There are many well-known benefits of massage, and for women who are pregnant, the experience can be relaxing, rejuvenating and an ideal way to relieve the discomfort that goes with the condition. While you might concentrate on a woman’s belly, legs and feet, you should not overlook another obvious area where massage could offer significant benefit: the breasts.
During pregnancy, a rush of hormones circulates throughout the body, causing emotional and physical changes. This increased hormonal production can cause swelling in the breasts, and, subsequently, discomfort, tingling, soreness and sensitivity. Massage that focuses on the breasts can reduce these symptoms and make the expectant mother more comfortable.
Note: Massage therapists should research laws within their state related to offering breast massage, to make sure it is within their scope of practice. Proper draping should also be used to provide the client with maximum comfort and security.
If you are allowed to offer breast massage to clients, begin by placing the pads of the fingers at the outer portion of the breast. Using circular motion and gentle pressure, move around the breast, working toward the inner portion of the breast. When you reach a particularly sore area–your client will let you know when you do and, as always, check in with your client during the massage–concentrate on that spot, but don’t increase your pressure. Following the massage, you might want to apply a cool compress to enhance the relief.
While breast massage during pregnancy can be important, it becomes almost crucial in some cases after the baby is born. Women who breastfeed may experience significant discomfort, swelling, throbbing, pain, hard or lumpy breasts, and swollen lymph nodes in their armpits. In more severe cases, the new mom might have a slightly elevated temperature.
These symptoms occur because of increased milk production, and usually happen within the first few weeks of breastfeeding. The initial product, colostrum, becomes milk, forcing cells in the breast to expand. Once the milk ducts are cleared, milk will begin to flow freely, emptying the breast and triggering more milk production–a good thing for the baby.
Here again, massage can help the woman move past this uncomfortable stage and begin to enjoy her new baby. For postdelivery issues, you would begin breast massage by pumping the lymph glands in the armpit. This will encourage blood and toxins to start moving. Be sure to use a gentle rubbing or squeezing motion to get the blood flowing, but don’t press too hard. If you prefer to use a product, choose something natural like olive oil. When the breast feels warm, it’s a good indicator the fluids inside are flowing. Breast massage can be done daily to relieve symptoms.
Not only does breast massage help to reduce uncomfortable sensations during pregnancy and in the early stages of breastfeeding, it also helps when breasts are engorged, which can happen at any time when the milk-producing cells are full.
Better still, massaging the breasts during and after pregnancy may help to tone the muscles in the breasts and decrease the appearance of stretch marks–another good reason to introduce breast massage to your expectant clients.
If your clients feel uncomfortable receiving breast massage by a practitioner, you may be able to recommend self-massage techniques for the new mother to perform at home, to enhance the effects of your massage therapy sessions.