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All Mommy wanted was a back rub… (the benefits of prenatal massage)

I did it! I finally decided I was worth being taken care of and allowed myself what I had previously considered a luxury: a prenatal massage. You’d think after three pregnancies, I would have done it ages ago; however, I am a very stubborn and “tough” girl who doesn’t believe in “wasting” money on things purely for me. Boy was I wrong. It was wonderful and it will not be the last time I go. This looks like it’ll become a regular thing for me now that I know better. I felt so much more relaxed afterwards. And I slept! I actually slept through the whole night! This never, ever happens to me, especially during pregnancy.

So, you may be asking: What is a prenatal massage and how is it different from a regular massage? A prenatal massage is a specialized technique that is designed for a woman usually in her second trimester up to part way through her third. It’s meant to improve circulation, give you some energy, and take some of the strain away from your over worked muscles and joints. It uses a lighter pressure and you lay on your sides as opposed to your back and tummy. Lying on your back is never a good idea when you’re pregnant. The weight of your baby and uterus blocks circulation to the placenta. This can cause complications that no amount of massage can help. It is a little more difficult for the masseuse to rub you down at this angle but far safer.

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It also has the same great benefits as any message does. Loads of studies have shown that they relax and loosen tight muscles, reduce cortisol (that nasty stress hormone), increase blood flow (+++ for us preggers ;-), keeps the lymphatic system going strong, and flushes toxins out of the body. Just be sure to drink plenty of water afterwards as massage releases toxins that have built up in your muscles to float freely through your body, which can make you sick if you are not properly hydrated afterward.

What all this means is, that with regular prenatal massages you should become generally more relaxed. They help relieve insomnia, get rid of joint pain, and relieve swelling and headaches, even sinus congestion. Also not forgetting to mention all those neck, back, hip, leg and sciatica pain you’ve been having.

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Here are just a few warnings to keep you safe and happy. The first trimester is a little too risky for a massage.  With everything changing, it’s just not a good time (especially for surrogates or anyone getting assistance with conception). Also, research your masseuse first, don’t just go anywhere. People who specialize in this type of massage need to be specifically trained in prenatal massage. The right hands work miracles, the wrong ones could put you in the hospital. New studies are showing that the amount of trust you have in someone is equal to the amount of relaxation you will allow yourself to feel. If you’re not 100% with the person you won’t be able to reap all the benefits. Another thing: stay away from those ankles! They don’t know exactly why yet, but when you rub those bad boys, it can start labor. Unless you are past your due date, keep away. Just skip down to those well deserving (probably slightly larger) feet of yours.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to go book my next appointment…

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To Bed Rest or Not To Bed Rest, That Is The Question?

Any woman who has used IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) will have an opinion on this matter. Do you need to stay lying down after an embryo transfer?  And if so, for how long?  Under what kind of conditions?  Most of these opinions are given to us by our fertility doctor, whose individual ideas range and vary themselves in this ongoing debate. There is still no clear cut winner.

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I just want to state the fact upfront, before I broach both sides of the argument: your freshly planted embryo WILL NOT FALL OUT. The female reproductive system is not designed that way. Once the little speck is in there, no matter how it got there, it stays. This by no means guarantees a baby, but that is one fear you absolutely do not need to worry yourself over. Ok here we go…

Nay-saying doctors don’t believe there is any substantial proof that bed rest increases your chance of conception; not even by 1%.  Confined to a bed and feeling useless when you are totally healthy can increase stress and nervousness, thus decreasing the chances of a friendly environment for the embryo to adhere to.  These are the type of doctors who like their patients to stay active and believe in a more “energetic” pregnancy. One of the more suspicious mothers I spoke with informed me she believes that bed rest is just a way for the doctors to have an excuse if the embryo doesn’t take. An out, if you will. “Well you must have gone down some stairs or got up to pee too often.” I do want to note, that most clinics that say no bed rest is needed do still recommend taking it easy for the first 24hrs afterward and no heavy lifting, but this is just common sense for any such procedure.

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Pro-bed rest doctors believe that even if it’s just a theory, it’s better to try it, if it means a better chance of conceiving. Who wouldn’t want to do everything possible to become pregnant? Bed rest doesn’t do any harm and its common sense to keep the womb horizontal for a better chance of stickiness. It’s been described as a time when a woman can relax and ward off the anxiety that is often the enemy of fertility. These are the type of doctors who believe in a “calm and relaxed” kind of pregnancy. Although, the length of said bed rest varies from as little as one day, to as many as ten.

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Speaking from my own personal experience, I don’t have any answers either (sorry). I have used both types of doctors. I’ve done three days of strict bed rest at a hotel down the street from the clinic because they wanted to keep my movement very limited.   I’ve also been sent home 15 minutes after the procedure and told to take it easy for the rest of the day. Both ways worked. The first did result in a blighted ovum and, unfortunately, a D&C, but my body held on to the embryo like it was supposed to. In that way it was a success. The second stuck fast right away and turned into a healthy fetus. So, I, personally, am at a loss. I’ve spoken to other mothers who have had the broad spectrum of results from working out right after to taking it super easy the whole ‘in between” time.  Each had vastly different results in each scenario.

The in-between time, is the time from your transfer to blood test. It’s that exciting/awful unknowing time when you don’t know if in the next week you’ll be crying or laughing. It’s stressful whether you are lying down or not, but I don’t know which is the lesser of two evils. What I do gather is it really depends on what kind of a person you are. Are you the kind that needs to stay busy so as not to think about things you have no control over?   Or, are you the kind who finds being calm helps relieve you? These are elements best discussed with your personal physician.  They can really give you the most tailor-made advice. Just know your of all options and do what you believe is best for YOU and you can’t go wrong.