Postpartum Massage: Benefits, Techniques And Right Time To Start

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The delivery process is challenging and can mentally and physically drain you. So, while you care for your baby, care for yourself as well with a relaxing postpartum massage. A postpartum massage is a full body massage that mothers get a few weeks after childbirth. The massage helps the mother’s body and mind relax and hastens postpartum healing. If you are an expecting mother, knowing about the benefits of postpartum massages can help you make informed choices.

Read this post to learn about the right techniques for a postpartum massage, the oils most suitable for it, and when you should avoid it.

What Is Postpartum Massage?

A postpartum massage is a complete body massage given to the new mom to soothe and relax her mind and body, and also alleviate any pain or soreness in the body. A good massage can support the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of the mother (1).

Following childbirth, you can take an appointment with a masseuse or massage therapist who specializes in postpartum massages.

Did you know?
Some experienced therapists will allow you to bring your newborns to the therapy session. As infants will sleep a lot and have breastfeeding schedules, massage appointments can be adjusted accordingly (14).

When Can You Get A Postpartum Massage After Delivery?

You may opt for a postpartum massage when you feel you are comfortable.  Whether you’ve had a cesarean section or vaginal delivery, you will need around six to eight weeks for complete recovery (2). Ideally, it is best to wait until you are fully recovered after the delivery and then get a massage. However, it is good to consult your healthcare provider before you schedule one.

Benefits Of Massage After Delivery

Listed below are some benefits that massage therapy offers after you give birth (3).

  • Relieves pain: Body pains, particularly in the lower back, hips, and abdomen, are normal due to pregnancy. Massage can help relax these sore muscles and ease the pain.
  • Reduces swelling: The blood volume increases by around 50% during pregnancy, and body fluids are to be balanced after pregnancy (4). Postpartum massage helps improve circulation and stimulate lymphatic drainage to eliminate fluids and toxins from the body.
  • Helps you sleep better: Massage therapy eases the fatigue, provides relaxation, and makes you sleep better.
  • Opens blocked ducts: A gentle massage therapy could remove the hardened lumps and open the blocked ducts in the breast, thereby lowering the risk of mastitis. On the other hand, a vigorous massage can worsen mastitis.
  • Improves post-delivery recovery: Commonly experienced postpartum blues such as depression and anxiety are related to hormonal changes. Massage could help treat depression and other baby blues, and it improves mood too (5).
Quick fact
The latest research indicates that breast massage may help relieve sodium in breast milk, reduce breast discomfort and pain, and improve the baby’s suckling (14).

The massage techniques used and the position you rest in during the massage can improve the outcome of the massage.

Best Positions For A Post-pregnancy Massage

Seated position is comfortable for postpartum massage

Image: Shutterstock

As any position is safe after pregnancy, you can settle into the most comfortable position.

The side-lying or seated position is comfortable, lets the masseuse focus on the shoulders, legs, pelvis, and suits those who have had a cesarean section.

Some mothers may like facing down on their tummy as they have restricted this position for quite a long time during pregnancy. But some may feel uncomfortable with their leaking or engorged breasts.

Postpartum Massage Techniques

Massage therapy after delivery is effective when you seek help from a professional masseuse. Some of the techniques that these therapists might consider giving after delivery are as follows.

  • Swedish massage: Also called the Classic massage, it is a combination of long strokes with kneading, shaking, and tapping movements. It is a refreshing and relaxing massage that gives you a feeling of overall well-being (6).
  • Jamu massage: Followed by Indonesians, this massage technique uses various herbs extracted from the roots, barks, and flowers of medicinal plants. The firm strokes of the massage could tighten and strengthen the stomach muscles, and help flatten the stomach.
  • Foot reflexology: The basic foot massage stimulates acupressure points of the feet, which is associated with the different organs of the body. It can, therefore, relieve postpartum depression, fatigue, and stress (7).
  • Herbal baths: They constitute a part of postnatal massage where water infused with different herbs, spices, and roots is used. That bath is given after the massage and helps treat sore veins, and refresh the body (8).
  • Acupressure: Pressure is applied to different pressure points to relieve pains and discomforts.

    Acupressure relieves pains and discomfort

    Image: iStock

When Should You Avoid Postnatal Massage?

You should avoid a postnatal massage if you have/had:

  • Cesarean section; wait until the incision is healed
  • Skin conditions such as blisters, boils, eczema and rashes
  • Hernia and high blood pressure

    Avoid postpartum massage if you have high blood pressure

    Image: Shutterstock

Make sure that you talk to your doctor before getting a massage. This helps you figure out the right kind of massage to get and the right time to get it.

Precautions For Postnatal Massage If You Had C-section

Here are some essential things to remember before getting a postpartum massage:

  • Choose a trained massage therapist

    Choose a trained massage therapist

    Image: Shutterstock

  • Allow the cesarean incision to heal completely before massaging, as it could be prone to infections
  • Avoid getting an abdominal massage until it is fully healed. In the meantime, the focus should be on the head, back, arms and legs
  • Avoid putting pressure on the tummy
  • Lie down sideways for a back massage
  • Refrain from massaging the nipples for the safety and hygiene of the baby

Some massage therapists may use oils of specific herbs and fragrances. However, not all may be suitable for you.

