I once worked with a massage therapist who commented, “Pregnant women are all of a sudden so body aware when before they just seemed to ignore things going on in their body.”
There are so many physical changes that happen in a short time span, it certainly does make an expecting mom, body aware. Weight gain of 1 pound per week; adding up to 25-40 on average total. Fifty percent more blood volume. Fluid retention and swollen limbs. And these just to name a few.
Pregnancy massage can be one of the best things you can do for your body during such an important time of your life. The 40 weeks of pregnancy can seem like a long time when you’re going through it, and these changes can be pretty tough on your body. It’s a great time to start being aware and taking care of it. The American Pregnancy Association notes that studies of massage therapy performed during pregnancy show “reduced anxiety, a decrease in the symptoms of depression, relief from muscle aches and joint pains, and improvement in labor outcomes and newborn health.” http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/prenatalmassage.html

The best time to begin receiving prenatal massage is during the second trimester. Many massage therapists will not work on women in their first trimester because the risks of miscarriage are the highest then. We will often work with this case-by-case basis depending on the woman and her medical history and what we will be specifically massaging. Positioning for prenatal massage starting in the second trimester is in the side-lying position. This is usually how women are sleeping by this point, so it’s pretty comfortable. If a woman has a lot of neck tension I will usually also have her on her back for a part of the massage because that is the best way for me to access those muscles. A pregnant woman can usually spend time on her back into the third trimester. After a point it can be uncomfortable because the uterus is so heavy, and can compress some blood vessels.
Most women notice the biggest muscular changes in increased tension in their back and hips (buttocks). The increased tension in the hips often causes sciatic nerve pain. The sciatic nerve runs from the low back, through the hips, and all of way down the leg. Compression anywhere along this nerve can cause pain all of the way down the leg and be uncomfortable while sitting, standing, or sleeping. The increased tension is often caused by the change of body posture with the pelvis/hips tilting forward to accommodate the growing uterus. It is also attributed to losing abdominal strength. When we lift, bend, sit, stand, or walk, as non-pregnant people we use the strength of both our abdominal muscles and back muscles to move or stabilize us.  When pregnant, you lose most, or all, of your abdominal strength. So, to maintain balance in the body the back and hips take most of that work, which often causes this discomfort and increased tension. Massage can help decrease the tension that builds in those muscles which will help with overall comfort in movement and sleep. Swelling in the joints and limbs is also very common during pregnancy. Massage can help increase circulation and stimulate tissues to decrease collection of fluids.
Pregnancy causes many changes and can be straining on your body. Massage therapy is a great way to increase your overall health while pregnant. Talk with your prenatal care provider if you have any questions.
Written by: Katie Duerr, massage therapist and mom