One of the most rewarding parts of working with specialized populations such as expectant moms, is dispelling common myths about what type of massage is and is not appropriate for them. In many of my lectures about prenatal work, my first comment to the therapists in my class is, “Pregnant women are not sick! It’s Ok to touch them!” This opening line stems from the hundreds of comments I have received from prenatal clients expressing frustration with the timid, fearful touch they have received in previous prenatal massage experiences. While caution is absolutely necessary in working with prenatal clients in particular, I find that my prenatal clients are not nearly as fragile as most textbooks and teachers make them out to be. Especially our female athletes. In fact, a woman’s activity level before and during pregnancy is a great indicator of what kind of intensity is appropriate during her session. Here is a short list of some considerations for expectant moms and how therapists can work with them.
1.) One of the big concerns with pregnant women is their propensity for blood clots. There is a possibility of a therapist dislodging a clot and that can cause other complications. But in women who are more active, their blood is already being circulated more aggressively, so that risk is minimized. Also by using slower techniques, the therapist can deliver effective work without putting their client at any increased risk.
2.) Another factor to consider during pregnancy is the little extra elasticity present in tissue created by the presence of a hormone called relaxin. Again, if a women was not very active or strong before pregnancy, this could be minor cause for concern as any aggressive manipulation could cause instability in her joints. But in the instance of our athletes who were probably lacking a little bit in flexibility before pregnancy, this risk is very minimal.
3.) One of my absolute favorites that I hear about often is the potential to induce labor by massaging the feet or other acupressure points in the body. At Loosen Up we have been offering what we call an “induction massage” where if the mom is at least 38 weeks along and has no complications, we will put a little extra focus on activating the points and reflexology zones associated with inducing labor. We have had some moms go into labor shortly after leaving our facility but many women don’t go into labor for another day or two or some even still need to be induced. So while many therapists are very apprehensive around these areas, even with intense focus on these points, rarely do women go into labor from working on them.
So many women are participating in advanced level competitive sports now and our previously-held notions of women as these “delicate flowers” who should just rest and stay indoors need to be crushed. The health benefits of activity and a good massage greatly outweigh the minimal risks. The bottom line is that every person and every pregnancy is different and women should be encouraged to explore what works best for them and their families and not be told that they should be fearful of what feels appropriate for them.