In previous centuries, when giving childbirth was a much more hazardous undertaking, a woman who survived was often considered to have “passed the pikes” – a reference to having successfully survived a military encounter. Today, childbirth is a much less dangerous process, thanks to modern medicine, but there is no doubt that a woman’s body needs a good deal of postnatal recovery time.
Women who have given childbirth naturally, without the use of anaesthesia, will often be astonished at how sore they are. Literally every muscle in the body will have been used during the birth process, and new mothers discover muscles they never knew they had before. In addition to sore muscles, the uterus has been stretched and needs help to return it to its normal size as quickly as possible.
Postnatal Massage Therapy
For women who have given childbirth without the need for surgery, postnatal massage can help in a number of ways:
- Increased circulation will help torn muscle fibers return to normal
- During pregnancy, it’s common for swelling of the legs, especially, to occur. Massage can help this excess fluid to drain off more quickly.
- Massage reduces stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, so that the new mother will feel more relaxed.
- Light abdominal massage will help the uterus shrink back to its normal size. This will also help to control the bleeding that occurs after birth as a shrinking uterus restricts the blood flow.
- The strain that has been put upon the back and shoulders by the pregnancy can result in knots and pulls that postnatal massage can help alleviate.
- Massage will help to sleep better (when you can).
- If you’re nursing your baby, massage will actually help you feed your baby better since you will not only be more relaxed and rested, but because massage therapy helps to release more of the hormone prolactin, which stimulates milk production.
Because many women still feel uncomfortable after giving birth, especially as regards to their abdomen and breasts, your massage therapist will often perform a back massage while you are lying on your side. Some women prefer to have cushions used so they are able to lie on their stomach while receiving a back massage. Be sure to discuss this with your massage therapist.
Postpartum depression can really put a real damper on your enjoyment of your new baby. This occurs because hormone levels are fluctuating wildly after giving birth. Even if you have no other problems after having your baby, massage therapy is indicated if you’re depressed. Not only does massage help to relax you, but it aids in restoring normal hormonal levels and in the release of endorphins.
Although most women will be able to have a baby without problem, some women will need a Caesarean Section. This is major surgery and is done for several reasons:
- The mother is structurally unable to give birth normally.
- The baby is displaying signs of stress, such as a decreased heartbeat.
- The mother is experiencing a health emergency.
Massage therapy for women who have undergone a C-Section is different from women who have given birth normally. Generally, massage therapy should not begin at all until the incision has healed, which can take several weeks. Be sure to check with your doctor before beginning any kind of massage therapy if you have had a Caesarean Section.
If you have been given the green light by your doctor, you can start massage therapy, but massage of your abdomen should be avoided unless your physician has specifically indicated that it is safe to do so and that the incision is completely healed up.
You have undoubtedly received a good deal of help after giving childbirth from massage therapy, but why stop after only a few weeks of care? Wouldn’t it be a good idea to make massage a part of your regular routine, and keep benefiting your physical and mental state even after you’ve recovered from the delivery? Speak with your therapist at setting up regular visits – you’ll be glad that you did.