Over the course of completing my Well Mother training, I completed more than 60 hours of pregnancy massage with clients and my case studies. Whilst each week marked a new milestone for the mothers, each appointment gave me new insight into the physical, mental and emotional effects they were experiencing. Whatever anxiety, nerves and isolation came with the excitement and eagerness of the first trimester, whether the second trimester is the time to bloom or fade, I have found that third trimester massage can provide a pregnant lady with several key benefits.
Your third trimester lasts from when you're 28 weeks pregnant until you have your baby. You'll need extra energy to help your baby's growth spurt and tiredness will probably return. [Baby Centre Website]
Let’s get physical
Firstly, there’s you … having already carried your baby around for several months, there is no escaping the changes occurring to your body and physique. There’s your growing bump, the stretching that’s occurring in the muscles and the skin over the top of it. There’s the low back which is probably feeling the strain of the shift in your centre of gravity. There’s the aching in your shoulders and neck from the change in your posture as you move. There’s the potentially swollen ankles; the tight, cramping calves; the … well the list goes on but is uniquely personal. Please don’t start looking out for symptoms that the other mothers from your NCT group are experiencing. You have your own world, body and baby to be focusing on now. Which is why each and every pregnancy massage is personally tailored to you, as you are today. Massage can be used to help you address each and every one of these aches and pains, whether it results in total relief or temporary respite is, again, an individual thing.
Secondly, there’s your baby … during the latter half of your third trimester, your baby is going to start wriggling around to (hopefully) get into the ‘ideal’ position for labour and birth i.e. head down and bum forwards. Recently, I saw a client whose midwife was rather unhelpfully talking about a potentially breach birth at around the 34 week mark which we both agreed seemed slightly early to be talking so definitively about it. However, it was a wonderful reminder to us both that there is plenty that can be done to encourage babies to get into the optimal position. We can work in several positions which are helpful to giving you and your baby enough room to turn, as well as talking about what you can do at home to help support this process.
As with most things, there’s a caveat to all this … there is no guarantee that all your hard work and best intentions will work in definitely turning your baby. Remember, they have a personality themselves and whilst they might not know or understand why it’s better for you for them to be in the optimum position, they are most likely to do what they want!
The third trimester is typically the time at which your partner (or birth partner if they are not the same person) is likely to express an interest in attending a pregnancy massage lesson. This hour long session with you both will look at your particularly areas of discomfort and what your partner can do to help ease these with massage at home. Additionally, we can look at your birth plan, look at the positions you are finding to be most comfortable to practice, and find ways that your birth partner can massage you during labour. More information will be appearing on my website about the Pregnancy Massage Lesson in due course.
At some point during the third trimester, I have noticed a softening of spirit, a quietening of the mind and a peace that comes over them. I’m not talking about the fact that the ‘To Do / To Buy’ list has magically been completed - don’t be ridiculous. Rather the magic of pregnancy hormones seems to enable a woman to listen to her body, to quieten the mind enough to give in to the need to rest, to sleep, to relax and to enter a semi-meditation-like phase. During the massage appointment these women are able to relax just a little more deeply, talk a little bit less, and seem more at peace with their current state. One might almost imagine they are living in the present - the emotions, the thoughts, the anxieties and excitements that have been with the woman throughout her pregnancy to date are still there, but must more on the periphery. When this occurs I see my role as an enabler, enhancing her experience of this state which will allow her body and mind to rest, to prepare for what is to come, and to encourage her to maintain or return to this place of peace as often as possible at home.
It’s the final countdown
Women who have come to me for massage appointments during their third trimester are typically looking at a countdown clock until their due date. I completely understand why, but in a way this is daft … anyone who reads any literature about pregnancy and birth will know that approximately 5% of babies are born on their due date. Yet, still we perpetuate the myth. I’ve heard several women start to talk about their due month or due window, and highly applaud it when public figures such as the Duchess of Cambridge refuse to be pushed to provide the world with this mostly useless information.
The point of the matter
Reading several forums in preparation for this article, I am always astounded by how many wives tales exist about massage, shiatsu and acupressure points, the ability for a particular essential oil or food stuff to initiate labour. If these things were the catalyst for labour, then women wouldn’t need to be induced medically and would not go into the 42nd week of pregnancy at all. One of the things really struck home with me when I was undertaking my training was the following phrase:
When working, remember that it isn’t so much about inducing labour as it is about encouraging and supporting the mother’s body and the baby to enter the phase of labour when they are ready. Initiating the process, if you will.
So, if you find that you are ‘over running’, pregnancy massage may not only help support you, help you relax and trust to the process, but we can also look at using these ‘initiation’ or labour support points.
Cancellation policy cancelled
In view of the unpredictable nature of the end of pregnancy and labour, from a certain point in the third trimester I will not charge for the cancellation of a pregnancy massage appointment, nor for a ‘normal’ massage appointment if your partner or birth partner is booked in, and they cancel due to labour starting. This does not mean that I won’t take bookings from you for these last few weeks, in fact many of my clients have found it very helpful to have something else, something ’normal’ to look forward to around their due date. Please just remember that if, at any point, you have any concerns about whether massage is a good idea you can give me a ring, but that your midwife should be your first point of contact if you have any concerns generally about your pregnancy.
When NOT to get a massage during the third trimester
I believe that it is really important to be aware that there are a few symptoms that, if you were to come in for a massage with me at any stage 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
Again I believe that this is worth repeating. 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.