Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been practised for thousands of years and covers a broad range of treatments, including acupuncture, herbal medicine, and Tui Na massage. That said, when it comes to pregnancy, many women wonder about the safety and efficacy of these treatments.
In this article, we’ll focus on Tui Na for pregnant women, demystifying its benefits and potential concerns.
Is It Safe for Pregnant Women?
Tui Na, like other forms of therapeutic massage, involves the manual manipulation of soft tissues, joints, and the musculoskeletal system. For the general population, it’s seen as a beneficial treatment. But what about pregnant women?
Generally, when practised by trained professionals who have experience with pregnancy, Tui Na is considered safe. However, it’s crucial to understand the unique needs and vulnerabilities of pregnant women, as certain pressure points and massage techniques should be avoided during pregnancy to prevent any risk to the mother or fetus.
So, if you are pregnant and would like to experience the benefits of Tui Na, make sure you do your research and look for clinics that can offer specialised Tui Na for you.
How Can Tui Na Help Pre-Partum?
The prenatal phase is filled with both excitement and discomfort as the body undergoes significant changes to support the growing fetus.
As such, Tui Na can help you in various ways:
- Back Pain: As the baby grows, your centre of gravity shifts. This leads to postural imbalances and back pain. Tui Na can target the tense back muscles, offering relief from upper and lower back pain.
- Hip and Pelvic Discomfort: The release of pregnancy hormones like relaxin causes the ligaments and joints to become more pliable, especially in the pelvic area. This can lead to discomfort. Tui Na techniques can alleviate tension in these regions, reducing pain.
- Neck and Shoulder Stress: The added weight and changing posture can also strain your neck and shoulder region. Tui Na can soothe these areas, thus, mitigating tension headaches or general discomfort.
- Edema or swelling is a common concern, especially in the later stages of pregnancy. With Tui Na, it can enhance your blood circulation and disperse the accumulated fluid from your extremities, thus, reducing the swelling of your legs and ankles.
Lower Your Stress and Encourage Emotional Balance
- Pregnancy can be an emotional roller-coaster due to hormonal changes and anticipation of upcoming responsibilities. As such, Tui Na can help you balance your Qi and promote your emotional well-being.
- Tui Na, given its relaxing effects, can stimulate the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators, thus, offering a natural way to handle stress and anxiety.
- Many pregnant women experience difficulty sleeping due to physical discomfort or restless leg syndrome. By promoting relaxation and improving blood circulation, Tui Na can contribute to better sleep quality, vital for both mother and fetus.
How Can Tui Na Help Post-Partum?
The post-partum phase often brings a mix of joy and challenges. Tui Na can be a gentle and therapeutic means of navigating this transformative period.
Speeding Up Recovery
- Physical Healing: Childbirth, whether vaginal or cesarean, can strain the body. Tui Na can help improve blood circulation, which aids in faster healing of tissues and reducing inflammation.
- Hormonal Balance: Tui Na can help balance the body’s Qi which is believed to support hormonal equilibrium. With this, it can balance your hormonal system and aid in a smoother transition post-childbirth.
Improve Emotional Well-Being
- Post-Partum Depression: A significant number of women experience mood swings or feelings of sadness after giving birth. While Tui Na is not a direct replacement for medical or psychological treatments, it can complement other therapies by promoting relaxation, reducing stress, and stimulating the release of endorphins, the body’s natural mood elevators.
- Stress Reduction: Adapting to the responsibilities of caring for a newborn can be overwhelming. Tui Na massage can provide a necessary pause, offering you a moment to relax and rejuvenate.
Realigning the Body
- Postural Corrections: Carrying and nursing a baby can strain the neck, shoulders, and back. Tui Na can help address these postural imbalances, alleviating tension, and encouraging proper alignment.
- Strengthening Your Pelvic Floor: Tui Na techniques can help in toning and strengthening the pelvic muscles, promoting recovery after childbirth.
