Finding a Massage Practitioner
There are many organizations that certify or train massage therapy practitioners. Some actually offer certifications in pregnancy and the childbearing year. You should always interview the person you are working with, even if it is someone you have been seeing for years, about their knowledge of pregnancy and its related issues.
Your massage therapist should be forthcoming about his or her training. Some may even request a specific release from your doctor or midwife to allow you to continue receiving massages throughout pregnancy. Some practitioners of massage will not perform massages on women who are less than 12 weeks' gestation. While massage has never been implicated in early miscarriage, it is important to talk to your doctor or midwife and your massage therapist about concerns related to your physical well-being in pregnancy.
It is important that you find a practitioner who is trained to deal with pregnant women. There are certain points in your body and certain types of massage that you do not want in pregnancy. If someone is not trained, they can actually harm you during pregnancy. An example would be certain acupressure points near your ankles that can stimulate early contractions.
Your Massage Experience
If you have never had a massage before, you might be wondering what actually happens during a massage. Part of what happens will depend on the type and length of massage, as well as your practitioner and your comfort levels. Generally speaking, massage is performed with you lying down on a special table, with a section cut out for your expanding abdomen, or with your body propped on pillow bolsters to prevent you from lying on your back. The room usually has dimmed lighting to promote relaxation. There may also be candles or aromatherapy to add to the effects.
As pregnant women are very sensitive to smells, never hesitate to tell your therapist how the smells she is using affect you. You can even bring your own scents or request unscented lotions should the smells be aggravating to your senses.
Many therapists have you remove your clothing completely or down to the underwear, no bra. That said, there is a sheet and/or blanket used to cover you the entire massage. Some forms of massage are done over the blanket to ensure your privacy, while still providing you with the best massage physically. Removing clothing is obviously not acceptable for all, and again is something you need to discuss with the practitioner.
Professional massage, while nice, is not for everyone. You may, therefore, choose to supplement visits with your massage therapist with massages from your partner, or even a good friend. These are great stress relievers, particularly at the end of the day.
Suggest to your partner that you practice some of the relaxation techniques you have learned prior to bed each night. This has the added benefits of relaxing you mentally and physically and can help you sleep more soundly.
Do not be fearful of how to massage someone. The techniques are easy to learn. Many childbirth classes incorporate massage into their class schedules because the benefit is so great. If you haven't yet signed up for a class, just tell your partner what feels good or what is hurting. Massage tends to be a pretty instinctual experience. If the massage you receive isn't exactly what you need, offer to massage your partner the way you'd like to be massaged. This usually gets the message across very efficiently.
While a massage sounds great, you may be thinking you simply don't have the time. Try a quick massage of either your hands or feet done with a partner or by yourself to help relieve tension and prevent common problems of pregnancy like carpal tunnel syndrome.
As you see, relaxation is a key to understanding the body's processes throughout life and particularly during pregnancy. As stress can have a negative impact on your physical, mental, and emotional well-being, you need to be aware of the tension that can gather in your body. Using the tools discussed in this chapter, you can reduce the negative effects of stress and tension on your mind and body. This will also help prepare you for the roller coaster of parenting.