A Guide to Postpartum Massage
Pregnancy can be a long and stressful time where 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 ayurveda 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 a Massage After Delivery
There are several benefits of body massages after delivery:
1. Helps With 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 process and also aid in restoring its pre-natal size and form.
2. Reduces 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 swelling of the joints. Working on the soft tissues of the body improves circulation and eliminates excess fluid and toxins.
3. Improves Breastfeeding
Postnatal massages involve special techniques to stimulate 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. Reduces the Risk of Blocks and Lumps in the Breasts
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. Improves Stability, Posture, and Co-ordination
During pregnancy, the core muscles stretch and become weak. Alteration in body mass causes the posture to change and hormonal changes make the connective tissues relax. A postnatal massage can reverse this change and help you get your strength back.
6. Reduces 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 unwind and beat that stress.
7. Helps in Dealing With Postpartum Blues
Postpartum depression may be a serious condition that affects only 10-15% of mothers. 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. Speeds Up Recuperation
Postpartum massages can strengthen muscles and help quicken recovery of your body. It assists you in recovering from the stress of delivery while giving full attention to your child.
9. Makes the Skin Glow
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. Helps You Return to Your Pre-Pregnancy Body
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. This is generally after one to two weeks. It is better to get 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 Have Had a Cesarean Delivery?
In case of availing a postpartum massage after c section, it is better to begin after one to two weeks and after 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, ask the practitioner to stay away from that area and only massage the remaining parts.
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 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, etc. 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.