What is Perinatal Massage?

By Megan Dempsey, Owner, Mama Nurture


The perinatal period is the time from conception through labor and birth to 2 years after you have your baby. So much of this time is focused on the baby and how the baby is doing that the mother is often forgotten about or treated as an accessory. 

We need to pay greater attention to how moms are doing during this time. It is common for mothers in this period of their life to experience stress, depression, muscle aches and pains and give their all to their infants. Perinatal massage is a valuable way that mothers can refill their spirits, their energy, be more present in their lives through early motherhood and pregnancy. 

Hi! My name is Megan Dempsey. I have been a board certified massage therapist for 11 years. I have certifications in NeuroMuscular Therapy and Advanced Practice Prenatal, Postpartum, and Labor Support massage therapy. I am a Human and Microbial Biologist with a minor in Human Nutrition and Dietetics, a Certified Birth Doula, and a Lactation Consultant. I have recently started practicing massage at The Family Room on Saturdays! I have been practicing in home massage services for years!  

This is a 3 part series on the benefits and value of perinatal massage therapy. The first part in this series is all about prenatal massage! Prenatal massage has been found to have a lot of benefits that were not initially realized. Expecting moms have reported to have less stress, depression, muscle aches and pains, and improved labor outcomes. The improvements in mood are associated with enhanced hormone regulation. Prenatal massage causes a release of endorphins, as well as, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin levels. This increase in oxytocin and endorphin production results in few birth complications. Reduction in norepinephrine and other stress hormones has a mood balancing effect that is beneficial in improving cardiovascular health and further stress reduction. 

Prenatal massage stimulates soft tissues and reduces how much fluid collects in the extremities, especially the feet. The lymphatic system is also stimulated and is able to remove cellular waste from the body tissues more effectively. The stimulation of the soft tissues and lymphatic system cause greater oxygenation of the soft tissues and muscles by preventing muscle spasms that restrict blood flow through the microcirculation to muscles and nerves. 

Expecting mothers experience less pelvic floor and back pain because massage reduces inflammation and increases relaxation to give relief to sore muscles. Relaxin, the hormone that is produced in pregnancy to allow the pelvis to spread to allow the baby to travel down the birth canal during birth, causes the pelvic muscles to work harder during pregnancy to keep everything in place. This same hormone works all over the body. This causes discomfort in the neck, shoulders, lower back, legs, and feet, too! 

Expecting mothers that receive regular prenatal massage from an advanced practice perinatal massage therapist can expect to have a more pleasant pregnancy. This is not just limited to the things that were discussed earlier. They also experience improved sleep because massage causes a measurable increase in delta brain waves that the brain accesses during deep sleep. This increase in delta brain waves allows expectant mothers to have more restful sleep and feel a greater level of restoration during those catnaps they have in later pregnancy when they have to use the bathroom frequently during the night! 

Many people wonder what is so different about a prenatal massage than other massages. During the prenatal massages that you will receive in my office, you will be lying on your side (for now!) with lots of pillows to keep you comfortable and supported during your massage. We work together to find a depth of pressure that is meets your needs and comfort level.  While I am not in the practice of giving expecting mothers only light touch massage, we do need to pay attention to how well you can breathe and relax during treatments. Every pregnant body is different and requires different techniques and pressure to get to that relaxed and comfortable state where you have the greatest benefits of prenatal massage. There is nothing like leaving a massage feeling frustrated because the therapist did not have the training or expertise to help you relax or relieve muscular tension!

Want more? Check out my offerings on The Family Room weekly schedule and sign up. Hope to see you soon!