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  • Writer's pictureclairemariemiller1

Belly Massage

Belly massage, pregnant belly massage, and postpartum belly massage… 

all are important, yet all are largely ignored or considered off limits.

Where you practice your massage therapy can dictate whether or not you can offer a belly massage to your clients. Yes, this is a very sensitive area. Yes, this is a vulnerable area. And yes, it can stir up emotions. The belly is where we house our fears, anxiety, shame, woundings, and so much more.  

If you watch any commercials, you will notice the myriad of treatments being offered for the multitude of digestive problems in our modern culture. In modern times, a good belly rub to alleviate a stomach ache is a lost art. Many massage therapists do not offer belly massage, and many clients do not want to receive it. Connecting with the belly is to connect with the core of our body. 

With pregnancy massage, I offer abdominal massage when my client is about five months along in her pregnancy. There is no harm in doing this earlier, but we tend to wait until there is some movement and growth for her and the baby. From my decades of experience, I found that many of my clients love to receive abdominal massage in their pregnancy. 

Pregnancy abdominal massage or as I like to call it belly massage, supports the digestive system with the gentle clockwise circling strokes on the belly. This also increases circulation to both the mother's belly and the baby inside. With one of my clients, it increased blood flow to the placenta... 

I met Gina and Jay when they attended a class I created called “Nurturing the Pregnant Couple.” This was a fun five-hour class with couples, offering prenatal yoga, Dad’s shiatsu on the floor, Mom’s simple pregnancy massage, labor massage tips, and infant massage. (A video of the class content is available to rent or buy in my store here)

Gina and Jay became my clients for regular pregnancy massage. Placental insufficiency was the diagnosis that caused them to seek out massage. Placental insufficiency is a condition where the baby is not getting enough blood flow through the placenta. It can cause slow growth in the distal areas of the legs and torso. The baby’s head is the priority when it comes to blood flow in the uterus. 

When they came for a private pregnancy massage session, Gina and Jay shared their story of the loss of their first child. It was a deep and sorrowful story - Keagan passed away a few days after his birth due to Group B strep. Group B strep is an infection that can live in the vaginal walls and the baby can contract it when passing through the birth canal. It can cause some babies to develop a respiratory infection that can cause brain injury or death. Gina’s pregnancy with Keagan was a healthy pregnancy. His death was a tragedy.  

With six weeks until the due date, it seemed that all was not right for their second child. They were coming upon the one-year anniversary of the loss of Keagan. There was a lot of tension in Gina’s body and especially in her belly. Fear is a powerful emotion. Fear of another baby having difficulties was understandable. 

Jay came to every pregnancy massage with Gina. I asked if I could do an abdominal massage for her and her baby. She said yes. With slow, gentle movements in a clockwise direction, we began making contact with this baby, Aidan. I encouraged Jay to give some of the massage as well. While massaging Gina’s belly, I had Jay come over and follow my hands and then had only his hands on her belly. There was a palpable emotional release for Gina, Jay, and me, too. The good news was that after about three massages, Aidan’s little baby body caught up with his head. The placental insufficiency had subsided. 

Gina continued to heal as she created the Group B Strep Foundation. Her work was responsible for educating both the medical community and the public about the importance of screening for this infection. Group B strep can be easily treated with antibiotics, which would have saved Keagan’s life. I like to call this process the “Wounded Healer” - out of our wounding we heal by helping others. Gina and Jay have saved lives through the Group B Strep Foundation and education. 

When I teach pregnant belly massage, I always begin with asking permission. If the answer is “yes,” then my next question is, “do you need to use the restroom?” No one likes a belly rub when you need to go pee. Always use a breast drape. I perform this with my client laying on her side. It does not matter if it is left or right side-lying. It does matter that you follow the clockwise direction.

My favorite technique is rocking the baby. I use two hands to gently lift her belly and baby, and then I rock. I am rocking the mother, the baby, and even I am rocking too. This technique is so relaxing and the baby seems to like it. The baby will often move around during this part of the belly massage. In one class, a grandmother came with her daughter who was receiving the pregnancy massage. She commented that the baby never moves for her, even saying the baby doesn’t like her. I asked her, with the mother’s permission, if she would like to rock her grandchild. And yes, the baby moved for her. Big smiles all around! 

Once the birth has occurred, belly massage is indicated for supporting digestion and helping the uterus return to its pre-pregnant state. Many women have called the first bowel movement the second birth, due to the discomfort they experience. Knowing the birth story may give insights as to how the abdominal massage will go. Cesareans, episiotomies, vacuum extraction, and any long, difficult labors or even fast, intense labor may leave a mother feeling disconnected to her belly. Gentle abdominal massage may begin the reconnection women need post-birth.  

Continuing belly massage with the baby can bring relief from colic. On several occasions in my classes, after teaching this abdominal protocol on a live baby demo, I have heard the same comment - “It is a two person job.”

The baby had a really good poop and that makes for a happy baby.  

Nurturing the Belly, we all need it! Additionally, adding in a castor oil pack before the massage is the most wonderful way to create a nurturing environment for the belly. More on Castor oil in future blogs…

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