The benefits of pregnancy massage
Sophie Davis lives on the costa del sol near Estepona. She has been practising massage therapy for over 20 years. Her career has taken her around the world; from travelling with the Women’s tennis tour to working in New York City and London. She specialises in pregnancy massage, myofascial release and sports massage. Here she talks to MumAbroad Life about her work.
How did you become interested in Massage therapy?
I have always been interested in mental health and after school did a degree in Psychology. I found that something was missing. Just dealing with the brain seemed a limited way of making the whole person feel better. Massage Therapy held the answers for healing in a holistic manner. Massage is something that I have always enjoyed receiving. I have been lucky enough to be treated by some of the most incredible therapists. They taught me the difference between a good massage and a life changing massage. I have had some profound shifts in my perception during treatment from these inspiring therapists. Generally though I find that any massage is wonderful for my sense of well being, fitness and aches and pains. I do a lot of exercise; cycling, riding and tennis – and I don’t think I would be able to keep up the pace if I did not have regular massage treatments.
What does massage therapy mean to you?
I have been studying massage since I was 18 years old. Even during my psychology degree I took small courses in aromatherapy and shiatsu massage. It has taken me on a life journey. First and foremost however, I love to receive a really great massage. It can not only make you feel great but can create profound shifts in perception of oneself. As John F Barnes says, “Your clients can only go as deep as you are willing to go yourself.”
What are your qualifications?
I have been studying massage since I finished my Psychology degree at Manchester University. I took a 2 year degree programme in Swedish and Chinese massage in New York City. After this I chose to specialise in Myofascial Release under John F Barnes, taking courses all over America to become an Advanced Practitioner in this method. I try and update my massage skills at least once a year. Last year I took a Cranio Sacral course in Granada and will be following up with a second Cranio Sacral course in London in October.
You practice a unique type of massage therapy. Can you tell us more about it?
I practice a combination of different techniques which I have learnt over the years. These combine to create my own specific type of massage therapy. Most importantly I treat what I find in the body, energetically and physically. I use deep techniques with subtle gentle, intuition. I always treat to the clients’ comfort level and respond to their individual needs rather than sticking to a one size fits all methodology.
How is massage therapy beneficial?
Massage therapy is beneficial in treating physical and emotional stress and discomfort. It is also effective as a preventative to illness and injury. Massage increases the circulation of blood, lymph and Oxygen. It removes stagnation of toxins and waste products so they can be easily flushed out of the body. As well as removing these harmful substances it replenishes by pumping fresh blood and fresh nutrients to all of the parts of the body. Fascial work helps to soften the congealed connective tissues which lead to poor posture and chronic pain.
What brought you to Spain in the first place?
We had been visiting the Cost del Sol for years as my mother in law has lived in one of the white villages in the mountains, Gaucin, since the 80s. It is a stunningly beautiful region with the lure of the sunshine, beach and outdoor life. The best thing about Spain is the Spanish people. They have a very relaxed approach to life. Play, rest, food and family all feature very highly on their priority list. Having worked under high pressure cultures in New York and London the contrast to the laid back vibe here was good. A lot of the working day is put aside for siesta and lunch! They are fantastic family people who love children and never are disapproving of young kids in restaurants or out late at night. Bed time for a Spanish child is about ten pm, which took a little getting used to coming from the strict routine of an English bed time. I also adore the tapas, the beautiful weather and the simplicity of Andalucian life!
How do you divide your time between London and the Costa del Sol?
I spend time travelling between London and the Costa del Sol to keep my clients happy in both places! Although the children are at school in Spain now so I am finding that I am spending more time here in Estepona.
What benefits are there to prenatal pregnancy massage?
Massage has unlimited benefits during pregnancy so long as the right precautions are taken to safeguard mum and baby. Massage increases the circulation of lymph, blood, nutrition and so is a good detoxification for Mum and brings nourishment to the baby. Massage removes toxins and waste products and aides with decongestion and stagnation.My specially designed table allows mums to lie prone, flat on their belly. Which offers such a relief from months of sleeping upright or side lying.
What are the benefits of massage therapy during pregnancy?
Pregnancy is a time of great change. Physically the body has to go through nine months of adaption and preparation for delivery. Mentally and emotionally this period also prepares you for the complete transformation and transition into parenthood. Massage can ease worries, stress, fear. It Increases a sense of well-being in the baby and mother. Myofascial release can free the structures that restrict the baby, such as the pelvis when it is unbalanced, a tight diaphragm or a painful rotated sacrum. Generally massage encourages the movement of blood and lymph which brings good things like nutrients in and takes toxins out.
Most pregnant women suffer with back ache at some point during their pregnancy. How is this caused and can massage help to alleviate it?
During the dramatic postural change of pregnancy the changing shape leads to lower back stress and stiff neck and shoulders. This is caused by the increase in weight in the front of the body. The protruding belly can lead to hyperlordosis of the lumbar spine. Many females experience back pain during pregnancy. The causes are manifold: their weight increase on the one hand, and the specific physiology of the spine on the other. During pregnancy, a woman’s body weight increases by 15 to 25 percent; this signifies a greater burden on the tendons, ligaments, and joints. Furthermore, relaxin and estrogen loosen the ligaments and thus create an additional predisposition for injury. The enlarged uterus and the increase in breast volume shift the body’s centre of gravity to the front. The pelvis is tilted simultaneously, and lumbar lordosis increases.
What are the contraindications of massage during pregnancy?
Pregnancy massage is not recommended for mothers experiencing nausea, vomiting or morning sickness. Massage is not recommended for those at high risk of miscarriage or during the first trimester of pregnancy. Massage is also not recommended for high risk pregnancies such as placenta abruption or preterm labour.
Can massage help with a woman’s emotional state during pregnancy?
During pregnancy mothers may find that they are anxious, overwhelmed and suffering from exhaustion. They can use massage to decrease stress and tiredness and relieve muscle tension and contraction from excess weight bearing.
You use a specially designed pre-natal massage table. How does that differ to a normal massage bed?
My massage bed for use during pregnancy is much larger than the standard portable bed I bring for home visits. It feels stable no matter how much mum’s body changes during pregnancy. It has removable parts for breasts and tummy. The hole for the tummy can be adjusted as the pregnancy goes on and being able to lie on your front during the massage provides immense relief after months of only being able to sleep side-lying. My clients report feeling better before I even begin to massage them! When the client is supine I use bolsters to ensure that the baby does not squash the aorta. It is good to keep Mum at a 45 degree angle off the bed otherwise she may start to feel a little dizzy and unwell from the pressure of the baby when lying flat on her back.
What benefits can massage give in the postnatal period?
Sometimes the life of a mother with a new baby can be exhausting, it is important to carry on with a self care routine and not get lost in looking after your new baby. The newborn needs mum to be relaxed and happy too, which can be quite difficult. Massage provides a quiet hour for recuperation (although it is important that there is child care in place to allow for the break; whether from Dad, grandparents or a babysitter!). If the new mum is breast feeding it can become very stressful for the neck and shoulders.
Would you recommend baby massage for unsettled newborns?
All of my 4 children have received massage and Cranio Sacral Therapy and I would really recommend the two for newborns. Early touch is so important for our ability to develop social bonds later in life. One of my daughter’s suffered from night terrors as a young toddler and they cleared up after one session of Cranio Sacral Therapy. CST can also help with feeding and sleep problems in tiny newborn babies.
What 3 words would best describe one of your massages?
ESSENTIAL! TRANSPORTING! ALLEVIATING!