When I was pregnant with my daughter I had no idea how different, physically, my body would be during pregnancy, and then after giving birth. You can sit and talk all day with experienced mothers or read all of the pregnancy books about how your life and body is going to change during and afterward pregnancy, but it’s totally different when you actually experience it. The morning sickness, food cravings, body aches, hip/back/and belly pain, and physical changes can take their toll over 9 months. The discomfort and stress you feel after giving birth puts icing on the cake. Your new baby can also experience stress during the birthing process. (Yikes!) While not every woman experiences the same discomforts during pregnancy and after birth there are things you can do to alleviate the discomforts you, and your baby, do have. One of the ways is Prenatal, Postnatal and Infant massage. For this post, and my first ever interview, I had the privilege and pleasure of interviewing Genavieve B., a licensed massage therapist also certified in Prenatal and Infant Massage, to find out from her the benefits of Prenatal, Postnatal and Infant massages.
Q. Is there any difference, other than the use of extra support, between a traditional massage and a prenatal massage?
A. “There are quite a few different things about a traditional massage and a prenatal massage. Those that are trained and certified as prenatal massage therapists have been taught the do’s and don’ts of performing massages on expecting mothers. Having additional and specialized pillows for support are just a few of those things. We are also taught about different contraindications or reasons to not work on women who are expecting as well as specific pressure points to avoid during a massage that some feel may trigger contractions, and aroma therapy notes (Essential oils) that should not be used with pregnant or nursing women.”
Q. Why do massage therapists suggest you not get a massage during your first trimester?
A. “The main reason many massage therapists will not work on a woman in her first trimester is because at that point the pregnancy is fragile, and we would feel terrible if there was any chance we would have a negative effect on someone’s pregnancy. These trends seem to have shifted a bit, and some therapists will work on the expecting mothers in the first trimester as long as the expecting mother agrees. Many medical professionals argue that massage doesn’t have enough of an effect on the body to alter the pregnancy in any way, however, many therapists like myself would rather play it safe for all parties and wait out the first trimester.”
Q. What are the health benefits of prenatal massages?
A. “Massages are a blessing to add to any pregnancy. It helps relieve stress in general, relieve the joint and muscle fatigue that can cause sciatica, low back pain, edema especially in the legs, headaches, and various other aches and pains that come further along in pregnancy. It helps reduce the appearance of stretch marks, strengthens the immune system by keeping the circulatory and lymphatic systems active, and most of all it will help with insomnia.”
Q. How often would you recommend women get prenatal massages?
A. “The frequency of massage depends on each individual no matter if they are pregnant or not. In general, I always suggest one massage a month. For more complex clients it is often more frequent than that. For example, if you are having edema, or sciatica that are persistent or worsening you may want to get a massage more often. Your therapist will be able to better design a specialized plan just for you as you get closer to the delivery of your bundle of joy.”
Q. What should women do/look out for after a prenatal massage other than the regular advice of drinking more water?
A. “Other than drinking plenty of water it is also important that you pay attention to your body and how it reacts to the massage not just afterwards but also during the session. If anything seems a bit off trust your intuition and take the appropriate steps that you feel are necessary. A great massage therapist will never condemn you for trusting your gut as we also rely quite a bit on our sixth sense. If there are any problems that arise after the session it’s important that you contact your doctor, and we always appreciate feedback, good or bad, to enhance your future experiences and even the future experiences of other clients.”
Q. Are there any benefits to postnatal massages other than stress relief?
A. “Postnatal massages help with so much more than stress. They help your body recover quicker after birth. After C-sections, it’s important that the body heals before any work is done on the scars but massage is a great way to decrease the appearance and sensitivity of scar tissue. The process of having deep scar tissue worked on can feel very foreign and its important you communicate openly with your therapist about any sensations or feelings you have. Massage does help to make sure that the circulatory and lymphatic systems are working in tip-top shape, and that will help to stave off any blockages when breastfeeding. If a blockage does occur it can also help to break it up before it becomes a larger problem.”
