Massage therapy during pregnancy can be such a wonderful experience. It can help relieve much of the pain and stiffness experienced during pregnancy. As the fetus grows organs are displaced, muscles, ligaments and fascia are stretched as the body rearranges itself.
During the first trimester breast tissue growth puts strain on the cervical and thoracic areas. The muscles of the chest, upper back and neck work harder to support breasts as they increase in weight and density. Constipation is common in this first trimester; an abdominal massage can help move stagnant fecal matter through the intestines.
During the second trimester a woman really starts to notice changes in her body. There starts to be a shift in centre of gravity as weight increases in the lower abdominal and pelvic area. As the centre of gravity shifts there is an anterior pelvic tilt that puts strain on the low back and gluteal muscles.
Towards the end of the second trimester as the abdomen grows there is a decrease is space for the lungs, making breathing harder and putting strain on the intercostals muscles. Targeting a treatment for the muscles in between the ribs can help a woman regain a sense of breathing properly.
During the third trimester the ligaments of the pelvis lengthen, with the help of the hormone relaxin, to make more room for a descending baby. As the ligaments lengthen it can put a lot of unusual stress on muscles of the hip to support the changes in position of the pelvis.
Some common aches and pains that can occur during pregnancy:
Meralgia Peristhetica: Out from the second and third lumbar vertebrae comes the lateral femoral cutaneous artery. From there, it travels through the psoas muscle, across the iliacus muscle, where it exits the pelvis below the inguinal ligament (a tight band that runs from the front of the hip bone to the pubic bone) and down the front and back of the thigh. Anywhere along it’s path this artery can become pinched and cause numbness, tingling, aching, or burning down the thigh. It is often very sensitive to touch.
Piriformis Syndrome: The piriformis muscle is a small but very important muscle in the hips. It sits underneath the gluteal muscles and runs horizontally from the femur to the hip bone. The sciatic nerve originates from the low lumbar/upper sacral vertebrae. From there it travels through the hip muscles and down the leg where it splits and services the thigh, calf and foot with movement. In some of us, this nerve goes directly through the piriformis muscle. If the piriformis gets very tight, it can entrap the nerve and cause numbness and tingling usually down the back of the thigh. This is NOT the same as sciatica.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Swelling in the extremities is common during pregnancy at any stage, specifically in the hands and feet. As fluid accumulates it puts pressure on the already narrow and inflexible space that is between the bones of the hand. Between the palm and the wrist is where the median nerve runs through. As it gets entrapped, it can cause numbness and tingling in the hand.
Pes Planus: This Latin term for flat feet can be caused by a number of factors. In pregnancy, due to temporary changes in the body caused by increased elasticity of muscles and ligaments, the feet can become flattened over time.
Plantar Fasciitis: Plantar fascia is the connective tissue that runs along the sole of the foot. Being overweight or excessive weight bearing for extended periods of time can put excess pressure of the plantar fascia causing irritation or inflammation. Often the first steps of the day are the most painful as the foot has been immobile all night.
A labor support person, also known as a doula, is someone who provides physical, emotional and informational support to a woman in labor. There are difference kinds of doulas, some for birth, post partum, or breast-feeding, but for the purposes of this website, we are concerned with birth doulas.
In many situations, the support person can simply be the spouse or partner of the laboring woman, as well as a friend or anyone willing to offer assistance. However, someone who has trained as a doula understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a laboring woman. A doula can provide information regarding the birthing process, allowing the woman to make informed decisions about her labor. A doula can also assist with communication between the mother, the partner (if there is one) and other health care providers.
The key factor here is that a doula is a non-partial objective information provider, who has the skills and experience to help a woman achieve her ideal birthing environment.
Once you have chosen the right doula, she will be on-call usually for up to two weeks before and one week after your delivery date. You will keep her abreast of doctors or midwives visits, as well as any changes in your pregnancy or birthing plan. Your doula will be with you during the entire delivery of your baby.
Catherine Taman is a Registered Massage Therapist practicing in Toronto, Canada. She has a special interest in treating chronic pain, headaches, sports injuries and pregnancy related pain. To book an appointment with Catherine, visit rmtmassagetherapytoronto