Postpartum

What changes in the body postpartum?

What is postpartum massage?

How can postpartum massage help?

The importance of touch

 

What changes in the body postpartum?

After pregnancy and birth, the female body continues to experience intense adjustment physically, as well as emotionally. Physical changes can include: uterus changes in shape and size, abdomen muscles are flaccid, and skin is often loose. Stretch marks may prevent the skin from regaining its pre-pregnancy firmness. In addition, the last months of pregnancy can result in intestines, bladder and possibly other organs being displaced. As the body clears itself of the excess interstitial fluid and waste products, the new mother commonly experiences an increase in urine output, hot flashes, and heavy sweating.

After the placenta is delivered the uterus continues to contract, and this is called “after-pains”. These serve to restore the uterus to its pre-pregnant size and shape. Another cause for uterine cramping in nursing mothers is when the prolactin (the hormone of milk production) activates uterine contractions. This has a beneficial purpose, despite its pain, to expel any remaining clots and uterine tissue, and also to control hemorrhages at the placental site.

Emotionally, becoming a parent changes your world forever. There is now this beautiful baby that is your responsibility to love, care for and watch grow. While this may be wonderful, at the same time you may feel exhausted, hormones are going haywire. You have occasional headaches/ migraines, various musculoskeletal pains, several discomforts and by-products of labour, possible nursing difficulties and your body is in a complete state of flux. This can be a lot to take in all at once. 

How we can relieve the stress caused by these changes?

 

What is postpartum massage?

Simply put, it is massage given to a new mother to help with recovery, rejuvenation, balancing and relaxation. It’s very important for a new mom to also take care of herself after giving birth since she now has to spend so much of her time attending to another life. It can be easy to forget about your own needs and to completely exhaust yourself. Postpartum massage allows you to put your best foot forward as a mother and helps you get your pre-baby self back.

 

How can postpartum massage help?

Abdominal massage directly after the placenta is expelled, though it can be painful, is very helpful in encouraging uterine involution and the flow of natural postpartum discharge. This can be done by the mother herself on the abdomen in a clockwise direction with small circular kneading strokes. The uterus should harden and contract with this treatment and should be done every 4 hours until the discharge is pale for about 2-3 weeks (note: there is a different method if a woman has had a C-section).

Some of the many benefits of receiving postpartum massage are:

Reduces muscular tension and fatigue

Increases lymphatic drainage

Relaxes muscles strained during labour or infant care

Relieves headaches and migraines

Assists the uterus in contracting down to size and minimize bleeding

Gets rid of toxins

Helps to balance hormones

Relaxation causes release of endorphins

Lifts post-partum depression

Speed up recovery from a caesarean

Aids in correcting posture

Release of oxytocin

Reduces any swelling or edema from pregnancy

Reduces stress hormones

Increases circulation

Relieves lower back pain

 

Some specific areas needing extra attention are:

Legs

Labor positions can contribute to achy feet and tired legs after giving birth. By following lymphatic massage protocol, swollen feet can be reduced and relieved. It takes a few days to a few weeks to have all the fluid retention be eliminated.

Lower back

In cases where there is a separation of the two halves of the rectus abdominus, muscles in the midline at the linea alba (diastasis recti), the mothers abdominals will be weakened causing lower back pain. With some healing, strength work and massage the discomfort can be greatly relieved.

Pelvis

During birth sometimes the pelvis can get misaligned (which can cause musculoskeletal problems) which then can lead to further complications if not addressed early on.  By getting massage concentrated on rebalancing the pelvic muscles, such as iliopsoas, quadratus lumborum, piriformis, SI joints and medial pelvic compression this can help to achieve optimal aligment once again.

 

The importance of touch:

In order to survive, babies need touch. The amount of touch we experience as we grow up has a great impact on the levels of our self-esteem, our ability to build lasting relationships with others and our capacity to be comfortable with ourselves, not only physically but also mentally. The reason massage is so great, aside from its obvious musculoskeletal benefits, is that rarely in our society do we give and receive touch anymore. Massage decreases cortisol (stress hormone) and increases serotonin and dopamine (feel good hormones). As humans we crave touch, connection and love on a basic level. Give yourself the treat of postpartum massage at a time when your energy and love is needed at a whole new level to this beautiful new life you’ve created.