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Since you learned you were pregnant, how many times have you found your hands resting on your belly? Can’t count that high? Just as we suspected: Your instincts have already taught you that touch is one of the best ways for you—and your partner—to get to know and love your changing body and to bond with your soon-to-be baby. “Soothing strokes flush the body with endorphins, hormones that not only make you feel good physically and emotionally but contribute to a calming in-utero environment,” says Elaine Stillerman, L.M.T., author of Mother Massage: A Handbook for Relieving the Discomforts of Pregnancy (Dell, 1992). Regular maternity massage can also help alleviate anxiety, sleep problems, back pain, swelling and fatigue. So read on, then get hands-on with your pregnancy.
As intimate and inexpensive as an at-home massage may be (see “Magic Touch” at left), there’s nothing like putting yourself in professional hands. But before you do, there are a few things you should know, says Carole Osborne-Sheets, author of Pre and Perinatal Massage Therapy (Body Therapy Associates, 1998).
DO choose a licensed therapist who has a certificate of advanced training in prenatal massage. Contact the National Association of Pregnancy Massage Therapy for suggestions at 888-451-4945
DON’T have a massage without checking with your doctor first.
DO make sure the therapist uses a light touch; deep massage may not be safe during pregnancy.
DON’T allow your heightened scent sensitivity to undermine an otherwise enjoyable treatment—sniff any massage oil or lotion to be used beforehand. Note: The following essential oils are not considered safe during pregnancy: cedarwood, eucalyptus, cinnamon, rosemary, tansy, pennyroyal, peppermint and primrose, among others (check with your doctor or midwife for more contraindications).
DO find a position that’s comfortable for you. Note that while massage tables with center openings may accommodate your growing belly, they may strain your lower back (and in some cases may provide too little support for your belly and breasts). The better setup: cushions that allow you to lie on your side.
DON’T undergo reflexology from a therapist who is not trained to work with pregnant women. Certain reflex points on the lower legs, around the ankles and in other areas may cause contractions; a knowledgeable prenatal therapist will know which areas to avoid.