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Pregnancy can be a long and stressful time when your body goes through many changes. There is nothing better than a relaxing massage to get your body back to its former condition. Postnatal massage focuses on strengthening the muscles and tissues that have been altered during your pregnancy so that your body regains its strength naturally.
What is a Postnatal Massage?
A postnatal massage is basically a full body massage after delivery. Typically, a traditional or professionally trained masseuse massages your entire body starting from the feet, and ending with a relaxing massage for the head. Even traditional Ayurvedic wisdom recommends a 40-day confinement period for the mother after delivery where wholesome care is provided to the mother and child. Traditional baths with indigenous herbs and natural remedies preceded by elaborate massages are an important part of this routine.
Massages are known to supplement blood flow and aid the release of endorphins that induce a feeling of relaxation. Postpartum massages are even specialised to cater to those specific muscles of your body that are strained after delivery.
10 Benefits of Massage After Delivery
There are several benefits of body massages after delivery:
1. Helps with the recovery of the uterus – Uterine contractions help in the natural cleansing process eliminating blood and other discharge post-delivery. Stomach massage after delivery can aid the uterus in its natural cleansing processes and also aid in restoring its pre-natal size and form.
2. Reduction of swelling – Reduced circulation caused by increased pressure on the major blood vessels by the heavy uterus and hormonal imbalances may lead to water retention and the swelling of joints. Working on the soft tissues of the body improves circulation and the elimination of excess fluid and toxins.
3. Improved breastfeeding – Postnatal massages involve special techniques to stimulate the breast tissue. It, in fact, triggers the production of oxytocin which causes the ‘letdown’ reflex which could make you release breast milk even during the course of the massage
4. Avoid any blocks or lumps – Massages help improve the flow of milk, loosen out lumps and even help prevent mastitis. Mastitis is the bacterial infection caused by a blocked milk duct in the breast where milk starts to stagnate.
5. Improve stability, posture, and co-ordination – During pregnancy the core muscles of a woman stretch and become weak. Alteration in body mass causes the posture to change and hormonal changes make the connective tissues become very relaxed. A postnatal massage can reverse this change and help you get your strength back.
6. Unwind and de-stress – Pregnancy can be stressful and for months your body goes through a lot of changes. A postnatal massage is just the rejuvenation your body needs to beat that stress.
7. Deal with those postpartum blues – Postpartum depression may be a serious condition that affects only 10-15% mothers. But it is natural for any woman to experience anxiety, stress and other heightened emotions after delivery. Listen to your body and give it the attention it needs.
8. Faster recuperation– Postpartum massages can strengthen muscles and help speed up the recovery of your body. It assists you in a holistic journey to your previous self while giving full attention to your child.
9. Glowing skin– Massages improve blood flow and help soothe stretched tissue. This gives you that beautiful post-pregnancy glow and even reduces stretch marks that you may want to lose.
10. Get that body back– Post pregnancy massages can actually help tuck your tummy back in by working on the muscles in that area and improving blood flow. It strengthens strained muscles and helps your body regain vitality.
When Can You Start Massages?
Women who have had a normal delivery can start the postnatal massage as soon as they are back from the hospital. Usually, this is within the first five days after delivery. However, postpartum massage after a C-section can be performed only after the wound has sufficiently healed before beginning the massage. This is generally after 1-2 weeks. It is better to take a go-ahead from the doctor before beginning the massage in such a case. Also, the massage should ideally be continued for 40 continuous days to get maximum benefits. However, there are many women, mostly the working mothers that often cut it short due to time constraints.
What Precautions Should be Taken if You Had a Cesarean?
In case of availing a postpartum massage after c section, it is better to begin after 1-2 weeks and also getting approval from the doctor. This is because your scar needs to heal
before you can begin to take any risk of pulling the skin around that area. Even after beginning the massage after 1-2 weeks, ask the practitioner to stay away from that area and only massage the remaining parts.
However, there is something called a scar tissue massage that you can avail after close to a month. This kind of massage helps to avoid adhesion of the scar tissue to other organs and tissues in the body and prevents uterine, bladder and bowel problems. Before beginning this massage, ensure that your scar is no longer sensitive to the touch. The massage needs to be performed in accordance with the healing stages of your scar.
When Should You Avoid Post Delivery Massage?
As with any massage one should take the following precautions before going for a massage:
- Make sure you don’t have any prior conditions of eczema or rashes that may be aggravated through the massage. Identify any sensitivities and alert the practitioner who is giving you the massage.
- The same applies to any oils or medications that might be applied to your body in the course of the massage. Also, avoid applying the products to your nipple area so that there is no risk of the baby ingesting it.
- Avoid using products that contain parabens. Parabens disrupt hormone function and are linked to breast and other cancers.
- Women who have high blood pressure or conditions like hernia also need to inform the concerned people and ensure that associated pressure points are not unnecessarily triggered.
- Women who have experienced consistent pre-term (Braxton-Hicks) contractions also need to be careful.
- Women with conditions like pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH), prior or current high risk pregnancies should get proper medical advice before going for the massage.
- Other complications like excessive swelling or sudden, severe headaches are also conditions that demand medical attention.
- It is important to provide adequate support to any muscles that might have been extensively strained during the massage. For instance, the linea alba that separates the rectal muscles may be overly stretched due to the added weight and the pressures of delivery. During massages, such areas should be tightly held together to train to remain aligned during the course of strengthening.
Which Body Positions are Safe?
Just as in pregnancy, the best position for getting a stomach massage after delivery is the ‘side-lying’ position. Back support is usually provided using a pillow. It is better to avoid any special tables that have any depressions for the abdominal area causing it to dangle and lead to the misaligned application of pressure.
Post pregnancy massage techniques could vary from mild circular motions to deeper techniques like craniosacral therapy. Craniosacral therapy focusses on the neck, facial and cranial muscles to ease severe headaches that a new mother is prone to. Different oils may be used to aid the massaging, from mustard oil (a warming oil) to sesame oil (cooling in nature) to coconut, almond or specially prepared Ayurvedic oils. However, make sure that you are not allergic to any of them. There are also different schools of massaging techniques like acupressure, the Jumu massage from Indonesia, the Swedish massage. You could even add some foot reflexology to your massage experience.
Postnatal massage is a great tool for new mothers to get back control of their bodies. Keeping all the precautions in mind, you can opt for the one that suits your needs the most, with proper advice from your doctor.