A postpartum massage is so much more than a luxurious treat.
The postpartum period (AKA the fourth trimester) is a collision of forces.
On the one hand, you’re recovering from a grueling medical procedure (regardless of the type of delivery you have).
And on the other, you’re launched into your new round-the-clock role as mama to a newborn.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, postpartum massage can be an important part of your recovery process.
Let’s dive in.
In this article: 📝
- Benefits of postpartum massage
- Types of massage after pregnancy
- How soon after giving birth can you get a massage?
- Can I have a back massage after epidural?
- Should I massage my stomach after giving birth?
- What is a fundal massage postpartum?
- Massage and breastfeeding—are there any risks?
Benefits of postpartum massage
Postpartum massage can help with:
- Stress reduction. Your mental health in the postpartum period matters. For a variety of reasons, ranging from the hormonal to the logistical, new mamahood can bring with it some serious challenges to your psychological well-being. In many women, this can lead to what is known as the baby blues. Massage during and after pregnancy has been shown to reduce these symptoms. More severe cases of postpartum depression and anxiety can be debilitating and require treatment. If you need help, reach out. You don’t have to do this alone (Peanut is a great place to start).
- Pain relief. The effects of pregnancy on your body are far from over when you deliver your placenta. There are various aches and pains that come along with the postpartum period. Massage can be a very useful tool to help your physical recovery.
- Hormone balance. Your levels of progesterone and estrogen drop after you give birth. At the same time, oxytocin and prolactin increase to help you out with breastfeeding. Massage helps ease the effects of this transitionary period.
- Breastfeeding. We know. Crazy, huh? This 2020 study shows a back massage can have a significant effect on the production of prolactin (AKA the breastfeeding hormone). So, yes, a good massage can actually help you feed your baby.
- Sleep. One of the more common complaints of new mamas is sleep quality. (Look, by this stage, it may have been months since you had a decent night’s sleep.) As this study suggests, massage therapy can have real benefits when it comes to improving your sleep quality.
- Circulation and swelling reduction. It’s normal to retain fluids after giving birth. Your blood volume increases by almost 50% during pregnancy—and what goes up needs some time to come down. Massage can gently increase circulation and encourage lymphatic drainage.
So, yes, postpartum massage is a gift that can do wonders during this time—but what type of massage should you seek out? And are there any risks?
Types of massage after pregnancy
The term postpartum massage is generally used to refer to a full body massage that is given by a trained therapist.
The goal? To improve your physical and emotional wellbeing through skillful touch.
But there are many variations on the theme, so the goal here is to find the massage experience that will work for you.
There are several massage types that may be appropriate for you in the postpartum period.
You may be in the mood for a more gentle technique or one that works deep into your muscles.
Some common types include more vigorous techniques such as Swedish and Jamu massage, the light touch of craniosacral therapy, and the targeted benefits of acupuncture and reflexology.
How soon after giving birth can you get a massage?
You should be able to get a massage quite soon after you give birth—provided you feel ready for one.
In fact, this study shows that having a back massage as soon as one day after you give birth can help with postpartum anxiety.
If you have had a c-section, check in with your doctor about when it would be good for you to get started.
For the first few weeks after your procedure, you are more vulnerable to infection, so it’s probably advisable to wait about three weeks. If you do have a massage after a c-section, avoid putting direct pressure on the scar for a few weeks.
Can I have a back massage after epidural?
An epidural can be used for both a vaginal and c-section birth to numb the nerves in your lower spine.
You may experience some back discomfort for a while afterwards and massage can be a useful part of that recovery process.
Your injection site may be sore, so it’s important to avoid placing direct pressure on it until it has healed.
And it’s not only epidurals that cause back pain after delivery.
Back pain is a common postpartum symptom, regardless of what kind of delivery you have.
Because of the effects that pregnancy has on your joints and muscles, your back may need some time to recover in the postpartum period.
Massage can be a healthy part of this process.
Should I massage my stomach after giving birth?
There’s a chance that you may feel your uterus contract for a few days after you give birth.
This is known as “after birth pains” and can be quite uncomfortable.
One way to help with these symptoms is to give your lower abdomen a gentle massage. A heating pad can do wonders too.
If you are struggling with serious cramps, it’s worth checking in with your doctor to rule out complications.
What is a fundal massage postpartum?
A fundal massage is a postpartum uterus massage that aims to prevent the bleeding and cramping that can come after delivery.
It is more of a medical procedure than a traditional massage and is usually performed by a nurse in the hospital after you deliver your baby. It can be uncomfortable and even painful.
Though fundal massage is regularly performed after hospital deliveries, the jury is still out on whether a fundal massage can prevent postpartum hemorrhaging. (This is excessive bleeding from your vagina and can be fatal if you don’t get the right care.)
Massage and breastfeeding—are there any risks?
And then there are lactation massages.
There is some research to suggest that breast massage can help relieve breast pain and even improve newborn suckling.
Your nurse or lactation consultant might be able to assist you with breast massage, and it is also easy to do yourself.
Here’s to finding your perfect touch of relief. Wishing you a peaceful recovery process as you enjoy this next phase with your new baby.
💡 More from The 411:
Your Guide to Postpartum Swelling
11 Postpartum Sex Tips From Real Moms
Postpartum Bleeding: What’s Normal and What’s Not
25 Postpartum Essentials to Know About
A Guide to the Postpartum Recovery Process
How to Deal With Postpartum Gas
A Guide to Helpful Postnatal Vitamins
All About Postpartum Psychosis
How My Experience With Postpartum Depression Changed My Life
Your Guide to Postpartum Anxiety Symptoms
10 Ideas for a Nutritious Postpartum Diet
Postpartum Exercise Tips
An Intro to Postpartum Yoga
Why Do I Get Postpartum Night Sweats?
Postpartum Hemorrhoids: What You Need to Know
What’s Causing My Postpartum Headache?