The Many Benefits of Postpartum Massage
You may have heard that prenatal massage is good for mom and baby, but did you know that the benefits grow postpartum? The American Pregnancy Association did! According to them, postpartum massage is a great holistic approach to help with the adjustment into motherhood. Not only has massage proven to help with stress, anxiety and sore muscles, it's been proven to help with the many woes a new mom experiences, such as hormone imbalance, depression, soreness, discomfort, frustration and a lack of sleep. It even speeds up the healing process (especially with c-sections), restoring the body to it's pre-pregnancy condition and helping mom and baby adjust to this new stage of life.
The Science Behind It
During pregnancy, a woman's body goes through a multitude of changes such as weight gain, increased fluids (by up to 50%) and hormonal changes to help the body cope. Estrogen and progesterone decrease, and while in labor prolactin and oxytocin increase. There may also be a decrease in dopamine and seratonin after labor, which is responsible for the postpartum blues most women feel after labor, or even postpartum depression, which is more severe and requires treatment in order to protect mom and baby's health. There may also be a change in the levels of norepinephrine, which is responsible for cardiovascular health.
There are numerous studies surrounding the benefits of massage in general and these benefits hold true for new moms, along with additional benefits that can be seen during postpartum sessions. These include hormone regulation, swelling reduction, improved sleep, improved breastfeeding, body recovery (especially in c-sections) and body restoration.
Here's how it works:
During a massage, circulation and lymphatic drainage increases, allowing the body to heal quickly and remove excess fluids more efficiently. This is why it's so important to stay hydrated before and after a massage! You'll also find that during a massage, the body releases oxytocin and endorphins which battle depression, anxiety and stress. This allows the new mom to fully relax, maybe even fall asleep on the table! There have also been studies that prove that massage helps to increase Delta waves, which leads to better sleep therefore leading to a quicker healing time. This is why doctors recommend resting while you're not feeling well and sleeping whenever Baby does; it allows the body time to regenerate and restore.
Certain techniques may also help moms with breast discomfort or difficulty nursing. Since massage increases circulation, this can lead to a decrease in sodium and an increase in prolactin levels, allowing the body to produce more milk. Massage can also relieve pain by helping "congested" areas release, allowing milk ducts to loosen and milk to flow more freely. Breast massage is such a great way to improve circulation and help milk flow, but it's important to check that it's legal in your state as not everyone will offer it. However, general postpartum massage will still help with breast discomfort.
Aromatherapy and Postpartum Massage
Aromatherapy can also be used during postpartum massage as the essential oils can be beneficial for mom and baby, speeding up recovery time and allowing for better sleep. It's important to note that if you are breastfeeding, your range of essential oils may be limited in order to protect your baby's health.
When Postpartum Massage Should Start
You can start getting postpartum massages from a certified pre and peri-natal massage therapist whenever you feel most comfortable. For some women, that may take longer depending on other factors such as having gotten a c-section or breastfeeding. However, most therapists will be able to accommodate those experiencing discomfort by working in the side-lying position, back, or stomach (if you can)!
If you experienced any complications during pregnancy or labor, it's important to check with your doctor first to get the green light!
Bringing Baby In
Some moms may savor the little time alone they may have when getting a massage, but for others, an important question is raised: can I bring my newborn with me?
The answer is, almost always, YES! Some massage therapists even encourage bringing your baby with you to help strengthen the bond between mother and child. However, it's still important to check with the therapist to make sure they are comfortable having your baby there, and they have extra time set aside in case an extra feeding or diapering needs to take place.
Postpartum massage is an essential step on the road to recovery after going through pregnancy and labor. These both take a heavy toll on the body, and needs all the help it can get to go back to its pre-pregnancy state. Here at Massage La Mesa, all our therapists are trained in prenatal and perinatal massage, allowing you to fully round out your healing and letting you enjoy all the benefits massage has!
For resources and a community built around pregnancy, labor and postpartum life, visit www.babycenter.com.
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