How Can Massage & Bodywork Help You During Pregnancy?

How Can Massage & Bodywork Help You During Pregnancy?
Massage and Bodywork isn't only for relaxation. 

"Massage therapy has been demonstrated to be effective during pregnancy. Women who received massage therapy reported decreased depression, anxiety, and leg and back pain. Cortisol levels decreased and, in turn, excessive fetal activity decreased, and the rate of prematurity was lower in the massage group. In a study of labor pain, women who received massage therapy experienced significantly less pain, and their labors were on average 3 h shorter with less need for medication. An underlying mechanism we have been exploring is that these effects are mediated by increased vagal activity. This likely occurs by the stimulation of pressure receptors that are innervated by vagal afferent fibers, which ultimately project to the limbic system, including hypothalamic structures involved in autonomic nervous system regulation and cortisol secretion."

In addition to reports of decreased anxiety, depression, reduced pain, and shorter labor with less need for medication, massage can help bring much needed balance and harmony to a growing pregnant body. 

The pregnant body craves balance. The soft tissues sometimes need to be released and restored in order to facilitate a better birth outcome. Fascia is a dynamic covering that links the entire body together. When we apply a gentle pressure, it can remind the body to release and shift into balance. This can release or reduce tension or discomfort and it can also allows for more space for baby to get into an optimal position for birth.

Utilizing various massage techniques, stretching, and body positions allows us to gain more mobility and gives us space to breathe, gives baby space to move, and allows for a better birth outcome. Everyone needs massage and bodywork.

Massage and bodywork can be received at any stage of pregnancy. A well trained pregnancy massage therapist will make adjustments for the growing pregnant body and know about any contraindications. Not every certified pregnancy massage therapist is trained in the same modalities or comfortable with massaging in all stages of pregnancy. 

My personal and professional experience and education gives me confidence. My ability to listen, truly listen, to both verbal cues and body language gives me the wisdom to facilitate balance and healing. 

I recommend to get a massage at all stages of pregnancy. We can discuss your body alignment, holding patterns, and breathing techniques so you can be proactive in reducing risks of imbalances that lead to complications. As your body expands to accommodate a growing baby, massage can help alleviate discomforts and growing pains. Once you're at full term, we can gently palpate pressure points and apply stretching and positioning techniques that prepare the body for labor. Massage and bodywork during labor has also proved to be beneficial in encouraging labor to progress efficiently. 

Interested in booking a session with me? Follow this link to learn more and schedule a massage session with me. I'd love to see you.

Our Miracle

Ready to share

I wanted to write about this right away, but I stopped myself. Instead of writing to process my feelings, I reached out to my support group. I was overwhelmed with their responses and reactions to our diagnosis. The continued prayers and random check ins to see how I was coping was so incredibly encouraging. Now that I have had a follow up visit with a specialist, I am ready to share our story. 

A little history

Let’s begin with a back story. I have three living, beautiful children. Two girls and a boy. My son is sandwiched in the middle and has a diagnosis of Hydrocephaly. He was officially diagnosed when he was five months old and underwent three different brain surgeries before his first birthday. The first was to place a VP shunt to drain the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF), the second was a revision to make sure it was working properly, and the third was decompression of the brain to drain a cerebral hemorrhage (brain bleed). He has multiple food allergies (some that he has successfully outgrown which I attribute to our diligence in healing his gut) and he some learning disabilities (that we are patiently working through). Regardless of my anxiety surrounding my son, he is growing into a strong, vibrant and happy boy who loves life to the fullest. 

November of 2014, about two and a half years after my sons birth, I experienced a pregnancy loss at 13 weeks. A year later I birthed a beautiful, healthy girl who has been an answer to my prayers. Two years after that in September of 2017, I experienced another pregnancy loss, at 20 weeks. (I wrote about it here) And yet one more early loss in 2018. During each of these pregnancies, I felt that something was “off” or just not quite right. I also had this feeling while I was pregnant with my son, and my intuition ended up being right. We never learned the sex of the babies that lost, but I have a strong feeling they were all boys. I told myself that I just can’t grow a boy without complications, and I believed it to be true. 

Facing my fears

Fast forward to this pregnancy. After living in fear of getting pregnant, I faced my fear. In January 2020, I learned that I was pregnant again and this time I felt good about it. However, I have had a long road of overcoming fears. I opted for genetic testing, for the first time – mainly to find out what the sex is early so that I could mentally and emotionally prepare myself. At the end of my first trimester, I learned that this baby is a boy. I cried for two days. Because I was afraid. Afraid of experiencing another loss or another child who would need constant medical intervention. Afraid of the anxiety and depression that could accompany any of those experiences. And I mourned for my previous losses.

