Prenatal & Postnatal Massage Advanced Techniques, Level 1 & 2 (including high risk/special needs clients and postpartum work) (NZ College of Massage)
Reframe Pelvic Girdle Pain: A 21st Century Approach (Reframe Rehab).
Pregnancy & Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist certification (Core Exercise Solutions)
Bachelor Therapeutic and Sports Massage (Southern Institute of Technology)
Pregnancy massage is helpful to address aches and pains, reduce discomfort and promote relaxation. Specific areas can be targeted, or it can be a full-body protocol to help you relax, rebalance and unwind.
The changing weight of the body in pregnancy causes the brain to perceive the body differently. This can lead to pregnancy adaptations whereby new movement strategies are created, impacting movement and alignment. Massage can address altered muscle length that results from these new strategies.
Changes occur throughout the trimesters. As the uterus expands, the centre of gravity moves the body forward, placing more weight on the forefoot and stiffness in the ankle joint to prevent falling. Pelvic and hip positions change with uterine expansion, the pelvis rotates forward (into anterior pelvic tilt) and the hips rotate outward (into external rotation) giving us that 'duck' waddle gait. As the baby grows, there is less space in the ribcage area, displacing the diaphragm and leading to increased ribcage width to allow for normal lung capacity. Extra weight on the front of the body, from increased breast size and the expanding uterus, can contribute to a rounded midback and increased extension of the spine. These altered body positions can contribute to general achiness, and massage to these areas is helpful to soothe and reduce these sensations.
My approach to pregnancy massage is to relax the nervous system. Research shows us that an overstimulated nervous system can pre-sensitise structures in our body at a time when they are already experiencing a lot of change. What are some of the causes of an overstimulated nervous system? Lack of sleep is the biggie. During pregnancy, sleep can often feel like a luxury. If you have children already, their sleep patterns may also be disrupting your own. Need I mention night-time toilet trips...?
“Pelvic pain means that your pelvic structures are sensitised. Movement avoidance, muscle tension, lack of sleep, inactivity, stress and worry can sensitise them...the brain acts as an amplifier; the more you worry about your pain and focus on it the worse it gets (1)”
Beyond sleep, our own stress levels can be causative of an overstimulated nervous system. Stress from managing work and family, coping with new pressures within the relationship, caring for other children, worry about the birth, the added context of prior birth-trauma and finally, the rapid changes in the body as the pregnancy progresses. Changing hormone levels also play a part in the sensitivity of the system.
Massage can soothe the nervous system, reducing stress and promoting good sleep, invoking deep relaxation, even as I work to reduce niggly aches and pains.
Motion is lotion
Good function and movement are important to reduce any minor niggles in pregnancy. Movement can help dampen down the nervous system as well as improve our mental health. Novel movement is calming to the nervous system and can help to reduce any sensations of pain in pregnancy.
Diaphragmatic breathing improves function of the pelvic floor muscles, strengthens the diaphragm and tones the vagus nerve, sending feedback to the brain that all is good and activating the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting rest and relaxation.
A reduction in pain and achiness directly enhances our ability to cope with our day-to-day lives, and this is our right, at any time, but especially at this time, on the most wonderful of journeys.
1 Beales, D., Slater, H., Palsson, T., O'Sullivan, P. (2020). Understanding and managing pelvic girdle pain from a person-centred biopsychosocial perspective. Musculoskeletal Science and Practice. 48 (102152)