, and how all of this was going on seemingly without me actively doing anything. (During my second pregnancy, mom-brain took over and there was a lot less daydreaming because it took all my capacity to keep up with a toddler!) It was all those hours of fascination and wonder that birthed my passion for all things natal and caused me to transition my massage therapy career to prenatal and postnatal wellness.
Prenatal massage is (and isn’t) just that - massage therapy during pregnancy. It is, in that the same theories, techniques, and applications are used as in “regular” massage therapy, but it isn’t because the prenatal experience is so unique and complex. At AltaVie, we acknowledge the intricacies of each mom’s pregnancy journey, previous birth experience, and future birth wishes to provide a holistic, personalized treatment plan.
When treating prenatal clients, we take into consideration that the women we are supporting are not just one but two bodies, growing and changing at a dramatic pace, with implications that surpass the muscular system. Pregnancy is a time of immense physical change but it also a time when women experience a wide range of emotional and hormonal changes that can affect their day-to-day experience, both positively and negatively.
Prenatal Massage is a safe and effective way that we can support women through the gamut of changes that they are experiencing during this phase of life. We commonly see women who are are experiencing muscle pain and discomfort due to the weight gain and postural changes their body makes to accommodate the baby growing inside. Often times, these physical changes can lead to headaches, sleep disturbances, mood changes, and a variety of other symptoms (think sciatica, carpal tunnel syndrome, swelling, and the list goes on). Prenatal massage can also help with overall wellbeing by helping to balance out the nervous system and manage the bodies response to stress.
What to expect during a prenatal massage
A big question around prenatal massage, and perhaps another significant difference of prenatal massage, is “how do I lay on the table?!”. We have lots of options for you here. We have and often use special cushions designed to allow expectant moms to lay face-down safely while keeping babe suspended underneath them. However, if mom is uncomfortable for whatever reason, we are also able to treat any and all concerns in a side-lying position. Our tables are also equipped to support the upper body in a reclined position if laying flat on your back makes you nauseous or uncomfortable. We are trained problem solvers, so if mom is uncomfortable with any aspect of the treatment, we will find another way. We want to empower our moms to have the treatment they need and the freedom to practice expressing their wants and physical preferences.
Alongside the hands-on aspect of prenatal massage, we also like to balance the treatment with specific home care to help maximize the benefits. For many women, that includes strengthening exercises and specific stretches while for others it may take the shape of relaxation and breathing techniques to help with sleep and stress. We may even add kinesiology tape to support your body in between massages. Again, no pregnancy experience is the same (even in the same person!) so we believe that each treatment and home care routine should be focused on the woman standing in our treatment room at that moment.
I often hear that many people expect prenatal massage to be a pampering, relaxation-focused massage only, and it definitely can be, but each prenatal treatment is as unique as the mom walking in the door. We are still able to “get work done” and provide therapeutic massage during pregnancy. We do our best to detail the symptoms that each woman is having, the outcomes they hope for in their birth, and their “that day, that minute” experience to tailor a treatment that specifically addresses them (and their baby).
We are always open to answering questions if there is a specific concern you may have regarding prenatal massage or whether this is the right therapy for you.
And, yes, we do want to rub your belly!
This post was written by Registered Massage Therapist Hilary Krumm. Her practice focuses almost entirely on pregnancy and postnatal women's health. All of our massage therapist are trained and experienced in prenatal massage.