Taking wellness advice can be difficult for new or expectant mothers, with so many do's, don'ts and old wives tales to sift through. "The most popular is that a foot massage can induce labor," says Neva Fernandez, owner of NEVA Face + Body. "My goodness! If that were true, I would have a line around the block and I'd be very, very rich."
Here's one you can bank on: a prenatal or postpartum massage can do wonders, if it's specialized for mommy bodies and performed by a certified masseuse.
NEVA provides a mini MOMEase™ Postpartum Massage that's part of Baptist Health Systemstealth program" and is offered free to every woman who delivers at North CentralBaptist Hospital, explains Fernandez, a massage instructor at St. Philips College and former PCA Skin educator. A pregnancy massage increases blood and oxygen flow, and nutrients to the womb. It reduces stress hormone levels and increases dopamine and serotonin levels. Low levels of these hormones are associated with depression. Increased circulation helps reduce swelling in the joints and removes waste. "The nurturing touch of massage is very important," Fernandez says. "Emotional stress is often experienced along with this very exciting time for expecting mothers."
Massage, she says, is no longer a luxury — something to do while on vacation. "I often use this analogy: People take better care of their cars then their bodies. We change the oil every three months, maintain water, coolants and check the air in our tires. Why? So it doesn't break down. Yet we don't do regular maintenance for our body."
In a groundbreaking 1986 study, the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami’s School of Medicine, Tiffany Field, Ph.D., showed that premature infants who were massaged three times a day for 15 minutes gained 47 percent more weight than other preemies and were released from the hospital six days earlier. It wasn’t just that the massaged kids felt more secure for being coddled. In later research, Field showed that massage (as opposed to light touch) stimulates the brain’s vagus nerve, causing the secretion of food-absorption hormones, including insulin. Nerve stimulation probably explains other benefits as well.
A study currently underway at the Touch Research Institute concerns the effects of touch on pregnant women. [Massage]... is also said to help with such pregnancy-related conditions as sciatica and constipation. “We’re trying to find the best ways to reduce pregnancy anxiety” says study director Tiffany Field, Ph.D., “which we know contributes to premature delivery and prenatal problems.” TRI has found... massage releases a substance similar to serotonin, a neurotransmitter related to pain relief.
The Pleasures Of Partner Massage
Shape, September 30, 1996
Twenty-eight women were recruited from prenatal classes and randomly assigned to receive massage in addition to coaching in breathing from their partners during labor, or to receive coaching in breathing alone (a technique learned during prenatal classes). The massaged mothers reported a decrease in depressed mood, anxiety and pain, and showed less agitated activity and anxiety and more positive affect following the first massage during labor. In addition, the massaged mothers had significantly shorter labors, a shorter hospital stay and less postpartum depression.
The Right Touch Can Do Wonderful Things For Infants
Daily Record, July 21, 1996