Congratulations about having a baby, and making it through your pregnancy. Now that you have this wonderful person in your arms you can start feeling “back to normal” right? Well maybe not, because if you’re like 8 out of 10 women you will experience higher levels of pain than you expected during your postpartum year. It may have taken 9 months to have your body change and grow a baby, but that does not mean most women expect to give themselves equal if not more time to recover from pregnancy and birth related complications. When 6-8 weeks is the average time a maternity leave schedule allows, women are expected to perform tasks that their bodies are simply not ready to do sometimes. So what could keep a mother from recovering quickly and pain free? There are actually a lot of painful complications after birth, but luckily regular postpartum massage offers relief and support to busy mothers dealing with postpartum pain.
Hyperthyroidism and Arthritis– Both of these two conditions cause inflammation in joints, and with the amount of relaxin hormone decreasing by the day joints of the body are really feeling the squeeze. Hyperthyroidism is known to cause a weakening of muscles and inflammation around the pelvis and can cause localized pain when you’re trying to sit for long periods of time. Massage is a master tool for relief and helps to get the rest of the body to relax and make sleep easier. As for arthritis, 1.5 million people in the USA have rheumatoid arthritis and women make up a larger percentage of this number than men. Both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis can be helped with massage. Receiving regular postpartum massage and while being properly bolstered can really help alleviate pain in the lower back and pelvis due to arthritis and hyperthyroidism. Working with decreasing inflammation in joints and lesson pain is the main way that postpartum massage helps women get through the postpartum year with the most comfort.
Old sports injuries, bursitis and migraines-Sometimes body mechanics and alignment change dramatically after birth, and postpartum massage can help with muscle compensation. Carrying a baby in your arms or a baby carrier is a lot of work. Muscles and nerves are can be compromised due to past injury and can lead to a more chronic pain issue. For example, Bursitis in the shoulders is common injury that can flare up really fast during the postpartum year. Having the shoulder girdle released always feels amazing, and helps to make side sleeping more comfortable for mom. If that was not enough to deal with, don’t forget about the hormones that can lead to tender tissue and pain. These hormones can cause PMS headaches and migraines. Even if a woman has never experienced these prior to pregnancy, she can still be kept in a pain cycle due to hormones released after birth and beyond. Relieving this common postpartum pain is accomplished by reducing tension within muscles, alleviating pressure in sinus cavities as well as helping to support the proper circulation within the neck and head with specific massage techniques.
Carpal Tunnel syndrome-This is a common issue for women to face during their postpartum year due to the stress and strain of always having their hands full and busy. Sometimes it can get better with pregnancy, only to return with force after the baby is born. The good news is that specific massage work done in the forearms and hands can help keep the burning and jabbing pain at bay. With a combination of icing and massage, this common postpartum pain is very manageable.
Cesarean recovery pain-The cesarean rate in the United States for low risk pregnancies are 26% and 15% for emergencies. Even if the c-section is planned and not hurried in an emergency case, the recovery from such a major surgery can be long and full of complications. The nature of the surgery is complex, due to having to access the uterus while cutting into muscles and nerves. Both muscles and nerves need time to recover after surgery. Many women report the postpartum pain after a c-section as a stabbing-like pain in the back or sides of the abdomen. Postpartum massage for cesarean recovery is a safe and effective way to manage how organs, muscles and nerves regain proper functioning. Although it does take a while, the pain from a c-section should subside within a few months time. Getting a postpartum massage can help in the early stages of recovery as the body is the most inflamed and the nerve damage can be addressed effectively.
So if you find that postpartum time is not what you expected in terms of being pain free, you are not alone! Most times doctors do not want to talk to expectant mothers about what is likely to challenge them during their postpartum year, but it is important for women to have realistic expectations. I designate the postpartum time to be a year after birth for my clients and offer support for their most common painful issues.