Postpartum Massage: Recover & 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 your 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.