When you’ve just had a baby, your body is in mega recovery mode. You’ve done a thing not even superheroes can do. You’ve built a child and then pushed it out of your body. If you’re feeling some aches and pains, well, yeah, of course you are. But is it OK to seek body therapy? What about a postpartum massage? Is that safe? Here’s everything you need to know about postpartum massage from what the treatment entails to when it’s safe to book an appointment.
What Is Postpartum Massage?
“New parents want to feel relief in muscle tension,” says Susan Scarpinito, a postpartum massage therapist with Purusha Wellness. “Postpartum massage offers relief on the strains of newborn care on stretched, weak, imbalanced joints and muscles, most found in the neck and pectoral girdle and can facilitate emotional adjustment.”
It’s like a regular massage but tailored for a person recovering from delivery. “Every single postpartum massage I do is in a side-lying position,” says Scarpinito. That means a client is on their side, not on their stomach where they could irritate wounds or dressings, nor are they on their back. “I do one side half hour, the other side the same to balance out both sides of the body.”
Scarpinito says a postpartum massage therapist will be sensitive to all of the changes going on in a postpartum body including lactation or discharge. Because of that ”some people may feel more comfortable keeping their bra on. I say undressed to your comfort level,” says Scarpinito. Want to wear your leggings too? That’s fine as well. This is about your time and a good postpartum massage therapist will respect that.
As for bleeding or discharge, Scarpinito says she’s happy to accommodate with additional sheets, a towel, pillows, etc., with the goal being to make the client as comfortable as possible.
That same focus extends to the pressure applied to the individual as well. “I always use the manual lymphatic drainage style,” says Scarpinito of her massage technique. It’s a form of gentle massage that encourages the movement of lymph fluids around the body. “It’s not a very deep stroke,” she adds. This is to ensure the pressure isn’t too great on a recovering body.
When Can You Get A Postpartum Massage?
“Whenever you’re ready,” says Dr. Nisha Verma, an OB/GYN and abortion care provider. “I think postpartum massage is great. Really any time someone feels up for it, it’s OK.”
When a postpartum massage client thinks they’re ready is a very personal question. You should feel comfortable being touched and lying for an extended period. But also know that most postpartum therapists are very considerate of the changes you’re dealing with and allow bathroom breaks, special positions, and adjustments as necessary.
“If you've had no complications and a fairly normal birth, it can be done 24 hours right after birth,” says Scarpinito. In fact, Scarpinito is in a new camp that’s advocating for massage therapists on site at birthing centers and hospitals as a part of postpartum care.
Is Postpartum Massage Safe?
Yes, but before you go ahead and book your appointment, you want to make sure your body can handle it. The big factor that might delay your eligibility to receive a postpartum massage is if you deliver via cesarean surgery. “The main restrictions have to do with a c-section limit weight bearing to not strain incision,” says Dr. Verma. Patients who have had a c-section should be extra cautious. Otherwise, Dr. Verma says “I really don’t see any harm in having a postpartum massage.”
“Always talk to your provider about concerns first,” says Scarpinito. She says some OBs can recommend massage therapists they trust as well.
And if you’re feeling pain, remember to seek medical help to treat it, adds Dr. Verma. That extends to emotional struggles you might attempt to treat with postpartum massage. While it’s a great opportunity to treat yourself, if you’re really feeling depressed, both practitioners urge people to talk to a healthcare or mental health provider.
But if you’re just looking for a little me time as you deal with aches, pains, and the stresses of newborn care, postpartum massage is a safe option.
Too often people who have just had a baby are so wrapped up in the care that they dismiss self-care. Postpartum massage offers people a chance to give themselves a little love too.
Dr. Nisha Verma, an ob-gyn and abortion care provider and Darney-Landy ACOG fellow
Susan Scarpinito, massage therapist, owner of purushawellness.com