Perinatal Massage Therapy

Massage during and around pregnancy has so many benefits. It is an important part of our wellness practice. Pregnancy Massage is available specifically with certified therapists. Treatment is done in positions comfortably supported by pillows with the client lying on side and/or back depending on stage of pregnancy and their comfort.  Please request or select this option when scheduling a massage during pregnancy or less than 8 weeks after pregnancy.


Carole Osburne Sheets is an inspiring and wise teacher who I have both had the opportunity to train with. Her article explains the history, science and her passion for this form of promoting peace and comfort. 


Be well,


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Supporting Pregnancy with Massage Therapy

  • NOVEMBER 23, 2015


by Carole Osborne Sheets

Nurturing touch during pregnancy, labor, and the postpartum period is not a new concept. Cultural and anthropological studies reveal that massage and movement during the childbearing experience was and continues to be a prominent part of many cultures’ healthcare. (1) Studies indicate that most of the more peaceful cultures use touch prominently during pregnancy and early childhood. 2 Midwives, who for centuries have provided maternity care, have highly developed hands-on skills.

Current research on the benefits of touch is providing a contemporary basis for its reintroduction in many technological societies, including the United States. Scientists have found that rats restricted from cutaneous self stimulation had poorly developed placentas and 50% less mammary gland development. Their litters were often ill, stillborn, or died shortly after birth due to poor mothering skills. (3) Pregnant women massaged twice weekly for 5 weekly for 5 weeks experienced less anxiety, leg and back pain. They reported better sleep and improved moods, and their labors had fewer complications, including less premature births. (4) Studies show that when women received nurturing touch during later pregnancy they touch their babies more frequently and lovingly. (5) During labor the presence of a doula, a woman providing physical and emotional support, including extensive touching and massage, reduces the length of labor and number of complications, interventions, medications, and Cesareans. (6)

Why Pregnancy Massage Therapy?

Profound local and systemic changes in a woman’s physiology occur as a result of conception and the process of labor. Changes during pregnancy span the psychological, physiological, spiritual, and social realms, according to Carole Osborne, author of Pre- and Perinatal Massage Therapy and maternity massage therapy specialist since 1980. “Massage therapy can help a woman approach her due date with less anxiety, as well as less physical discomfort,” says Osborne.

A typical session performed by a therapist specializing in pre- and perinatal massage therapy, can address pregnancy’s various physical challenges: edema, postural changes, and pain in the lower back, pelvis, or hips. Swedish massage may facilitate gestation by supporting cardiac function, placental and mammary development, (7)and increasing cellular respiration. It also reduces edema and contributes to sympathetic nervous system sedation. (8) Deep tissue, trigger point, and both active and passive movements alleviate stress on weight-bearing joints and myofascial structures, especially the sacroiliac and lumbosacral joints, lumbar spine, hips, and pelvic musculature. (9)Structural balancing and postural reeducation reduce neck and back pain caused by improper posture and strain to the uterine ligaments. “Prenatal massage therapy also can facilitate ease of labor by preparing the muscles for release and support during childbirth,” according to Osborne.

“Beyond these physical effects, an effective prenatal massage therapy session provides emotional support,” says Osborne. In the safe care of a focused, nurturing therapist, many women unburden their worries, fears, and other anxieties about childbearing. She believes that bodywork helps the mother-to-be develop the sensory awareness necessary to birth more comfortably and actively. “Laboring women whose partners learned and provided basic massage strokes to their backs and legs had shorter, less complicated labors. (10) Imagine the benefits generated by the skilled hands of a trained touch specialist!”

The Postpartum Period

Beginning with the baby’s birth, a new mother must cope with more changes. She is typically only 10 to 12 pounds lighter, yet she is still maintaining her body with an anterior weight load posture. The massage practitioner can facilitate proprioceptive reprogramming to gently return the body to its pre-pregnancy state, to alleviate pain, and to bring about a renewed sense of body and self.

As a specialist in postpartum work, Osborne focuses on repositioning the pelvis and repatterning overall body use. Postpartum massage sessions can restore functional muscle use in the lumbar spine area, as well as strengthen and increase tonus in the abdominal musculature stretched and separated by pregnancy. Additionally, the overtaxed, hypotoned iliopsoas muscle functions can be improved. Upper back muscles which now support larger breasts and the carried infant’s weight need work to reduce strain, and to help maintain flexibility despite the physical stresses of infant feeding and care. For post-Cesarean mothers, specific therapeutic techniques also can reduce scar tissue formation (11) and facilitate the healing of the incision and related soft tissue areas, as well as support the somato-emotional integration of her childbearing experience.


Pre- & Perinatal Massage Therapy Education

To safely massage pregnant, laboring and postpartum women, Osborne feels that it is imperative that practitioners be knowledgeable about normal pre- and perinatal physiology, high risk factors, and complications of pregnancy. “Many of these conditions necessitate adaptations and consultation with physicians and/or midwives prior to sessions. Various techniques and methodologies must be modified or eliminated, depending on the individual and the trimester of pregnancy,” according to Osborne.

  1. Goldsmith, Judith.  Childbirth Wisdom.  New York: Congdon and Weed, 1984.

  2. Prescott, James.  “The Origins of Love & Violence and the Developing Human Brain.”  Touch the Future, Long Beach, CA, Fall, 1995, pp. 9-15.

  3. Rosenblatt, J.S. and D.S. Lehrman.   Maternal behavior of the laboratory rat.  Maternal Behavior in Mammals,Wiley, New York, 1963, p. 14.

  4. Field, T.m M. Hernandez-Reif, S. Hart, H. Theakston, S. Schanberg, and C. Kuhn. Pregnant women benefit from massage therapy. J. Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology, 20(1), March, 1999, 31-8.

  5. Rubin, R. Maternal Touch. Nurs Outlook, 11/1963, ppp. 828-31

  6. Kennell, J.H., M.H. Klaus, S. McGrath, S. Robertson, C. Hinkley.   Continuous emotional support during labor in a US hospital.   J Am Med Assoc, 265, 1991, pp. 2197-2201

  7. Rosenblatt, J.S. and D.S. Lehrman.   Maternal behavior of the laboratory rat.  Maternal Behavior in Mammals,Wiley, New York, 1963, p. 14.

  8. Zanolla, R., Monzeglio, C., Balzarini, A., et al. “Evaluations of the results of three different methods of post-mastectomy lymphedema treatment.” J. Surg. Oncol. 26:1984, p. 210-13.

  9. Quebec Task Force on Spinal Disorders.  1987.  Scientific approach to the assessment and management of activity-related spinal disorders.  Spine, 12:, Supplement 1.

  10. Field, T., Hernandez-Reif, M., Taylor, S. , Quintino, O. Touch Research Institute, University of Miami School of Medicine and Iris Burman, Educating hands School of Massage Therapy. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology, (in press 1998).

  11. Hufnagel, V., M.D. “Medical basis for using massage after surgery.” Massage Magazine #17, Dec-Jan/1988-89, p. 21.


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