Postpartum massage can be as important and beneficial as massage during pregnancy. Postpartum bodywork is an effective and holistic approach for the many adjustments to motherhood. You may be surprised to receive much more than a spa retreat.
Massage is well known for relaxation, stress reduction, pain relief and other health benefits. Unique postpartum benefits include hormone regulation, reduced swelling, better sleep and improved breastfeeding. More advanced therapy helps restore your body to its pre-pregnancy condition, speeds healing and assists with C-section recovery.
Find a massage therapist who is certified in prenatal and perinatal massage therapy. The APA does work with some massage therapists who are trained to work with postpartum women, but it is still important to ask about qualifications.
The Benefits of Postpartum Massage
Postpartum massage has been shown to be effective for a quicker recovery and better health. Integration of maternal bodywork may add welcome value to your healing journey and transition to motherhood. Consider the many benefits:
Relaxation and Stress Reduction
Massage relaxes muscles, increases circulation and lowers stress hormones, bringing relaxation and stress relief. All body systems appreciate treatment after nine months of change, culminating with the delivery of the greatest miracle in life. Some women prefer lighter pampering massage while others enjoy deeper techniques to work out the knots. Adding myofascial release and craniosacral therapy reaches deeper into the body for more complete healing. Any of these massage styles will bring relaxation and stress reduction.
Anxiety and depression respond very well to skilled therapy. About two-thirds of new moms experience temporary postpartum blues related to hormonal changes, new responsibilities and adjustment frustrations. Emotional support and the other benefits of massage can help during this transition. Postpartum depression is a more serious, longer-lasting condition that affects10-15% of mothers. Studies show massage to be beneficial for treating postpartum depression. Don’t hesitate to consult healthcare providers for assistance, including a postpartum body worker.
Residual body aches from pregnancy are normal. Adding breastfeeding and childcare can intensify arm, shoulder and back pain. Massage is an effective holistic approach that relaxes muscles and relieves pain without medication. A skilled therapist may also resolve even associated numbness and tingling. Chronic or severe pain may require multiple sessions for resolution.
Massage greatly improves postpartum hormone balance. Estrogen and progesterone hormone levels are very high during pregnancy and decrease after delivery. Prolactin and oxytocin hormone levels rise to facilitate breastfeeding. Studies indicate that massage reduces the stress hormone cortisol. Certain essential oils may also bring hormone and mood balance.
Massage also reduces naturally occurring biochemicals associated with depression (dopamine and serotonin) and cardiovascular problems (norepinephrine), supporting Mom with the challenges of motherhood.
Body fluids need to find balance after pregnancy, in which there was an increase of about 50% in fluid volume. Massage increases circulation and lymphatic drainage to facilitate elimination of excess fluids and waste products. Tissue stimulation assists your body to shift water to the right places. Swelling is also affected by hormones, which go through major changes after delivery. Massage helps hormone regulation, which also decreases swelling (see Hormone Regulation). Continue your high fluid intake for healing and lactation, even though you may still have swelling.
Most new moms feel exhausted after labor and delivery, complicated with around-the-clock baby care. Massage will ease the fatigue, promote relaxation and assist with sleep. Studies have shown an increase in delta brain waves (those that accompany deep sleep) with massage therapy. That is why it is very common to fall asleep during a massage. Getting enough sleep is key to postpartum recovery. Everything improves when you feel rested! Arrange some help and get regular massages for better rest and sleep. One study correlated better sleep with losing the baby fat on the tummy!
Breastfeeding is a beautiful gift to your newborn, but can also be a challenge for some moms. Massage therapy relaxes the body, increases circulation and increases milk production. Studies show that massage increases prolactin levels, a lactation hormone. Relaxation in the chest muscles opens the shoulders and improves lactation. New research indicates that breast massage helps relieve breast pain, decreases breast milk sodium and improves newborn suckling. Consult with your therapist about this service as work directly on the breasts may not be legal in some areas.
When Can a New Mother Start Postpartum Massage?
