The Benefits of Bump Massage in Pregnancy

The Benefits of Bump Massage in Pregnancy

Bump massage can do wonderful things for you and your baby, making your pregnancy easier as well as potentially improving your experience of birth. Yet most women are surprised when I outline the benefits of massaging their bumps beyond trying to avoid stretch-marks.

At the end of this article, I have created detailed instructions for you to give yourself a bump massage at home.

It’s a natural, instinctive thing to do and you’re probably already massaging some belly butter in, but with a little more direction there can be a range of benefits, for example, bump massage:

Reduce stress and increase oxytocin and serotonin for you AND your baby

When you relax your baby will receive a dose of the same hormones; massage has been proved to reduce cortisol and increase serotonin, the happy hormone.

Eases constipation

You can stimulate the ascending and descending colon at the sides of your abdomen.

Creates more space for your digestion

Softening the musculature and tissues with gentle stroking will give you a bit more space for lovely food, hooray!

Maybe even lessen heartburn

Gentle shiatsu in a downward direction may assist digestion, and create more room for the junction of your stomach and esophagus to function more efficiently.

Create more space for your baby

You may not be aware of the tensions in your belly and using gentle strokes can subtly extend the space available.

Improves breathing

When you’re in your third trimester, there’s not much room to breath! Massage to the intercostal muscles at the side of the body helps you to breath into the side of your rib cage and get more oxygen to you and your baby.

Connect with your baby

Spending time talking and breathing together will help you bond at the earliest opportunity

Easing the diaphragm

Allows more oxygen to baby and blood flow to the placenta

Ease round ligament pain

The round ligament has to lengthen from 6″ to 18″ in pregnancy, any scar tissue in that area can be eased with massage and help lessen the pain.

Soften and release scar tissue from section births

Gentle massage to scars can show a great improvement in appearance and tissue quality.

Help your baby into a better position

Gentle stroking combined with talking to your baby, either out loud or to yourself, combined with deep breathing can be very effective. If your baby is breech, ask her what she needs in order to move, and try gentle stroking to encourage her to turn. If your baby has her spine next to yours, ask her what she needs, while stroking her gently around; no deep pressure it required, it’s an intuitive process of communication and connection rather than ‘pushing’.

In labor

Some women find gentle holding by a partner or themselves helps them to focus on deepening their breathing and soothe them through their surges. When you’re in labor you’ll either love it or hate it!

Learning to relax is a great preparation for labor

Can bump massage harm my baby?

We are naturally protective of our bellies, especially when we’re pregnant. The strokes you’ll use will be way more gentle than the kind of pressure your midwife uses to find out how your baby is lying, and don’t forget that your baby is well protected by amniotic fluid, the womb, and the abdominal wall. It would be very difficult to harm yourself or your baby using gentle massage to your bump.

In four research studies looking at the benefits of pregnancy massage:

“Women who received massage therapy reported decreased depression, anxiety, and leg and back pain. Cortisol levels decreased and, in turn, excessive fetal activity decreased, and the rate of prematurity was lower in the massage group. In a study of labor pain, women who received massage therapy experienced significantly less pain, and their labors were on average 3 h shorter with less need for medication.”

What if I’m in the first trimester?

If you’re in the first trimester you might enjoy the heart-womb visualization, or if you’re interested in the benefits of abdominal massage may want to come for a session or find another specially trained professional to receive a massage from.

When not to massage your bump

It’s best not to massage if you’ve taken painkillers, and if you are in any way concerned about your pregnancy because of unexplained pain or bleeding, you will want to go to the antenatal care unit for monitoring and reassurance that everything is OK.

Do not massage within six weeks of having surgery in the area or if you have a fever.

If you are unsure if bump massage is safe for you and your baby, ask your midwife, consultant, or GP.

What will I need?

All the thousands of cushions you usually need to get comfy, 20 minutes of peaceful time, and some massage oil or your favorite belly cream. It’s also possible to do the strokes through your clothes, so if you’re unable to use belly cream don’t worry you can still get some of the benefits of the massage.

How to set up your bump massage

Find a comfortable way to sit or lie so you can stroke your bump without creating tension in your shoulders. For example:
  • You can lie down on your bed, semi-reclined; propped up so you can reach your bump and with cushions to support your knees.
  • You could also lie on your side with cushions between your knees to make your hips comfy.
  • You could sit comfortably on your birthing ball

What to do

Trust your own sense of what feels right for you, what feels soothing and safe. You are the expert on your body and baby.

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