To complement the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Maternity Massage Therapy for Pregnant, Laboring and Postpartum Women,” by Carole Osborne, in the October 2010 issue. Article summary: Maternity-massage therapy is one of the most personally rewarding and professionally satisfying massage-therapy specializations. Maternity massage addresses the many needs of women throughout an entire childbearing cycle, rather than just during pregnancy. If you are considering entering the world of bellies roiling with life, labor’s powerful groans and the sweetness of a mom embracing her newborn, you will need a sense of what this really entails.

by Stephanie Whittier, L.M.T.

Self-massage is a godsend when pregnant. Incorporating self-massage in a daily routine is satisfying, and starting a ritual will serve you and your baby.

In the shower or bath, use a body-washing or exfoliating tool. Look for one that has a good texture that can serve as a massage tool (try one with a handle and a bumpy rubber pad so you can reach everywhere). Massage legs and back while showering for improving circulation. It doesn’t take much pressure or strength to get the blood flowing; gentle strokes while washing simulates an effleurage stroke, which can be relaxing or stimulating depending on the speed of your strokes.

In bed, place marbles in a zip lock bag, making sure they lay side by side when the bag is flat. Place under the buttocks, low back or between shoulder blades, and then rock side to side. This brings fresh blood and oxygen to the areas being massaged.

My moms-to-be have a favorite tool I have been sharing with them for years during massage sessions: rubber balls to target tension points under feet, low back and across the shoulders and neck. You can also use the rubber balls for a trigger-point relief massage.

Suggested placement for the trigger-point massage: under the feet, under hamstrings, between shoulder blades and at the low back and on the buttocks. Apply between you and a chair, a wall or a bed, whichever feels best to you.

There are some contraindications for massage while pregnant; you can ask your massage therapist or doctor abut this. Most women find if they take care of themselves first, the child inside follows her lead. Like they say on the plane, apply your oxygen mask first. In life, apply self-nurturing to yourself first. After all, you are the most important person in the world to your child.

You can find many massage balls and self-help massage tools online by doing a search for “massage balls” or “self-massage tools.”

Stephanie Whittier, L.M.T., C.S.T., is president of Tranquility Spheres Inc. She is a practicing massage therapist and cranioasacral therapist for more than 20 years and developer of the patent-pending, aromatherapy-infused massage ball called t spheres. She has assisted in childbirth, as a massage therapist, and her longtime practice has given her the joy of massaging many women during their pregnancies. Her self-styled Integrative Bodywork focuses on cellular memory and continuum movement for pain relief.