Understanding Tui Na Massage and How It Affects Prenatal Health
Pregnancy is a beautiful and exciting time in a woman’s life, but sometimes this transformation can cause discomfort, stress, and a depletion of a woman’s body and energy. As the baby grows it can begin to demand more energy and blood than the mother can produce. When this condition occurs, various symptoms can arise, such as lower back strain, swelling or water retention, stress and emotional tension, increased blood pressure, and digestive upset. If this deficient condition is left unchecked it can even lead to prolonged or delayed labor.
Tui Na (pronounced “twee- nah”) massage aims to improve blood circulation, relax muscle tension, and improve lymphatic circulation by applying mild pressure along energy pathways in the body. Tui Na massage is the recommended prenatal massage method during pregnancy because it addresses many common discomforts associated with the skeletal and circulatory changes brought on by hormone shifts (and your changing center of gravity) during pregnancy. Massage during pregnancy needs to be gentle but effective, and should only be performed by a practitioner who is skilled in the contraindications associated with each term. Often massage should not be performed at all during the first trimester, and certain acupressure points should be avoided during particular times of the pregnancy to prevent causing untimely reactions (like pre-term contractions).
Benefits of Pregnancy / Tui Na Massage
There are many studies done in the past ten years indicating that massage during pregnancy promotes tranquil relaxation and stress reduction. Studies have shown that when massage therapy was introduced to women’s prenatal care, hormone levels associated with relaxation and stress were significantly altered, leading to mood regulation and improved cardiovascular health. Hormones such as nor epinephrine and cortisol (“stress hormones”) were reduced, while dopamine and serotonin levels (“feel-good hormones”) were increased in women who received bi-weekly massages for only five weeks.
Due to these changes in hormone levels, the following benefits resulted: increased blood and lymph circulation which reduced swelling; decreased physical and emotional tension which allowed for a more enjoyable pregnancy; lowered blood pressure; increased energy; decreased symptoms of depression; increased restful sleep; improved outcome of labor and decreased labor pain; and decreased instances of newborn complications, such as low birth weight. The evidence points strongly to maternal and newborn health benefits when relaxing, therapeutic massage is incorporated into regular prenatal care.
Is prenatal massage safe throughout the entire pregnancy?
Women can begin massage therapy at any point in their pregnancy – during the first, second, or third trimester. The massage should be performed by a licensed and qualified practitioner so no harm occurs to the baby or mother.
Does prenatal massage affect the baby?
Massage during pregnancy helps counteract the negative effects of stress and helps the baby to be healthy and happy. Babies, whose mothers have had pregnancy massage, tend to cry less, sleep through the night, and be happier and healthier. If a massage is beneficial to the mother, the baby will receive the benefits, too.
Can massage help with labor?
Relaxing prenatal massage eases labor, providing a peaceful space for baby’s entrance into this world. Expectant mothers learn effective ways to breathe and relax for childbirth and are taught techniques to ease the pain of labor. Labor-inducing techniques are utilized starting in the 37th week.
Would massage be beneficial post-partum (after birth)?
Studies have shown that massage post-partum helps to elevate mood and helps to heal the body and regain its shape. Specifically, abdominal massage helps shrink the uterus back into place and relieve subcutaneous scar tissue. It may be given as early as 24 hours after a vaginal delivery.
Research and Related Articles on Pregnancy / Tui Na Massage
Pregnant women benefit from massage therapy
Field T, Hernandez-Reif M, Hart S, Theakston H, Schanberg S, Kuhn C.
J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol. 1999 Mar; 20(1): 31-8.
Pregnancy and massage
Field T, Figueiredo B, Hernandez-Reif M, Diego M, Deeds O, Ascencio A.
J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2008 Apr; 12(2): 146-50. Epub 2007 Oct 2.