The postpartum period is a crucial time for new mothers. It is a time of adjustment, recovery, and bonding with your newborn. Throughout history, postpartum massage is one practice that various cultures cherish. But with all of the other postpartum care products and recovery suggestions out there, is it really a necessary method of recovery? While in the US massage is seen as a luxury experience, in many other cultures massage is incorporated into healing rituals and viewed as an essential part of recovery post-birth.
Benefits of Massage
- Physical Recovery: Postpartum massage can significantly aid in physical recovery. It helps to relieve muscle tension, particularly in the back, shoulders, and hips, which can become strained during pregnancy and childbirth. Additionally, it promotes blood circulation, reducing swelling and edema common after delivery.
- Pain Relief: Many new mothers experience pain, particularly in the lower back and perineum, after childbirth. A gentle postpartum massage can alleviate this discomfort and promote the healing of perineal tears or episiotomies.
- Hormonal Balance: Postpartum massage can stimulate the release of oxytocin, often called the “love hormone.” Oxytocin plays a crucial role in bonding with the baby and promoting lactation.
- Stress Reduction: The postpartum period can be emotionally taxing for new mothers. Massage can reduce stress and anxiety, leading to better overall emotional well-being.
- Improved Sleep: Sleep is precious for new parents. A relaxing postpartum massage can promote better sleep quality and help manage sleep disturbances commonly experienced in the first few months.
- Breastfeeding Support: Massage can help alleviate breast engorgement and blocked milk ducts, common challenges for breastfeeding mothers. It also aids in maintaining good posture during breastfeeding, preventing back pain.
- Cesarean Scar Healing: For mothers who have had cesarean sections, massage can promote healing and reduce the appearance of scars. It helps to break down scar tissue and increase circulation to the area.
- Body Confidence: Postpartum massage can boost a new mother’s self-esteem and body confidence by helping her reconnect with her body and appreciate its resilience.
Global Traditions of Postpartum Massage
- Chinese “Zuo Yuezi”: In China, the practice of “Zuo Yuezi,” or “Sitting the Month,” includes postpartum massage. The massage focuses on restoring balance to the body’s “qi” (energy) and promoting healing. Warm herbal oils are often used in this tradition to aid recovery.
- Indian “Abhyanga”: In India, the postpartum period is calle “Sutika Paricharya.” Abhyanga, a form of Ayurvedic massage, is a common practice during this time. Warm oil massages help reduce muscle soreness and promote relaxation.
- Mexican “Sobada Maya”: In Mexico, the Sobada Maya tradition involves abdominal massage to help the uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size and shape. This massage technique is passed down through generations.
- Swedish “After-Birth Massage”: In Sweden, new mothers receive postpartum massages as part of their healthcare. These massages help alleviate tension, promote relaxation, and facilitate recovery.
- Japanese “Sennen Kazoku”: In Japan, a tradition called “Sennen Kazoku” focuses on the well-being of the new mother. Massages, often using essential oils, support her physical and emotional recovery.
- Moroccan “Postpartum Gommage”: Moroccan women indulge in postpartum gommage, a body scrub that stimulates circulation and exfoliates the skin. This tradition promotes relaxation and skin health.
- Nigerian “Omugwo”: In Nigeria, a tradition called “Omugwo” involves experienced women in the family massaging and caring for the new mother to promote healing and relaxation.
Postpartum massage offers numerous physical and emotional benefits for new mothers during the critical first year after childbirth. The practice of massage aids in physical recovery, relieves pain, and provides essential emotional support. Moreover, it is heartening to see how various cultures around the world recognize the importance of postpartum massage in their unique postnatal care traditions. It is a way to honor your body, your journey into motherhood, and your well-being. Embrace this ancient practice and the wisdom of cultures worldwide, as you navigate the beautiful, challenging, and transformative first year of motherhood.