After allowing time to mourn and acknowledge my angst, I knew it was time to move forward. To overcome those fears and to live in the present moment I started to thank God for this new life growing within me. I declared hope and joy over this pregnancy instead of fear and sorrow. I could feel this baby growing strong with each movement that he made, but I still had anxiety about the 18 week anatomy scan, and unfortunately because of precautions surrounding covid-19, I had to go the ultrasound solo, without my husband. 

The Ultrasound

During this anatomy ultrasound, we learned that baby was growing strong and healthy. Everything looked great – except, he has a single umbilical artery (SUA or a 2 vessel cord). Most umbilical cords have 3 vessels, one vein and two arteries. They only found one artery and one vein. Cue the dramatic music as I felt my heart sink and my fear confirmed “see, it’s true, I can’t grow a boy without medical complications.” I was already a wreck during that appointment because of my previous experience with learning about the loss of my baby in 2017 with the same Ultrasound Tech and in the same room. And I could not keep it together. I balled my eyes out the entire time I was there. (And I had no shame, the staff was very understanding and encouraging) 

Prayer and support 

Now back to where I started – I wanted to process all of my emotions and write out a blog post to share back in April, but I stopped myself. Instead, I reached out to my support people. And I am so thankful that I did. I researched a little more about SUA, I prayed hard, and I decided not to live in fear (again). My specific prayer was (although this is very unlikely) that this diagnosis was a mistake and that there truly were three, healthy vessels. I did recognized the reality of the situation so I also prayed for another opportunity to catch my own healthy, full term baby in my home. That the two vessels would be enough to sustain this pregnancy and nourish this baby as much as he needs and for him to not experience any complications or the need for medical interventions. 

The miracle

Today, May 28, 2020 (one day before my birthday!) I sat on the exam bed as the Ultrasound Tech scanned the growth and development of my baby boy. This time, I cried tears of joy as the tech announced that there are indeed three vessels; two arteries and one vein. Perfect. An answered prayer. A miracle. 

So here I am at 23 weeks pregnant, experiencing an answered prayer. I have felt peace, hope, and joy sporadically throughout this journey so far – but mostly because I chose to find them. The emotions that I’m feeling today are overwhelmingly authentic and true. And it feels so good. 

I’m making it a point to share my story to give others hope. So you know that you can experience joy and laughter during hardships. That life is full of abundance, you simply need to make the decision to seek for it. Lean into your support people. Pray hard. Miracles do happen. My hope is found in God. 

“We have this hope as anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Hebrews 6:19

New Life

New Life

A blessing that I never wanted. 

As I look back on my pregnancy losses, I only remember the bad feelings. It’s interesting how the mind captures traumatic events. I can still feel the discomfort and the hormonal changes and mood swings. I very clearly recall, from the beginning of the pregnancies, that something was not quite right. Specific smells remind me of the daily struggle to find joy in my life. I’m sure there were pleasant things happening to me then, but my memory is so clouded by the loss and the overwhelming feelings that accompany it. It left a bitter taste. 

I never wanted to be pregnant again. I didn’t want to experience the highs and lows of finding out another life was growing. To have dreams and expectations for this life, and then be left wanting. To be left to pick up the pieces of my shattered heart, once again. 

I thought I had healed. I processed and accepted each loss. As I wrote my thoughts and feelings down on tear stained paper, I felt the weight of grief lift away. I shared, and still share, about my losses – to respect the life lost and to bring more awareness to pregnancy and infant loss. I felt healed. 

Healing that I never knew I needed.

And then I got pregnant again. All of the feelings of doubt, insecurity, and abandonment came flooding back. I was angry with my husband for not getting a vasectomy. I was angry at myself for letting this happen – I should have been more careful. I thought about all of the ways that I could have prevented this, many of them were already part of my monthly routine though. I felt anxiety creeping in. So I prayed and sniffed some oils. 

And then I realized that maybe this could be a gift. I told myself that I don’t want to live in fear. I don’t want to feel anger and hatred. So I allowed myself to process through the grief – the anxiety and the worry – and then I moved on to the possibilities. The beauty of this gift. The joy surrounding new life, and the hope… I heard a small voice whisper “Its going to be okay.” 

It seems serendipitous that the verse that we chose for our family verse this year is Hebrews 6:19 

"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure."

So this pregnancy has proven to be a blessing that I never thought I wanted. I've also experienced healing that I never thought I needed, a healing that I've never known before. I am looking forward to this pregnancy and all it holds. This is part of life's great adventure! I'm choosing to live in grace and to fill my mind with joy and positivity.