Postpartum Massage Therapy
The postpartum period is the time following the birth or adoption of a baby. Our bodies change dramatically during pregnancy and birth, and continue to change to meet the needs of motherhood. Normal and rapid physical changes, often accompanied by sleep deprivation and keeping up with the needs of a newborn, can sometimes result in common discomforts which are greatly improved with massage therapy.
Fairly typical postural changes resulting from pregnancy are a forward tilt of the pelvis, which shortens the lower back and front of the hips, and a rounding forward of the shoulders and upper back, causing shortening of the chest and fatigue between the shoulderblades. These changes tend to be perpetuated by any prolonged positioning during labour and by baby-care activities, such as lifting and holding, extended periods of sitting, carrying baby-gear, and watching baby sleep and feed. Our joints are also still looser than usual, due to the hormone relaxin, which is produced during pregnancy in order to ease baby's passage through the pelvis; in turn, muscles tend to tighten as they work to stabilize our joints. Massage therapy addresses postural imbalance, relieves excessive muscle tension, decreases swelling, and improves circulation.
Abdominal and pelvic floor muscles are stretched during pregnancy, labour and delivery, and weakness can sometimes result. Weakness in our abdominal and pelvic floor musculature often results in organ displacement, as well as allowing shortening in our lower backs and hip flexors to go unchecked; this can create or further contribute to pelvic and lower back pain, and urinary incontinence. Your massage therapist can help you correctly identify and strengthen your deeper abdominal and pelvic floor muscles.
In the early months following birth, breasts can sometimes become engorged, swollen and sore with milk production. Breast massage, manual lymphatic drainage, and hydrotherapy (use of heat and cold) are available massage therapy techniques, which in combination with recommended self- care, can relieve breast discomfort. As we get the hang of breastfeeding a newborn, our posture often goes by the wayside as we are so focused on soothing baby. Massage therapy is an excellent opportunity to learn various and correctly supported breastfeeding positioning for minimizing postural imbalance, and to feel empowered to continue our nursing relationship with our baby for as long as we choose, rather than being limited by discomfort.
Following a Caesarean section, our bodies are recovering from major surgery in addition to the usual changes that accompany the postpartum period. Pain and adhesion that can result from a healing c-section incision can be reduced with massage therapy, which can help your body form more mobile, less restrictive scar tissue; prevention of organ dysfunction resulting from persisting organ displacement and adhesions is another advantage of massage therapy.
Massage therapy is an effective, enjoyable, and medication-free way to lessen the discomfort and many other symptoms that can follow labour and birth, and are often associated with caring for a new baby. Some of the more common experiences have been discussed, though this list is by no means exhaustive; please discuss these and any other concerns with your massage therapist. In addition to manual therapy, important aspects of massage therapy are the opportunity to rest and relax, and to learn about self-care. Focused breathing, stretching and strengthening exercises, hydrotherapy, self-massage and postural awareness are all self-care techniques that your massage therapist will discuss with you and help you find what works best for you.