Pregnancy Massage has been shown to reduce stress and improve general wellbeing in expectant mothers. The holistic capacity of massage – its ability to target both physical and emotional imbalance – makes it an ideal antidote to the stresses and strains of pregnancy. Most therapists will only perform pregnancy massage after the first trimester (i.e. 12 weeks) and it is important to talk to your doctor about any specific concerns before seeking treatment. (Massage may be inappropriate in the case of high risk pregnancy, deep vein thrombosis or persistent morning sickness.) Pregnancy massage has many benefits – here are just a few:Stress ReductionWe all know stress is something to be avoided (if possible!) and pregnant women are often doubly concerned about the effect their stress may have on their baby. We know cortisol, the stress hormone, depletes mental and physical health. While it is unproven there are ongoing studies into whether – in extreme cases – high maternal cortisol levels can lead to a shortened pregnancy and subsequent developmental problems. For the most part stress affects your everyday decision making and robs you of your peace of mind. Pregnancy massage has been proven to demonstrably lower cortisol levels while stimulating serotonin and other endorphins which both improve mood and provide a natural form of pain relief. Reduced OedemaOedema, or swelling, is a normal part of pregnancy (more than 80% in one study) but can cause increasing discomfort. Caused by increased fluid retention, oedema occurs throughout the body but is most common in the legs, ankles and feet. Oedema is usually noticed later in the day or after standing for a long period of time – but as your pregnancy progresses it can become a constant companion. Pregnancy massage works by using directed pressure to activate the lymphatic system – encouraging the fluid to drain away naturally, relieving swelling. Effleurage is a technique whereby flat-handed pressure is used to push excess fluid towards glands – it’s a gentle technique which allows sensitive and aching areas to be treated without irritation. Improved SleepA lack of sleep can seriously compound existing stress and anxiety. Sleeplessness is a common complaint among expectant mothers. Hormone changesmean sleep can be erratic – day-long fatigue followed by insomnia at night is common, especially in the third trimester. Massage can work to improve sleep, againthrough lowering cortisol levels and stimulating endorphin production – creating feelings of relaxation and wellbeing essential for a healthy sleep pattern. Pregnancy massage stimulates the body’s natural processes to improve sleep – eliminating the need for medication or other interventions.Post-PregnancyIn the lead up to giving birth it is easy to disregard your post-baby plan. By continuing a regimen of massage after birth you can help ease the effects offluctuating hormones and the stress associated. Lowering cortisol levels naturally through massage is beneficial for your mental wellbeing and for your baby if you are breastfeeding, while remedial massage techniques can help your body re-adjust after the physical stresses of labour.