Which Oil Is The Best For Postpartum Massage?

Most of the high-grade oils are safe for massages as they are non-allergenic after delivery. You may have to pick the oil that suits you, considering its smell and allergic reactions if any. For that, you may have to try different oils.

Go for a patch test by applying the oil on a small patch of your skin. Check for allergic reactions such as itchiness, redness, or hives. Also check if your baby is comfortable with the smells, as you will be holding the baby and the odor remains even after the bath. If your baby gets fussy because of the smell, try something less pungent or odorless.

Some of the oils you may choose are sweet almond, mustard, coconut, olive, sesame, and herbal oils.

Quick tip
You may consider combining aromatherapy with massage for relaxation, hormone balance, cleansing, and the treatment of anxiety. Let the therapist know if you are nursing the baby and take necessary measures to help prevent allergies for you and your baby (14).

Why Do They Massage The Uterus After Birth?

Uterine massage is recommended after delivery to reduce postpartum blood loss, and also to reduce the pain associated with uterine muscle contraction (9).

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is postpartum massage necessary?

No. Getting a postpartum massage is not mandatory, but you may get some sessions to ease your discomfort after childbirth.

2. Can massage damage milk ducts?

No. In fact, postpartum massage can help to open the blocked milk duct, and a good massage can also help to stimulate increased breast milk production (10).

3. How often should I get a fundal massage?

Fundal massage (uterine massage) can be performed immediately after childbirth on mothers to help the uterine muscles contract and prevent postpartum hemorrhage (11). However, the duration of the massage varies with facilities. It can be performed for 30 seconds and repeated every 10 minutes (a session of five times an hour) with an interval of an hour between sessions (12).

4. How do I do a postpartum massage at home?

You may take the help of your partner or any family member for the postpartum massage. You can also call for a certified massage therapist to attend to you at home or speak to your ob-gyn to learn some self-massage techniques.

Postpartum massage can be done using different techniques like Swedish massage, Jamu massage, and herbal baths. Talk to your massage therapist and decide which technique will suit you the best. Start a postpartum massage session only after you are completely healed from childbirth. You may consult your doctor about it if you have any apprehensions. A regular postpartum massage may relieve pain, promote better sleep, and relax your mind and body. However, since everyone’s body is different, massages may not suit some women. It is better to avoid postpartum massage if you have high blood pressure, hernia, or skin conditions. Also, take proper safety precautions to experience a safe and comfortable postpartum massage.

Infographic: Relaxing Your Mind Post-Delivery

Your body goes through several changes while you are pregnant, both physical and hormonal. After your delivery, the hormonal levels change again, and it might lead to anxiety or postpartum depression. Keeping this infographic handy post-delivery will help you engage in relaxing activities and deal with the stress

ways to relax after pregnancy [infographic]
Illustration: MomJunction Design Team

Key Pointers

  • Postpartum massage relaxes the mind and the body and reduces pain and soreness.
  • Opting for a postpartum massage under expert guidance once fully recovered is vital for a safe massage experience.
  • Following all necessary precautions, selecting the best massage oil and the right massage technique helps reap massage’s full benefits.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Aviva Jill Romm; Natural Health After Birth: The Complete Guide to Postpartum Wellness; Pages 50 and 51
2. The New Mother – Taking Care of Yourself After Birth; Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
3. Benefits of Massage After Giving Birth; Renaissance College (2017)
4. Hytten F.; Blood volume changes in normal pregnancy; Clinics in Haemtology
5. A. Rothstein; Prenatal & Postpartum Massage: Massage for the Mind, Body & Spirit; Minnesota School of Cosmetology (2018)
6. What Is a Swedish Massage; Fremont College
7. Malaysian Ethnicity And Background; Cultural dimensions of pregnancy, birth and post-natal care
8. Choi MS and Lee EJ; [Effects of Foot-Reflexology Massage on Fatigue, Stress and Postpartum Depression in Postpartum Women]; J Korean Acad Nurs (2015)
9. Valera Hascup; Cultural Expressions, Meanings, Beliefs, and Practices of Mexican American Women During the Postpartum Period: An Ethnonursing Study; Duquesne University (2011)
10. Hofmeyr GJ et al.; Uterine massage for preventing postpartum haemorrhage; Cochrane Database Syst Rev (2008)
11. Umesh Patel, et al.; Effect of back Massage on Lactation among Postnatal Mothers; International Journal of Medical Research and Review (2013)
12. Childbirth Diaries: Fundal Massage; Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health.
13. SabahLotfy Mohamed El Sayed; Effect of uterine massage and emptying of the urinary bladder on alleviation of afterpains among mothers in the immediate postpartum period; International Journal of Africa Nursing Sciences (2021)
14. Hofmeyr GJ et al.; Uterine massage for preventing postpartum haemorrhage; Cochrane Database Syst Rev (2008)

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