- Sleep deprivation is common in the post-partum phase. The relaxation induced by Tui Na can lead to deeper and more restful sleep, helping you recover better and cope with the demands of motherhood.
Things to Take Note of During Your Session
- Seek Experienced Practitioners
It is essential to choose a Tui Na practitioner who has undergone specialised training in prenatal care. They will be knowledgeable about the physiological changes that occur during pregnancy and how to adjust their techniques accordingly. So, ask your obstetrician, midwife, or healthcare provider for recommendations.
- Open Communication
When you find your trusted practitioner, before starting a session, discuss any current discomforts or concerns. This will guide them in tailoring the session to your unique needs. Also, always let your practitioner know if you feel any discomfort, pain, or uneasiness during the massage. Tui Na should be a comfortable and beneficial experience.
- Positioning During the Massage
Especially in the later stages of pregnancy, lying flat on the back for extended periods can exert pressure on the vena cava, potentially restricting blood flow to the fetus. So, make sure your practitioner provides you with proper support like pillows or bolsters to position you safely.
- Pressure Points
Certain pressure points in the body, when stimulated, can affect the uterus or potentially induce labour. So, be aware of pressure points. Also, an experienced Tui Na practitioner should be mindful of these points. That said, remind them of these as well so they can promptly avoid them.
- Pre-Existing Health Conditions
If you have any health concerns or conditions like hypertension, gestational diabetes, or a history of pre-term labour, it’s crucial to discuss them with the practitioner and your primary healthcare provider before undergoing Tui Na.
Possible Side Effects
- Premature Contractions or Labour: Certain pressure points, when stimulated, might induce contractions or even premature labour. This is why it’s essential for the practitioner to be knowledgeable about which areas to avoid during pregnancy.
- Skin Reactions: Pregnant women may experience heightened skin sensitivity, leading to potential reactions to oils or lotions used during the massage, even if they haven’t reacted to them in the past. To avoid this, ask your practitioner beforehand about the oils and lotions they use.
- Dizziness or Nausea: Shifting positions during a massage or getting up too quickly afterwards can lead to feelings of dizziness or nausea, especially given the altered centre of gravity and blood pressure changes during pregnancy.
Other TCM Treatments That Can Be an Alternative to Tui Na
Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine needles into specific points on the body to balance the body’s energy flow. That said, acupuncture can help alleviate common pregnancy symptoms like nausea, back pain, and insomnia. Some practitioners also use acupuncture to help position a breech baby or to induce labour in overdue pregnancies.
- Herbal Medicine
Some herbs can be beneficial during pregnancy for issues like morning sickness, fatigue, or oedema. That said, there are some herbs that should be avoided during pregnancy. If you want to try herbal medicine, please consult with a knowledgeable TCM practitioner and your primary healthcare provider
This practice involves burning the herb “mugwort” near specific acupuncture points. This treatment can be used to warm and invigorate the flow of Qi in the body. It’s famously used in cases of breech presentation to encourage the baby to turn its head down.
- Qi Gond and Tai Chi
These are gentle movement practices combined with breathwork and meditation to cultivate and balance Qi. They can enhance relaxation, improve mood, support physical balance, and provide gentle exercise, making them suitable for expectant mothers.
This therapy uses suction cups on the skin to promote circulation and alleviate stagnation. While it’s not typically done on the abdomen during pregnancy, cupping can help relieve tension in the back or shoulders.
Can Tui Na Be Recommended for Pregnant Women?
Tui Na, when practised with care and expertise, can be a great addition to a holistic prenatal and postnatal care routine. Given its plethora of benefits, it can help mothers deal with the difficulties of pregnancy. That said, always consult with your obstetrician or healthcare provider before starting any new treatments during pregnancy.
Remember, each pregnancy is unique.
So, listen to your body, communicate openly with your practitioners, and make the choices that feel right for you and your baby.