Massage during Labor
A goal of prenatal massage is to prepare a woman for labor and childbirth. "We treat a woman like she's an athlete in training," Miller says, and part of training is coaching. Many prenatal massage therapists are available to clients as doulas. Those that aren't are often willing to teach the woman's labor partner positioning strategies and massage techniques that help ease the strain of labor. There are tricks of the trade, such as trigger points that can induce contractions in some women or ice massage, which are shown to decrease labor pain in some women.
Regular massage sessions can also help a woman learn to relax stressed muscles during labor simply because she'll have had the experience of knowing how the muscles feel when relaxed.
After childbirth, a mother's body is faced with new challenges. From carrying babies to changing diapers, breastfeeding to bathing, these activities stress the backs of even the most posture-conscious women. In addition, soreness from delivery, engorgement or sore nipples, and general fatigue can cause a mother to unconsciously slouch, putting additional strain on muscles.
Postpartum massage concentrates on alleviating the strain and regaining health. Miller explains that it includes stretching the back, lengthening the muscles, and balancing pelvic rotation. In addition, deep work and trigger-point therapy help release strain built up over the months of pregnancy.
Posture, of course, determines how well a mother's body takes the strain. "(Massage therapy) helps you to regain a powerful posture. We lose it when we're pregnant; we fight to maintain a posture that is erect as best we can and end up getting into compensatory patterns that are not good. I try to teach a woman how she should correct those postural imbalances," says Miller.
Miller says the postpartum time presents a wonderful opportunity for women. "Doctors usually say the postpartum period is six weeks, when the uterus shrinks back to its normal size, which is true. However, the ligaments in your body take two years to cinch back down into place. A woman has a wonderful open window to get herself into a better place muscularly than she was in before she was pregnant. It's a chance to work with your body and become stronger for it."