The perinatal period relates to the time immediately before and after childbirth. A typical definition is that it starts after twenty-two weeks of pregnancy and ends after seven days of delivery and childbirth, but other definitions are common also (such as after twenty-eight weeks of pregnancy up to thirty days after childbirth), even definitions where the complete prenatal and postnatal period are included.
In any case, in this article we look at Perinatal Massage and Reflexology as treatments applied in the more immediate period before and after childbirth. A reason why this type of massage is confined to a certain time around childbirth is that certain techniques applied may cause an abortion or premature childbirth if done too early in the pregnancy period. By the way, perinatal massage shouldn’t be confused with a relaxing prenatal massage, which is typically given between the third and seventh month of pregnancy and uses other techniques.
Perinatal Massage can have several aims, for instance, to soothe tension in the womb (uterus), to help position the baby better or help the baby to move more freely, reduce pressure on the urinary system or on the back, ease pains during labor, stimulate actual delivery, or more generally prepare and relax the future mother for a smooth labor i.e. delivery process. It’s also used in the confinement period after childbirth for restorative purposes, but in this case there’s of course overlap with Postnatal massages.
This type of massage can be a full body massage or rather focusing on only the abdomen, womb (uterus) or baby, depending on the exact goal. Usually, Perinatal Massage and Reflexology also aims at improving blood circulation, reducing back pain, and stimulating lymphatic circulation to decrease oedema (the medical term for fluid retention in the body) during the last phase of the pregnancy period.
If the pregnancy is overdue (that is, taking longer than 42 weeks) or even during the actual process of childbirth, reflexology pressure points on the feet may be manipulated to stimulate delivery. During this moment hot herbal compresses may be used also to relax muscles or alleviate pains. Sessions may be done two to three times per week until the end of the pregnancy, or perhaps more frequent around the moment of actual childbirth and delivery.
Typical traditional perinatal massages are for instance the Thai Kud Thong Massage, Thai Yok Thong, the Malay-Indonesian Sengkak Womb Massage, Mayan Abdominal Massage, Thai and Chinese Foot Reflexology, Thai Heated Salt-Pot Compress Massage, and Thai Womblifting, to name some of the popular and widely used modalities.