You may start receiving postpartum massages as soon as you feel comfortable. Your therapists will position you comfortably if your abdomen or breasts are sore. If you have maternal complications, first consult with your medical provider.
What Positions Are Safe in Postpartum Massage?
Any position is safe after delivery, but may be adjusted for your comfort or specific treatment. Some moms crave being able to lie face-down again after lying on their sides for almost nine months. Others may be uncomfortable face-down because of breast discomfort or the distraction of leaking milk. The side-lying position can be comfortable and very effective to treat specific issues of the shoulders, pelvis or legs.
May I Bring Baby to My Appointment?
Many mothers want to leave their baby in good hands and take a break. However, some moms prefer to bring their newborn with them. Ask your therapist if newborns are welcome. Some therapists support the little visitor. Newborns usually sleep a lot and an experienced therapist will adjust the routine to Baby, if needed (breastfeeding, etc.). Extra time may be necessary if bringing the little one, so get approval in advance.
Aromatherapy during a Postpartum Massage
Holistic treatment with aromatherapy can be effective therapy for postpartum moms. Essential oils are pure extractions from plants and can assist with relaxation, hormone balance, cleansing, and treatment of anxiety or depression. Most high-quality oils are safe and non-allergenic after pregnancy, but let your therapist know if you are nursing. Most aromatherapy can be diffused into the air, added to lotion or applied topically. Inquire about the therapist’s expertise in this area and if there is an additional charge.
Include Postpartum Massage in Your After Pregnancy Care
Massage can improve post-delivery recovery and health for many women. Supplement the guidance and advice of your medical care provider with massage to support the transition to your new maternal role. A trained therapist will assist you with physical, emotional and educational support as you find the joy of motherhood. Consult with your physician if you have had any complications or have concerns before beginning any new therapeutic practice.
Field, T. (1999). Pregnant Women Benefit From Massage Therapy. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Mar;20(1):31-8.
Field, T. (2004). Massage Therapy Effects on Depressed Pregnant Women. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Jun;25(2):115-22.
Jordan, Kate, (2009), Post-partum Massage—What a Massage Therapist Should Know, Massage Magazine, Apr Noble, Elizabeth, (2004) Essential Exercises for the Childbearing Year: A Guide to Health and Comfort Before and After Your Baby is Born, 4th Edition, New Life Images
Osborne, Carole. (2012). Pre- and Perinatal Massage Therapy: A Comprehensive Guide to Prenatal, Labor, and Postpartum Practice, 2nd Edition, Wolters Klower,/ Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins (2011)
Research: Massage Benefits Postpartum Women, Nov http://www.massagemag.com/News/massage-news.php?id=11806&catid=1&title=research-massage-benefits-postpartum-women# Article Accessed Online 6/6/11.
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When you learned that you were having a boy you probably started thinking about circumcision. The decision to have your son circumcised can be difficult and can involve a number of considerations, including your culture, religion, and personal preferences.
What is a circumcision?
Boys are born with a covering over the head of the penis called the glans. This covering is also called the foreskin. During circumcision, the foreskin is surgically removed, exposing the glans. Circumcision is usually performed in the first two to three weeks after the baby is born.
Making a Circumcision Decision:
The American Academy of Pediatrics has not found sufficient supporting evidence to medically recommend circumcision or argue against it. Despite the possible benefits and risks, circumcision is neither essential nor detrimental to your son’s health. Typically the decision to circumcise is based on religious beliefs, concerns about hygiene, or various other cultural or social factors. Circumcision is common in the United States, Canada, and the Middle East.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the latest numbers released through 2006 show a declining rate in circumcision at a current 56% of annual male births in the United States. Circumcision is less common in Asia, South America, Central America, and most of Europe.
Before deciding one way or the other, it is helpful to understand how the procedure is performed, the risks, and the benefits.
How is a circumcision performed?
