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Massage During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is often depicted as a joyful nine months, but the physical reality of gestating another human being often includes a myriad of complaints that can usually benefit from a massage therapist’s expertise.

Knowing how massage therapy best helps women who are pregnant – as well as the cautions and contraindications that will help guide every massage session – is necessary for therapists who work with these clients.

Even with the need for increased awareness and a more in-depth understanding of pregnancy, there is an expansive body of research that supports massage therapy’s many advantages during the prenatal, labor, and postpartum periods.

Pregnancy Massage Benefits include:

  • Alleviating back + leg pain

  • Reducing labor pain during childbirth

  • Lessening postoperative pain

  • Reducing anxiety + stress

  • Improving mood + lifting depression

  • Easing insomnia

Research That Supports Massage for Pregnancy

Research dating back two decades began to confirm the benefits of massage therapy during pregnancy, with a 1999 study in the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology finding reduced anxiety, improved mood, better sleep and less back pain among expectant mothers who received massage twice weekly for five weeks.

Additional early research added even more insight into massage’s role in facilitating a healthier pregnancy.

A small 2006 study in the Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences showed massage was a solid integrative treatment for severe pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting, while a 2009 study in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies on 112 pregnant women diagnosed with depression suggested those receiving psychotherapy plus massage over a six-week period experienced greater drops in depression than those getting psychotherapy alone.

Meanwhile, a 2009 study in Infant Behavior & Development also focused on pregnant women with depression, finding those undergoing massage therapy not only experienced less depression at the end of 12 weeks, but also carried that benefit into the postpartum period. And a 2010 literature review in Expert Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology showed massage therapy decreased depression, anxiety, and leg and back pain in pregnant women, also indicating those in labor used less pain medication and had labors averaging three hours shorter than average.

American Massage Therapy Association

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