Whilst undertaking my Well Mother Massage & Pregnancy Diploma course work, I found that most of the pregnant ladies who got in contact did so to receive a second trimester massage. I’m not sure how much of this is down to the fact that many people don’t realise that first trimester massage can be ok, and how much is down to the ‘secrecy’ aspect around pregnancy during this difficult and potentially isolating time. Whatever the reason, it meant that my case studies provided me with plenty of experience during the second and third trimesters.
Your second trimester lasts from week 14 until the end of week 27. During this trimester you'll feel much better. You'll probably start to bloom, your bump will show and early pregnancy symptoms will be behind you. [How to count your pregnancy in weeks and months : Baby Centre Website]
I read an amazing fact in a fantastically funny book called Bump: How to make, grow and birth a baby, that said 71% of pregnant ladies who has a sense of their baby’s gender guessed correctly (which meant 21% bought the wrong colour clothes!). But it just goes to show that we do know our bodies. Most of the time we are told to ‘push through’, medicate, ignore any gentle nudges that your body might give you that something is slightly out of whack … that persistent headache at the end of the day might be suggesting eye strain or poor posture or that you aren’t moving enough. But taking a painkiller each evening is much easier than dealing with the source of low grade discomfort.
As a keen advocate of tuning in to yourself, pregnancy appears to be the only time when this is advocated in the mainstream. I’m not saying that pregnancy will see you spending 10 lunar months naval gazing, and nor should it. After all you are a fully functioning human being with a life, partner, family, social life, and job all of which need attention, to be worked on and in even though you are pregnant. Being aware of the changes in your body, in your appetite, you sleep pattern, and recognising how these make you feel is important.
So how are you? Really?
My study also meant that, as a therapist with no personal experience of pregnancy, these wonderful ladies were providing me with a REAL insight into the physical, emotional and mental symptoms that they were experiencing. This is the paradox I find in my work - by encouraging and working with people to enable them to be the best they can be in their bodies, it is best if people can be real and honest with me about how they really are. This doesn’t mean laying everything bare, physically and emotionally … after all whilst there is therapy in massage therapy I am not a therapist. But it does mean that I will listen, without judgement, to how each of my clients is feeling at each appointment, not just during pregnancy. But, I found that during this time in a woman’s life there is even more expectation: words such as ‘blooming’, ‘radiant’, ‘ought to be’, ‘should’, ‘excited’, ‘delighted’. And on, and on, and on.
Wow, talk about pressure, because this is also when you are given lists of ‘do’ and ‘do not’, ‘eat’ and ‘avoid like the plague’. Talking through some of these pressures and concerns can help air them, giving a mother-to-be the chance to get out any frustrations, discuss any fears or concerns about whether she’s doing the right thing, and provide a sounding board. I am not a midwife. I am not a medic. But as a massage therapist I’m good at listening, as an ex-personal trainer qualified in pre- and post-natal exercise I know what is and isn’t a good idea when it comes to exercise during the different stages of pregnancy, and I know the ‘red flags’ which would suggest you need to talk to your midwife or primary carer.
So what’s going on?
Pregnancy is a time of transition, and in my experience to date, the second trimester is when this all comes together. The realisation that your relationship with your partner is developing into a family, reviewing aspects of your life and knowing that they will change but not yet knowing how. It’s a time for reflection, for planning, and at some point everyone seems to want to stop the bus and get off … even temporarily. That’s ok. That is how you are feeling at that time. That’s more than ok. Recognising how you are feeling might explain why you’ve been snapping at everyone, or more tearful and fearful recently.
This is why, at each appointment, we take time to chat about what’s going on for you. We talk about your health, your well being, how your appointments are going and whether there’s anything to report that I might need to be aware of. We discuss any physical symptoms you are experiencing, how you are dealing with being pregnant, how you are finding it altering your sleep patterns and how you are coping with the changes that are happening in your life. Uncovering this kind of stuff allows you to let it go for the rest of the appointment, and if you are still feeling bothered by it, then you can go home and perhaps explain what’s actually been going on in your mind to your partner. Chances are he’ll get it, after all you’re in this together!
Symptoms such as aching shoulders, leg cramps, stiff back, tight glues, discomfort around your ribs, sore neck can all be relieved with massaging the relevant areas. One of the things I found most stunning working with ladies in their second trimester was just how varied their physical experiences were. Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised since your baby grows from about 8cm to about 36cm during the second trimester … now that’s a growth spurt! Then consider that the bones grow, toe nails form along with finger prints, babies develop hearing at around 18 weeks, but after the half way point, you may start noticing a reaction to your voice. No wonder you might need a nap every now and again!
Second trimester massage appointments might see a mother-to-be wanting to bond with her baby through a visualisation exercise, or have one to try at home on her own or with her partner. Abdominal massage is beautiful to receive and to give, but most appointments I undertake don’t typically include this, which is a shame. Luckily, during pregnancy abdominal massage is particularly soothing, and whilst I only ever undertake this with express permission of my client at each appointment, I have found that it is during the second trimester when this starts to form part of our massage work together. But every client is different and some ladies will not want their tummy touched - I’ve still not understood why strangers and distant relatives think touching a pregnant woman’s tummy without an invitation is ok and welcomed. It isn’t cute, it isn’t ok. In fact I’m sure if I stocked a ‘Back off my Bump’ t-shirt it would sell like hot cakes.
When NOT to get a massage during the second trimester
Actually, this is the same list for the duration of pregnancy, but I think that it’s really important to be aware that there are a few symptoms that, if you were to come in for a massage with me during your pregnancy I’d suggest you check with your midwife or GP at the earliest opportunity. I don’t include these points to scare, but to inform:
- Unexplained severe or moderate abdominal pain
- Vaginal bleeding
- Inability to or pain whilst urinating
- Pelvic cramps
- Fever or feeling of weakness
To massage or not to massage
If massage is a part of your life, even occasionally then when you are pregnant and after your baby is born it can be a wonderful addition to your self care regime. I would suggest that if you aren’t so keen on receiving massage, if the thought of someone touching your body turns you cold, perhaps consider trying it after your baby has joined your family. In fact the same goes for most things. Just because swimming is meant to be an excellent form of exercise during pregnancy, if you hate it just don’t do it! If you think yoga is too ‘out there’ for you, don’t waste your money signing up to a pregnancy yoga course. Do what you love to do, enjoy as much of your pregnancy as your symptoms allow.
Remember, trust yourselves.