a pregnant woman's belly

Natural progression

The physical changes that occur during pregnancy are some of nature’s most incredible wonders… wonders that can be downright uncomfortable.

As the body adjusts to accommodate the expanding uterus, organs begin shifting and ligaments stretching, and that alone can cause some serious discomfort. Add to this the pressure (from baby’s rapidly increasing weight) on the pelvic bone and on the nerves that run between pelvis and legs and you have a recipe for a tense and achy disaster. Obviously there is also a significant weight gain which the spine must support, and with an altered centre of gravity often comes a gradual change in posture which can cause muscle and joint strain. Fluid retention, sleeplessness, cramping, fatigue; doesn’t sound fun so far, does it? Thankfully it’s always worth it when the end result is a healthy bouncing bub, and there are some measures we can take to manage the symptoms. Exercise, of course. And… you guessed: massage is one of them.

Massage increases blood circulation, which is of particular importance to the uterus and placenta during pregnancy, providing more oxygen and nutrients to both mother and baby. It improves the function of the lymph system which is responsible for the removal of toxins, resulting in boosts in immunity. But aside from remedying many of the aches and discomforts experienced during pregnancy, the mental benefits are similarly notable.

You probably don’t need to read this post to know that massage is relaxing. The comforting sensation of human touch in a calm, quiet environment with no buzzing electronics or nagging children is something I’m sure we all crave, and massage guarantees you an allotted time to focus on breathing and centring the mind. Whether you are in the room for 30 or 90 minutes, you are experiencing a period of complete stillness. You can choose to have meditative music playing in the background, and can request the use of pregnancy-approved essential oil; your therapy is your time to free your body and mind of stress. Let’s explore what happens during the massage.

Cortisol is called the ‘stress hormone’. It’s similar to adrenaline and is released when faced with a stressful situation, when the body is thrown into survival mode by its ‘fight or flight’ mechanism. Irrespective of any additional sources of stress, cortisol levels begin to climb during the second trimester of pregnancy and are substantially higher than usual in the weeks leading up to the birth. This hormone plays a very important role in nature, particularly in regulating body functions during life-threatening situations, and in priming pregnant women and their fetuses for labour – if it is secreted in optimal amounts. Trouble occurs when cortisol is released continuously, resulting in dangerously elevated levels. This has been linked to increased risk of early miscarriage. Massage helps the body regulate cortisol levels, recede from this ‘red alert’ state and restore a sense of calm. Reduced cortisol levels will also help to keep blood pressure in check which is crucially important during pregnancy to prevent complications with the mother’s organs and the delivery of her baby.

JoAnn Hill
Therapist JoAnn Hill, here with son Jake (a while ago…. Jake’s a bigger boy now)

All the massage therapists at the Balmain Massage and Wellness Centre are qualified to provide pregnancy massage and are able to give you the particular care and understanding required during this precious time.
“Pregnancy massage is safe for all stages, but there are slight modifications in terms of pressure in some areas”, says JoAnn Hill, one of our more experienced pregnancy massage therapists. From approximately the start of the second trimester, depending on individual development, a special pregnancy cushion is placed on the massage table to allow women to lay on their stomach and be completely supported and can be adjusted as the body changes.

Pregnancy cushion on massage table
Pregnancy cushion on massage table

If you have been experiencing any aches or discomforts in your pregnancy, including muscle or joint pain, tension, headaches, cramps, fatigue, mild varicose veins, colds or congestion, heartburn and acid reflux, stiffness and knots or shortness of breath, massage may help a lot. We suggest you check with your doctor before making an appointment if you have any concerns. If you get the green light, give us a call on 9555 5121 or 0406 896 525 or book from our website. Booking online will also get you some extra points in “frequentlywell”, our loyalty rewards program.

Watch our Blaise Bowling as she talks about pregnancy massage, while being pregnant herself (she’s now the mum of a gorgeous boy of two and a half). And Blaise features again – this time in the role as the person on the massage table – in a video with JoAnn Hill.

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