Postpartum Massage: Recover and Replenish

“Nurture your health, both inside and out.” –Mary Buchan

In general, the first 6-8 weeks are considered the “postpartum” period when the uterus shrinks back to pre-pregnancy size and position. But the recovery process after birth can last for years, especially once the demands of parenting take hold and if there is not a strong support system in place.

Postpartum massage assists mothers in recovery and replenishment after giving birth. Some women are ready for it immediately and others may need several weeks or more. It is important to obtain the go-ahead from your health provider that ypostnatal massage oil candles smallour body is healed enough before receiving massage. It is equally essential to work with a therapist specifically certified in prenatal and postpartum massage.

This form of body work can be a vital part of the healing process as a woman walks through the tremendous transformation that comes with motherhood. It allows for a peaceful time to find balance for the self and meeting the challenges of caring for your little one/s.

The art of postpartum massage can include:

  • reducing pain, soreness, and stiffness
  • stress reduction
  • supporting hormonal balance/regulation
  • reducing swelling
  • assisting the uterus to shrink back to normal size
  • better sleep
  • addressing or prevention of postpartum depression
  • support for resolution of trauma during birth
  • checking for diastasis recti (separation in belly muscles)
  • supportive suggestions for diastasis recti, psoas muscle, and pelvic floor weakness
  • improved breastfeeding as it stimulates release of oxytocin.*

*Oxytocin triggers the milk ejection complex which pushes the milk out of the nipple, making it easier to breastfeed. The more you breastfeed your baby, the more milk you will produce.

C-section scar reduction massage, which includes instruction for self-massage, can help mothers to reconnect with their bellies and their bodies after the impact of surgery. The first 6-14 weeks postpartum is generally considered the ideal time to begin to address the scar tissue, however, only with a doctor or midwife’s approval. But recovery can absolutely still be addressed even years later.

If there was trauma at the birth, it can help soothe the nervous system, support release of painful emotions, and be a powerful therapeutic complement to counseling. We generally cope with trauma by disconnecting from our bodies so massage is a gentle road back to feeling and being present in your body again.

You may have the option to bring your newborn baby to the session. I’ve worked with newborns and mamas on the table together many times. Baby is nestled against mama’s breast in a protective cocoon of propping pillows while we work with the side-lying position. Babies of mothers that received regular pregnancy massage seem to be quite familiar and comfortable back on the massage table. They even seem to recognize and respond positively to my voice!

Therapeutic massage can be a fundamental aspect of the postpartum healing process; it is much more than a pampering luxury. In many traditional cultures, it is an essential aspect of regular care for mothers after childbirth. Healthy, happy mothers mean a healthy, happy society.

Sacred Body: Helping Ourselves

Helping Ourselves - Nang Talinee, the Lao Earth GoddessSuppose… the body is a God in its own right, a teacher, a mentor, a certified guide? Then what? …. Are we strong enough to refute the party line and listen deep, listen true to the body as a powerful and holy being?”

-Clarissa Pinkola Estes (Women Who Run with the Wolves)

Our bodies are a sacred gift that, when cared for, are a vital part of our ability to live life to the fullest and be our truest selves. The body has great intelligence and is capable of profound healing and amazing feats as well as the little things that give us so much pleasure. It will also tell us when something is wrong.

Our job is to listen and respond accordingly.

Developing this relationship with our bodies is a skill that takes practice and support to develop because we are generally taught to do the opposite. The conscious connection between our minds and bodies has, in many cases, been weakened or even severed. We may walk around numb to the signals and signs as well as our emotions and feelings. We often feel guilty when we give priority and take the time to listen to our intuition.

But there is a big difference between thoughtful listening and responding and being selfish.

I find that one of the greatest challenges for us as women is valuing ourselves enough to focus our attention upon our own needs to an effective level.

Our bodies love to be loved and we are each the only person who can ultimately give that love. Movement, fitness, proper breathing, nourishing foods, plenty of water (dehydration is epidemic in this country), and the cultivation of a positive mindset can form the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. This is extremely powerful medicine. It can help us find our strength and balance in these times.

Reclaiming Ancient Feminine Wisdom

In our culture, postpartum is generally considered to be the first 6-8 weeks after giving birth. In some traditional cultures, the mother and baby are secluded, sheltered, protected, and nurtured for the first 40 days postpartum. This is to ensure that the mother’s womb and belly heal properly and that her full health and vigor is restored before she takes on the full-time job of childrearing.

What a humane and logical way to prepare mothers for perhaps the most challenging job they will ever undertake.

But in the modern world, without the family, community, and “village” structures in place, the health of families and often the postpartum mother is “falling through the cracks” of public health. It is alarming to me to see how many mothers have never received any support or education about postnatal recovery, including women with grown children. Many issues will not go away without proper care.

I’m witnessing how women beyond the socially acceptable period of 6-8 weeks, are often ashamed that they couldn’t “get it together and recover” during this short period. Sometimes they just give up or beat themselves up, adding to their sense of being burdened.

The true definition of postpartum is simply “following childbirth or the birth of young.” How can we accept that the term “postpartum” is now automatically synonymous with “depression” in our culture??

Helping Ourselves

I’ve heard many stories of mothers whose health concerns such as diastasis recti (split in the belly muscles), inability to rebuild the core (aka “mommy tummy”), incontinence, constipation, depression, numbness around cesarean scar incision, and birth trauma are disregarded. Without proper education and support, women may not know what solution to pursue, or if a solution exists at all. These issues are often brushed aside, never to be addressed as the demands of parenting take hold. They may last a lifetime, causing further pain and complications.

Finding your voice in the face of being disregarded and owning the fact that you need help or to take action can be the biggest stumbling block. This is exactly why proper postnatal recovery support, education, and services are so important and necessary for mothers at any stage. Whether it’s a network of mothers, women, family, community, and/or women’s health and fitness professionals, mothers deserve to be respected and acknowledged for the priceless contributions they make.

The well-being of our children and our planet ultimately depends on the health of mothers.