Confessions of a therapist

A soothing touch for expectant mums

A soothing touch for expectant mums

Few need a massage more than a pregnant woman does!I received a call for help from a young man who was very concerned about the welfare of his heavily pregnant wife.He said she was within weeks of giving birth and was suffering with horrendous backache from carrying her heavy load.Now, my therapy coach has a face hole so those with flatter stomachs can lay face down for a back massage, but as yet I have not invested in a couch with space to house a baby bump. I’m assured they do exist though! I’m also assured they are not recommended.There are a lot of does and don’ts about massaging during pregnancy. Although there is little evidence that massage brings about miscarriage, many therapists would avoid taking on a client during the first three months of pregnancy and some would steer clear of the very late stages.Only the most experienced in pregnancy massages would use essential oils during such a treatment, and it is also wise to know about certain pressure points which are to be avoided.Massage should also not be carried out if the woman is at risk of preterm labour or suffers with blood clotting disorders. There are other conditions which also affect whether massage is advised, including diabetes, epilepsy, high blood pressure and many more – if in any doubt ask the doctor first. However, the benefits of a gentle back massage do wonders for the mother-to-be by relaxing her and easing the pain most commonly felt in the lower back area.

There are some simple techniques that can be used before the baby is born and even during labour – though protective armour is advised during contractions.

Massage during pregnancy also reduces stress and the strain on her hormonal system and can reduce mood swings; it can relieve muscle cramps; increase the blood and lymph circulation so reducing swelling; it lessens the stress on weight-bearing joints; it can improve labour by easing labour pains; and provides support for the new mother with physical and emotional strains of mothering. A happy mum usually equals a happy baby!There are some simple techniques that can be used before the baby is born and even during labour – though protective armour is advised during contractions.Most important is to make sure the woman is as comfortable as possible. On a massage couch this would be laying on her left hand side at a reclined angle. Pillows and cushions can be used to form a wedge shape raising her head and shoulders. (An at home massage may be more comfortable with her kneeling while resting head, chest and arms on the sofa.)  On a therapy couch or similar, more pillows can then be added between her knees and arms so she feels cosseted and unexposed. A simple base oil such as sweet almond is ideal for massage and can be applied in large sweeping movements from the top of her back and shoulders down the spine to the base, out to the sides and back up to her shoulders. Although there is nothing worse than a tickly massage, it should also not be too heavy handed. Ask what feels good to her.At the base and at either side of the lower spine two soft indentations can be identified and should be massaged in smaller circular motions. This not only feels really nice, but also helps to shift stubborn lymphatic fluids which may be causing swollen tissue.A figure of eight massage using the hand palms across the lower back is ideal for easing tension in that area.Work gently up the spine and either side sweeping your hands away from the spinal column and using gentle pressure with your thumbs. The upper back and especially the shoulder muscles can be massaged with more of a kneading technique such as used in bread making. Light neck massage is also beneficial.End the massage with large circular movements covering the entire back area.The massage should last from between 15 minutes and half an hour, depending on yours and the mother’s comfort. She should then be covered and left to relax for as long as she needs to and offered a drink of water.A word of advice to any husbands pampering their wives – now is not a good time to ask: “Is it my turn yet?”

By Helen SkeneComplements Mobile Health and Healing for Suffolk Women Telephone 01473

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