Massage a Deux
Mama and baby make two
by Wendy C. Smith
I’d been hearing a lot about pregnancy massage when I ran into an acquaintance at a fund-raiser. She’s a massage therapist, and as I was asking her about her work, she informed me that she was doing a lot of pregnancy massage and really enjoying it.
I didn’t know much about the difference between a normal massage and a pregnancy massage, so I asked a couple of questions and thought about how it might make a nice column. Of course, I didn’t want to make an 18-year commitment just to get a hands-on perspective for a column, so I evoked the sympathy of a very pregnant friend who agreed to get a massage out of the goodness of her heart and the aches and pains in her back.
We met at Annie Gray’s office. Annie is a very nice Irish lass who has three children of her own. She’s a massage therapist, a level-I Healing Touch practitioner and a level-II Reiki practitioner who got certified in pregnancy massage because she really enjoys working with pregnant women and their babies. Annie says she can feel the baby’s energy in the room and to be around that emerging energy is a thrill for her each time she does a massage. Pregnancy massage, she says, has a spiritual aspect to it and is very different energy-wise than other types of massage.
Pregnancy massage differs from regular massage in several ways. The table arrangement is the most obvious. Pregnant clients lie on their sides hugging a body pillow. Although there are special tables with cutouts for the belly and breasts that allow a pregnant woman to lie on her stomach, Annie considers it an unnatural position.
Pregnancy massages also avoid any type of deep tissue massage because deep tissue massage releases a lot of toxins. Since pregnancy is a time when the mother’s energy goes inward to the baby, the mother-to-be doesn’t need to detour that energy outward to fight toxins.
I thought it interesting that Annie doesn’t heat the table for pregnancy massages. She says pregnant women are warmer than non-pregnant women so she usually turns off the heat.
Annie pays a great deal of attention to contra-indicator points, which means she doesn’t apply massage or pressure if certain conditions are indicated. For example, Annie can tell if edema (swelling) is occurring. In that case, she’ll work the contra-indicators as necessary to help relieve that issue and avoid certain other areas because of it.
Annie starts with long strokes on the back, which help smooth the fascia and relieve lower back strain. (All strokes go toward the heart to work the lymph system.) Because a pregnant woman’s pelvis tilts forward, causing lower back tension, Annie rocks her clients as they lie on their sides to help release the lower back. She also puts pressure on trigger points, which are spots that can cause hip soreness. When she massages pregnant legs, Annie uses short quick strokes. No long moves are used on the legs because of the risk of clots or thrombosis.
After massaging the client on both sides, Annie leans the client on her back on a wedge-shaped pillow so that she can apply reflexology to the feet. Ankles are left out of the equation because massaging the ankles can cause uterine contractions. While ankles are often massaged during labor, they are avoided during pregnancy. During the reflexology, Annie massages across the bottom of the feet to ease constipation, which is a common problem during pregnancy. She also advises her clients that their significant others can do the same type of foot massage at home.
Annie ends the mother’s session by giving a light facial massage with emphasis on the lymph points to stimulate lymphatic drainage and release those toxins. The facial is almost a feather-touch massage, but it’s very clearing and energizing.
The final part of the massage is Reiki work on the baby. Annie enjoys doing a little Reiki on the baby, but only if the mother wants it. My friend agreed to it, so Annie put her hands on my friend’s stomach and worked with the baby’s energy. (Reiki is an energy therapy that involves touch and not manipulation.)
Annie will see women up until the time they deliver, but she won’t do a massage on anyone who is less than 13 weeks pregnant. Annie says, and my friend enthusiastically agrees, that the baby gets a little active during a massage, so babies must like it. My friend certainly seemed to like it too. She was extremely relaxed after the massage and said her back really felt better. I thought she glowed. But then, I’ve been thinking that for about eight-and-a-half months now.
Annie Gray can be reached at 584-3864.