Massage for two

A pregnancy massage isn’t your average body rubdown

Tiffany Hoffman gives Rachel Ching a prenatal massage in her home office.

Tiffany Hoffman gives Rachel Ching a prenatal massage in her home office.

photo by AMY BECK

I try to live my life in such a way as to gather as few “if only”s as possible. Here’s one of the few: I never got a pregnancy massage. I’d heard about them, but honestly, who has time to get a massage while on bed rest? Oh, right … Still, even if my time has passed, there is time for anyone else with a bun in the oven. Recently, I called up Tiffany Hoffman, a massage therapist and midwife in training, to see what all the fuss was about. It turns out a massage is a wee bit trickier when it’s for two.

Hoffman lives in Reno and is currently on hiatus from a midwifery program in Seattle, Wash. Here, she works with Sherri Asp, a midwife with Aspiring Birth, as a birth assistant and doula. A major part of her work is giving massages to her patients during prenatal visits. Why are massages so important during this time? Simple: a pregnant woman’s body is a wreck. Ligaments are softening, and the weight of the baby is causing stress on hips, back and other parts. Postural changes are occurring almost subconsciously as a woman’s body strives to accommodate the mass of another human being. Hoffman says a pregnancy massage targets areas where stress accumulates and relieves muscular tension.

Rubbed the right way

However, as anyone who has ever had a rigorous therapeutic massage knows, there is a very fine line between comfortable and painful. The phrase “hurts so good,” comes to mind when we think about how a professional works out the kinks and knobs in our back. Such pain is not worrisome in a non-pregnant patient. But Hoffman emphasizes that when giving a pregnancy massage, this is a critical issue since causing pain to certain parts of the body can bring about early contractions. It’s important to be knowledgeable of these areas, she says. A masseuse certified to give pregnancy massages would know to take care when massaging certain parts of the hands, shoulders, and lower legs, for example. A masseuse not trained in this might not.

So if you are looking to get a pregnancy massage, choose your servicer carefully. While many masseuses say that they can give massages during pregnancy—and I suppose anyone with hands and inclination can offer this—not all have been properly trained and certified. This area of medicine and prenatal care is not regulated, leaving it to the public to do its own research.

Just as there are different stages of pregnancy, there are different kinds of pregnancy massages. Hoffman focuses on doing gentle work only during the first term. For the more metaphysically inclined, she is also certified in Sacred Childbirth Reiki, focusing on techniques for alleviating fears surrounding childbirth.

“Some women want to relax, but others need to work through their fears surrounding birth so that mind and body are both ready,” Hoffman says. It is her job to find the fear and resolve it before the time comes.

Danielle Pugh-Markie, one of Hoffman’s patients, has received many pregnancy massages. “It was great for relieving stress,” she says, “and just nice to have someone work on you and help you through.” She managed to visit Hoffman every week or two during both of her pregnancies and recommends it highly. Pugh-Markie is, however, not the norm.

Hoffman’s advice for mothers-to-be is to make time to take care of themselves. Many women, she notes, come in for pregnancy massages before they have their first child, but rarely do they have time during their second or third pregnancies since at at least one little tyke is already demanding their time and energy at home. Hoffman also gives postpartum massages, which can be restorative and help the body recover after childbirth. Again, even when she has given out gift certificates for free massages, most women find it difficult to take the time to come see her.

Jessica Scott, at Dolce Salon and Day Spa on Lakeside Drive, has had the same experience. The majority of her clients are in their first pregnancies. Scott is not certified but has been giving pregnancy massages for 10 years. She focuses mainly on relaxation, offering a tight but not deep massage mostly to the lower back and hips.

“Most of the women who come in just want to be touched and soothed,” she says.

Having been pregnant with twins, I believe this, but since I probably won’t be pregnant again, it seems I have missed my chance. While this might be my fate, it doesn’t have to be everyone’s. If your belly is swelling and the heat of summer has you down, an hour under the gentle hands of these or other masseuses in town might be just what the doctor ordered.