Q. How long after giving birth would you recommend women wait before getting their first postnatal massage?
A. “Once you are cleared by your physician you are welcome to hop right up onto a massage table. For those who have a C-section it can take 6-8 weeks to get clearance simply because you have undergone a surgery, and with surgeries comes other risk factors like blood clots. No good massage therapist will work on any post-surgery client before those 6-8 weeks are up. That isn’t limited to just C-sections, but surgeries like joint replacements, elective plastic surgeries, and any other incision or puncture style surgery. I understand this can be irritating at times, but again many therapists will err on the side of caution in an effort to do no harm.”
Q. We went to a Cranial Sacral Therapist for my daughter due to breastfeeding issues, and learned that babies need stress relief sometimes as well. What are the benefits, and how young can a child be to receive an infant massage?
A. “As long as the pediatrician has no objections you’re welcome to have an infant massage performed within 24 hours of birth. When I perform an infant massage, I bring with me a doll and demonstrate and teach parents how to do the massage for their new baby. (My niece currently cares for and has named my doll Baby Sister. You can see that she isn’t so secretly hoping for my sister to have another baby girl for her to play with.) Infant massage helps with so many things. I highly suggest putting on your registry, or buying for yourself, the book Infant Massage: A Handbook for Loving Parents by Vimala McClure. She is the founder of the International Association of Infant Massage, and her book outlines for parents how to give massages to their infants and how it helps with not just stress for the infant, but also helps with colicky babies, digestive issues, and a large variety of other conditions parents may be faced with. The one thing it helps with that I focus on the most is the parent-child bond. By touching your child with love and care it helps to solidify your bond and soothes them when they are stressed. The best part is that the baby lotion you have on hand is perfect to use. I never suggest using any essential oils or massage lotions or oils to be used on children for many reasons especially in case of there being any allergies or sensitivities. Their little growing bodies aren’t in a position to handle negative reactions that they can cause.”
Q. Are there certain certifications or other qualifications women/parents should look for in their massage therapists?
A. “I always suggest anyone looking for a specific type of massage to make sure that the person they are going to is certified and/or has the extra training to provide those services. A therapist doesn’t have to have a certification to work on a pregnant mother, however, I do suggest it for peace of mind. There are lots of other modalities or services that can help that a massage therapist might be trained or certified in. For example, not only am I certified in prenatal and infant massage but also because of my work with athletes I have also gotten a certification in kinesio-taping which can be used to help with edema and can be used to create a flexible belly girdle of sorts to more evenly disperse the weight in later months. The most important thing is to ask questions, trust your instincts, and if you’re concerned make sure that your doctor is OK with it.”
Q. Lastly, are there any read flags women/parents should be aware of just in case?
A. “Overall it is important that the parents feel comfortable, and that the baby is safe in all forms of prenatal and postnatal massage. If something doesn’t feel right trust your instincts and don’t feel bad about it. Even if that means getting to the appointment and walking in just to decide to cancel. (Keep in mind many businesses have a policy for last-minute cancellations, but if it doesn’t feel right don’t force it.) Yours and the baby’s comfort are of the utmost importance when it comes to getting a massage. The best therapist is going to ask you questions about your pregnancy or about your newborn baby, taking notes as they go, and may even have you fill out an extra form or two. Being as candid as possible will ensure that you’re all getting the best experience possible. I say all because the therapist you choose will for that session, and any that may come after, be a part of your experience and we do get great fulfillment from our jobs especially when we can help someone in need. All-in-all: ask questions, be candid, and trust your instincts.”
About Genavieve: “I’ve been practicing massage since 2010. My very first continuing education class was in infant massage and later on I followed it up with a certification in prenatal. In addition to working with growing families I have also specialized with athletes of all kinds as well as chronic pain management. I challenge myself to actively keep learning and currently offer a variety of techniques tailored to meet each individual’s needs. Every morning it’s a blessing to get to wake up and go to work simply because I absolutely love what I do.” Genavieve currently practices out of the Dallas/Fort Worth, TX area. You can learn more about what services she offers on her website Genaration Sports Therapies and find her on Facebook Here and Instagram Here
Side Note: I want to thank Genavieve for letting me interview her for this post. I certainly learned somethings I never knew before about the benefits of prenatal, postnatal and infant massage, and I hope you did as well. Please excuse me while I go and schedule some massages for myself. Haha! 🙂