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  • Karen Stoner, LMT

Massage Tips and Trivia: Massage may alleviate some postpartum depression symptoms

"There are a lot of factors that can cause postpartum depression, but postnatal massage can help alleviate some of the symptoms"

Postpartum depression is a serious and often overlooked complication following the delivery of a baby. There is no definitive cause for it, and some women have it to many varying degrees. Mostly every new mom suffers from a little bit of "blues" following birth, and this can partly be related to the immense change in hormones and the bodily trauma of the birthing process. (However easy the birth was, there is still a major shift and trauma to the body.) While a mother is pregnant, there is a level of hormones and other bodily functions that are totally dedicated to growing and sustaining the baby. Once the baby leaves her body, however - all of that either stops completely or takes a while to taper off, there to support something that is no longer there - so much like someone on drugs who stops cold turkey and goes into withdrawal, the body doesn't always react well which can cause sadness or depression-like symptoms. Add onto that the shock and reality of being a new mom - pain, the body not feeling "normal", concern and worry for this helpless being they brought into the world, no sleep, doctors freaking them out about every little ounce of weight gain or loss and 'well-wishers' giving them unsolicited criticisms of their parenting skills. And this is not even touching on if baby is having feeding or eating issues, or if mom had a traumatic birth experience such as an emergency C-section to begin with. New moms go through a lot, and most of the time, nobody wants to acknowledge really what goes on. Motherhood is supposed to be 'natural' and what 'women are supposed to do', and since 'they are the stronger gender, they can 'power through and be super-women'. But sometimes stuff does creep in and it isn't pretty. It isn't often seen or noticed mainly because women don't want to admit that it is there, and people around them don't want to see it.

Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression are different. Baby Blues are more the sadness and frustration coming from the drop in hormones and new life situation. Postpartum Depression (PPD) can be much stronger and much more dangerous if left untreated and unacknowledged. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to determine the difference between the two until the PPD is pretty severe.

So how can massage help? Massage can't cure PPD. That is something that needs to be monitored by a specialist and professional, and may need medication as well as a lot of emotional and possibly physical support. However, massage can help ease some of the symptoms. Massage can help calm and balance the hormones, and release more of the "good feeling" hormones. It helps the body heal, and helps circulation and the muscles regain a "normal" feeling, plus can help mom feel like she has some control over her still-changing body, and that will in turn help her mental state. Additionally, a postnatal massage focuses on some of the areas most affected by the pregnancy, birth, and caring for a newborn such as the abdomen and belly to help shrink the uterus, easing the still changing and straining muscles in the low back, and easing carpal tunnel and "nursing neck". Plus, the massage can give mom some much needed quiet time to herself to either relax, sleep, or just get away and shut down for a short time.

New moms have to deal with a lot - and it usually is a lot more than they will let on or that people realize. Let a postnatal massage be part of a new mom's recovery. It won't fix everything that a new mom's body is going through - only nature and time can help with many major issues, but massage can definitely help with some of the more controllable things and help a new mom start to feel like she has a little more control over her body and her life.

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