Pregnancy Massage, Part 2 - Emotional & Physical changes

Emotional & Physical Change during Pregnancy

In today’s blog, we will look at some of the emotional changes that may occur for some mothers-to-be. I will also list some of the many physical changes that occur during pregnancy and point out the muscles that are most affected.

Emotional changes that may occur during pregnancy.

For most women, pregnancy is a happy and joyful time. But this is not the case for all women. It is useful for the therapist to know the mind-set of his or her client as this knowledge can assist in providing a holistic and supportive treatment, tailored specifically for each individual client.

Some pregnant women may feel unattractive due to some of the physical changes happening to their bodies, such as weight gain, skin breakout or discoloration, aches and pains (the lower back is very susceptible) and restricted movement, particularly in later pregnancy.

This may lead to a withdrawal from physical contact with a partner and can even lead to a woman not wanting to touch or look at her own body. These feelings can be upsetting for the mother-to-be and can take away from the enjoyment she could experience during the development of her baby.

Sometimes, I suggest that both the mother-to-be and her partner have massage together as the shared experience can be a time of bonding. It also allows me to show the partner some massage techniques that he/she could use at home to help ease any discomfort for the mother-to-be.

A mother-to-be could also suffer with anxiety about the development of her unborn child and especially about the birth itself. Massage helps to bring about relaxation and reduce anxiety. It is widely believed that more relaxed mothers tend to have a lower risk of interventions during labour and the birthing process.

Physical changes that occur during pregnancy.

During pregnancy, a hormone called Relaxin is produced in the placenta. The purpose of this hormone is to soften the ligaments that support the pelvic joints thus making them more ‘stretchable’ so that childbirth is easier. Unfortunately, this causes the joints, muscles and tendons in the pelvic area to become less stable and can result in back and hip pain. 

  • Weight gain increases the curvature of the lumbar spine which puts stress on the bones and joints resulting in lower back pain.  

  • Pressure on the bladder, by the uterus, leads to increased urination and sometimes urine leakage.  

  • The enlarged uterus also pushes the intestines and stomach upwards while the displaced digestive system is handling increased food intake. This can lead to heart burn and other digestive issues.  

  • The lungs increase oxygen consumption by 10 to 20 %, which requires a 30 to 40% increase of inhaled air, while the diaphragm is pushed upward by the enlarged uterus.  

  • Blood flow in the kidneys is increased by 35% and filtering function increases by 40%.  

  • The heart increases the total blood volume by 30 to 50%. 

So, as you can see from this list of just some of the changes that take place in the body during pregnancy, the increased blood and lymph circulation that occur during massage treatments are of great benefit to your pregnant client.

Finally, the following muscles require extra manipulation and attention during a pregnancy massage. They experience extra strain as a result of the weight gain which causes misalignment and postural adjustment. You need to pay special attention to: 

  • Sternocleidomastoid, Trapezius and Supraspinatus  

  • Leavator Scapulae, Erector Spinae and Abdominals  

  • Pelvic floor muscles, Gluteus and Hip rotators  

  • Quadriceps, Adductors, Peroneals, Gastrocnemius and Soleus. 

Wrapping up this three-part series on Pregnancy Massage next blog will look at the adjustments and adaptations that the massage therapist needs to make to ensure a safe and comfortable experience for her client.

Mary – always here to help you help your clients

Pregnancy Massage, Part 3 - Positioning Adaptations