Pregnancy Massage is Not a Luxury

Tears, tears, tears… what a hot mess.

This was me after finding out I was pregnant in the fall of 2012. Luckily, Netflix came to my rescue and suggested the documentary The Business of Being Born. Let me just interject and say that if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, you NEED to watch this documentary.  But I digress..  Thirsty for direction and information, I eagerly soaked it all in.  Everything I knew about being pregnant and giving birth (which wasn’t much.. er, which wasn’t anything!) was flipped around. I knew I’d be getting plenty of prenatal massage, but aside from that, I was completely in the dark. You might be thinking, “well, what is there to know? Your body grows the baby, and you go to the hospital and have it… right?”

The killer is that many women don’t even realize they have choices. The problem is this: You don’t know what you don’t know. And once you do know, this whole big, scary, new experience becomes something you can wrap your head around. It becomes something you can take charge of and control (somewhat). Excuse me while I cut to the chase: There are two components to a pleasant pregnancy, and a safe and successful birth.. Physical Health, and Mental/Emotional Health. Massage Therapy lends a helping hand in both categories.

PHYSICAL HEALTH

Prenatal massage is a really great first step in taking care of your body while sporting a baby bump. But don’t wait until your back and hips are aching, or sciatica has wreaked havoc on your legs. Schedule your first massage at 12 weeks along. (Most LMTs won’t touch you until you’ve reached the second trimester) And then stick to it. Make a commitment to yourself and your baby to make massage a regular occurrence during this huge transitional period in your life. As the baby grows, your muscles will need to compensate for the change in center of gravity. Your legs will be working harder to lift you to standing, your lower back will be compromised, and that extra weight, (which is necessary and beautiful) will have you huffing and puffing at the top of a flight of stairs.

Frequent and consecutive massage treatments will help your body adjust to the demands of being pregnant, and alleviate some of the discomfort that comes with the territory. The goal is to maintain healthy balance in the tissues. Other suggestions to keep your body in tip top shape? Prenatal Yoga, working out with a trainer who has experience in prenatal exercise, seeing your Dr. or Midwife regularly, and eating a diet rich in veggies, fruits, and other living foods.

MENTAL/EMOTIONAL HEALTH

A healthy emotional state is the second factor in aiming for a birth story you’ll want to brag about. And it’s often, if not always, over looked when it comes to labor and delivery.

The mental/emotional state of the pregnant or laboring woman is just as important as her physical health. There is so much fear surrounding birth. We are inundated with images and movie scenes chock full of women screaming their heads off in a racing car, only barely making it to the hospital in time. For some bizarre reason, we only ever hear about the horror stories. The women in our lives love to one up each other by telling stories about how long their labor was, as if the more horrifying story “wins.”

And so we are primed from a very young age, to think that this right of passage as a woman is destined to be the most traumatizing experience yet. And that we are strong because we can withstand it all. But  in what world does a freaked out, scared, and hurried mind equal a body that will soften, release, and allow?

Women are strong.

It’s is true that women are strong, but I don’t think the strength lies in how well you put your head down, and charge through it, all the while gritting your teeth and waiting for it all to be over so you can hold your warm coo-ing prize at the end. Let the whole experience be the prize. For CENTURIES women before you have done this. Our bodies are designed to create and birth life. It is the most natural occurrence there is. The strength lies in how openly you  ALLOW this experience. Your strength lies in coming to terms with your fears about birth, and the releasing them. Your strength lies is being okay with whatever the outcome is. Plenty of women have calm, quiet, and peaceful births. Yes, it is possible. I say admit your fears to yourself, and then do the internal work to let them go. Reassure yourself over and over, several times a day, that you CAN do this. Revisit yoga, and meditation. Try a Hypnobirthing class (its not what you think) and keep your massage appointments.

Spending an hour on the table to zone out and relax is not a luxury. It is pretty damn near close to a necessity. Your prenatal massage will help to maintain stress levels and put a stop to the incessant reel of thoughts in your head, even if only for a short while. There is so much value in keeping the mental/emotional part of you healthy, (ESPECIALLY when preparing to give birth) and the steps in order to achieve that, shouldn’t be cast to the side in lieu of getting another errand finished.

Massage reduces action in the Sympathetic Nervous System, bringing you out of “Fight or Flight” and activates the Parasympathetic Nervous System, bringing  you into “Rest and Digest”. This is the place in which your body, mind, & spirit heal and regenerate efficiently.  AKA: Massage biologically relaxes you.

So, do the homework and get out of your own way. Be open and fearless. Educate yourself, practice meditation, embody the warrior woman you want to be, speak with others who have positive stories to share, and surround yourself with supportive – like minded mamas. Be motivated by love, not fear. And by all means take care of you. ALL parts of you. Make this promise to yourself every single day. This isn’t the time to be skimp on self care. Take control of what is happening to you, and instead, happen to IT!

As for me, I recovered from the terror that hit me post pee stick, and am happy to report that Lincoln came into the world softly and peacefully. We couldn’t imagine life without him.

Photos courtesy of [1] Creative Commons/Tan Family and [2] Stephanie Palermo