It sounds like a bit of a given that if you’re pregnant, getting a massage is a good idea. You’re generally not in your most comfortable state of being as you grow another human being, but receiving massage prior to having a child has proven benefits that are difficult to ignore. Tiffany Field, PhD is the director of the Touch Research Institute in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Miami School. In 2010, she published a study on the benefits of massage for a variety of different groups of people, including pregnant women. The results were highly interesting.
During the first study, women involved in the study reported decreased depression, anxiety and leg and back pain. Cortisol levels decreased and, in turn, excessive fetal activity decreased, and the rate of prematurity was lower in the massage group.
In the second study, depressed pregnant women were massaged over a 16-week period using the same protocol (20-min massages twice weekly). As in the first study, significant decreases were noted in depression and anxiety, as well as cortisol levels. In addition, like the results of the first study, pregnancy outcomes were improved, including a reduction in excessive fetal movement that has been noted in fetuses of depressed women. The most important finding was the lower incidence of prematurity (0 vs 11% in the control group).
In the third study, pregnant women diagnosed with major depression were given 12 weeks of twice weekly massage, or only standard treatment as a control group. The massage therapy group women versus the control group women not only had reduced depression by the end of the therapy period, but they also had reduced depression and cortisol levels during the postpartum period. Their newborns were also less likely to be born prematurely (4 vs 16%) and with low birthweight (2 vs 10%), and they had lower cortisol levels and performed better on the Brazelton Neonatal Behavioral Assessment habituation, orientation and motor scales.