New baby – how wonderful – but what about mum?

After the excitement of child birth many parents are often confronted by just how demanding learning to care for a new baby can be.

They soon realise that their little bundle of joy is a permanent 24/7 responsibility that can’t be sent back. For many this is one the most stressful times of their lives.

For new mums caring for a new born, breast feeding, and trying to recover from the pregnancy and birth, there is little relief from the unrelenting demands of a new baby.

Safe time for post natal massage

April Thewlis, a pre and post natal remedial massage therapist, says that help is available and that massage can play an important role by assisting with recovery and it providing vital emotional and stress relief while mum is learning how to care for her new baby.

Having a baby is a very intense physical and emotional experience, irrespective of whether it is a vaginal birth or a caesarean, and labour can last for many hours, sometimes more than a day.

April says that as long as the mother and baby are well and cleared by their doctor, they can have a massage as soon after delivery as she would like.

Women can sometimes find their back and pelvic pain worsen during labour, as they may have been labouring for a long period of time in one position or in awkward positions that have left muscles strained and fatigued. If the labour was prolonged they may have additional fatigue from lack of or poor sleep.

‘While some mums prefer to wait until they are at home and settled before seeking a massage, I have also treated women in the first couple of days. In these circumstances, massage often helps the body and mind to rebalance after pregnancy and labour’ said April.

Recovery massage

Those first few days can be overwhelming, processing what’s happened, meeting your baby, midwives and doctors visiting, family and friends often wanting to meet the new member of the family.

‘I find that many mums just want to hold their baby and look down at them in awe at what they have created. They don’t want to be thinking about how this thing hurts or that thing pulls’.

‘New mums can take some time to recover from the pregnancy and labour and it can take some time for their bodies to settle back into a non-pregnant state,’ said April.

‘By “some time” I don’t mean the 6 weeks post birth check up. I’ve had women still settling after 12 months,’ says April.

Massage is a great tool to help women ease back into normal life by reducing their muscle aches and pains, speeding up recovery, and settling them so they can get more enjoyment out of what is a beautiful time in their lives.

‘Massage is used to help ease tired muscles, rebalance some of these postural changes that occurred during pregnancy, and aid fluid drainage where swelling lingers after pregnancy.’

Caesarean birth

For women who have a caesarean, massage is safe when cleared by their doctor.

Under these circumstances qualified therapists modify the massage to accommodate the needs of the mum. For example, continuing side-lying massage and avoiding the suture site.

‘Women often find the massage at this early stage very grounding and calming, which also allows us to start to release some of the strains and tension that may have occurred during the labour,’ added April.

Longer term complaints and issues

The most common musculoskeletal complaints women experience during the first year includes:

  • Upper back and neck pain from poor posture during feeding
  • Wrist complaints from holding the baby
  • Low back pain from lifting and carrying the baby, especially if they always favour one side.

‘As their babies grow they get heavier, and if they don’t undertake rehab and strengthen their bodies, they can end up with very sore backs.

‘Also, new mums may sit on the floor often and for a longer period than previously. This can be challenging especially when you consider that a short time ago they were pregnant and may have been experiencing musculoskeletal issues already.

Emotional help and relief

Massage has also been shown to decrease cortisol levels (stress hormone) and increase serotonin and dopamine levels (happy hormones), which can help with baby blues coming on around day 2 or 3.

For mum experiencing post-natal depression, massage may be a tool to use to help calm and relax during this tiring and emotional time.

‘It is important that mums consider and address these issues because they won’t necessarily miraculously go away and can lead to much longer recovery or even permanent strain related injury,’ said April.

Learning from other cultures

A number of different cultures around the world consider the post-natal period very important and have a number of practises during this time.

April says that we can learn a lot from other cultures and how they deal with the early stages of motherhood after pregnancy and birth.

For example, the Chinese or Greeks have a confinement period for 40 days where the mother doesn’t leave the house and the family supports and cares for her and the baby during this time.

Indian and other Asian cultures include massage as part of their recovery process with some having a massage every day for 20 days following the birth.

‘I have seen a number of women from these cultures on a very regular basis in the first month, ranging from daily to once or twice a week.

‘Many of them report that they have more energy the days they have a massage, and during a time where you are sleep deprived and exhausted, that’s a pretty big plus.’

April Thewlis is the owner and founder of Mumma Massage and a member of Massage & Myotherapy Australia.

To get the full story on prenatal massage, watch April’s video and find out more about how massage can help you through your pregnancy.

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