Hospital/Doctors Office: The procedure can take from 5 to 20 minutes and will usually be performed before leaving the hospital. Your baby will be placed in a padded restraint chair and usually be given anesthesia. Since there are several different types of possible procedures, you should ask your care provider to explain the type they will be using. Procedures include the Plastibell, the Gomco clamp or Mogen clamp which all require the use of a scalpel. These procedures first separate the foreskin from the glans with a device followed by surgery with the scalpel to remove the foreskin.
Home/Jewish Facility performed by a Mohel-Often called a “bris” or “holistic circumcision”, this procedure takes about 15-30 seconds. The foreskin is separated from the glans, often using the Mogen clamp, and then a single cut with a scalpel is used to remove the foreskin. The parents hold the baby during the procedure. Afterwards, the mother is encouraged to nurse within the first minute following the procedure. This procedure is usually performed on or shortly after the 8th day from birth when clotting factors in the babies blood are at their highest levels.
When should the procedure be performed?
Most doctors recommend that circumcision be done within a few days from the delivery of the baby. Some doctors recommend waiting two or three weeks. When the birth occurs in a hospital, circumcision is usually done within 48 hours. If the baby was born in a birth center or if it was a home birth, circumcision can wait up to two weeks and can be performed either in your pediatricians office or with a Jewish Mohel.
How is pain controlled during the procedure?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using pain relief measures for the procedure. Types of local anesthesia for reducing pain include a topical cream, a nerve block via injection at the base of the penis, and a nerve block via injection under the skin around the penis shaft.
What are the benefits of a circumcision?
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that there are not enough benefits from circumcision to recommend it as a routine practice and that it is not medically necessary. As always, it is important to discuss the subject with your doctor.
Circumcision can provide the following benefits:
- Prevention of urinary tract infections in infants
- Prevention of penile cancer in adult men
- A reduction in the risk of sexually transmitted diseases
What are the risks of a circumcision?
The risks of circumcision are minimal. However, as with any surgical procedure, there should be careful consideration of the risks. Circumcision should always be performed by a skilled professional and only on a healthy infant, using proven techniques to prevent infections. The rate of complications ranges from 0.1%-35% with most complications involving infection, bleeding, and the failure to remove enough foreskin.
Bleeding and infection can occur from irritation as a result of friction from the diapers and ammonia in the urine. An application of petroleum jelly can often provide relief from irritation.
More serious complications can include:
Meatitis (inflammation of the penis opening) and meatal stenosis (disorders related to urination). Some studies report the rate of occurrence of these complications to be as high as 8-21%.
- Injury to the penis such as partial amputation, penis necrosis and urethral fistulas.
In rare cases, too much skin is removed from the penis, leading to painful erections in adulthood. Some opponents of circumcision believe that removal of the foreskin causes desensitization of the adult glans with reduced sensitivity during sexual intercourse.
After the circumcision procedure:
- Clean the area gently with warm water several times a day.
- Replace soiled gauze and apply lubricants as instructed by your care provider.
- Scabbing, light bleeding and some yellow discharge can occur. If you notice any of these symptoms, avoid aggressive rubbing of the affected area.
- Use pain relief methods as instructed by your care provider. These can include increased breastfeeding, use of infant pain medication or topical creams.
When should the doctor be called?
After your son’s circumcision, you will need to contact your doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Persistent bleeding
- Redness around the tip of the penis that gets worse after three days
- Signs of infection such as the presence of pus-filled blisters or greenish discharge
- Inability to urinate normally within 6 to 8 hours after the circumcision.
- The Plastibell device (a device that may be used during the procedure) does not fall off within 7-10 days.
When should a circumcision procedure not be performed?
Your doctor might want to delay the procedure or chose not to perform it at all if:
- Your baby was born prematurely or is medically unstable
- Your baby was born with physical abnormalities of the penis that require surgical correction. In some cases, the foreskin may be needed as part of a reconstructive operation)
Compiled using information from the following sources:
American Academy of Pediatrics, http://www.aap.org/
Holistic Circumcision, http://www.easycircumcision.com
American Academy of Family Physicians, http://www.aafp.org
Medscape Reference, http://www.emedicine.medscape.com
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