Benefits of Pregnancy Massage

If you could experience the following benefits without drugs, would you jump on board?

  • decreased muscle spasm, cramps and pain in neck, back, hips and legs
  • reduced discomfort associated with edema (retention of fluids)
  • decreased stress and it’s harmful effects on mom and baby
  • increase in the body’s natural endorphins and serotonin levels producing a feeling of well-being for mom and baby
  • improvement in labor outcomes (i.e., decrease in prematurity, higher birth weight, shorter labor, decreased uterine pain, decreased rate of post-partum depression)

These are some of the documented benefits pregnancy massage can provide. Although research is not extensive like it is for cancer and major illnesses, it points to lots of benefits for both the mother and baby.

If you are or know someone who is pregnant and would like to explore first hand the benefits of pregnancy massage, please let me know!

Opting In, reflections

According to many studies, sons of working moms expect to raise their children, too, and sons of stay-at-home mothers expect a wife will take care of all those child-rearing responsibilities. Opting In by Amy Richards (Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2008 page 23)

I’m doing some preliminary research for a book I may or may not ever write about life after kids arrive. Opting In: Having a Child Without Losing Yourself by Amy Richards was the first book to arrive from my library request list. The author is a feminist and definitely positions herself in the flow of feminist dialogue. Of the books on my request list, I think it will win the longest bibliography contest at 11 pages. She covers a range of topics, the most interesting to me being division of labor in households with 2 working parents.

Regarding the quote above, I would imagine daughters of working mothers and daughters of stay-at-home mothers have expectations similar to sons. We often fail to articulate our expectations or even be aware of them. In our culture, the default gender to take on household chores and kid-care is the female gender. Regardless of how well we articulated the plan before kids arrived, when the rubber hits the road every day, our contentment or resentment is keeping tabs somewhere in the background, keeping score more-or-less if things seem fair.

It seems to me that more and more families need 2 incomes, especially in over-priced regions of the country like Southern CA. Fewer families have the choice to have one parent stay home, regardless of how they then work out the non-paid duties of keeping house and raising kids. So, how do we work it out? I’m sure there are a million answers to that question.

Sometimes one parent takes on parenting as their “job.” This may or may not ever be stated explicitly. And it may backfire.

Where incomes are equalized – either through earned incomes or through inheritances and other sources – individuals have more leverage. In fact, imbalances often emerge because “she” is taking on parenting as her job – she doesn’t help with his job; why should he help with hers? page 197

Often the balance of paid work and unpaid work (kid-care & housekeeping, etc.) shifts over time. Keeping the conversation current with shifting balances requires diligence and attention. Here’s another gem from the book:

If you spend a disproportionate amount of time being bitter with your spouse, it’s unlikely that you feel giving towards him or her. “Dads who do more child-care and household chores have happier marriages and are less likely to divorce,” Julie Shields documented in How to Avoid the Mommy Trap. page 199

If both parents are working, it begs the question “who does all the non-paid work?” Of course, we can outsource by hiring help for various parts of the equation like childcare and cleaning. We can eat more processed meals, lease cars that don’t require much maintenance and hire tutors to help with homework. All the families I know include some combination of the above strategies. We can also choose to cut expenses, live communally, and spend below our means (thereby requiring less income). Many families I know incorporate these ideas as well. If we can manage to keep from losing touch with our kids and our sanity by using some of these creative solutions, we can pat ourselves on the back for sure.

I enjoyed reading the book and found it spurred a lot of thought. Here’s to both opting in! Share your brilliant solutions about the daily juggle in the comments below.

little known muscle series – quadratus lumborum

Ah! Here’s a fascinating muscle. It’s wacky name is usually shortened to QL. And, crazy me – I’ve been thinking of it as a BACK muscle all along. Until I read this last night: “Although it would seem to be the deepest muscle of the low back, the quadratus lumborum is, strangely enough, the deepest muscle of the abdomen.” Trail Guide to the Body, Books of Discovery, 2005 (page 213). Okay, I know you’re all curious…so let’s jump right in.

Muscle mapquest: Put your hands on your hips. Where your thumbs naturally fall is one attachment of this muscle. As you’ll remember from geometry, a quadrangle is a 4-sided polygon. In this muscular quadrangle, 3 sides are attached to bones and 1 side is free. Hips anchor the muscle on the bottom. Going vertically, the muscle attaches to the 1st-4th vertebrae of the low back. On the top, it attaches to the lowest rib. If you’ve ever seen someone consciously or unconsciously rubbing their low back, this is basically the neighborhood we’re talking about.

What does it do? This muscle helps to extend the trunk (bend backward), laterally tilt the pelvis (think hula or Elvis), laterally flex the trunk (side bend). It also fixes the ribs for inhalation and forced exhalation. Ever sneezed in the morning before your back is “awake” and felt a twinge in the low back? That might be a slight strain on the QL.

Why should I care? Legitimate question. I’m glad you asked. This muscle is often implicated in low back pain. Low back pain is complex and can have many causes. Because the QL has the 3 attached sides, it acts as an important stabilizer muscle in the low back. The tighter it gets the more stable, or immobile, you can become. (Our goal should be stability without losing flexibility.) When the more superficial abdominal muscles are weak, this muscle tends to hold on even tighter. This can cause it to pull too hard on one of it’s attachments – the hip, the rib or the vertebrae. It can also be unevenly tight on one side causing an imbalance in the pelvis. One hip might be hiked up on one side causing trouble down the leg, into the knee, all the way to the ankle and foot. This might cause a lot of trouble if, for example, you’re a runner, especially at higher mileage.

Here’s another gem: if you’re a mom of young kids whom you carry, you could really benefit from learning about this muscle. Almost every mom I know juts a hip out to carry a kid, some more, some less often, but it’s pretty common. I always carried my son on my right hip. I guess it felt more stable on that side. I’m sure someone told me to be sure to carry the baby on both sides and to vary positions. But somehow, amidst all the advice I received, this piece did not make an impression on me. Consequently, I feel there’s still a deep-seated imbalance in the mobility of my hips. So, beware and be smarter!

How to care for your QL: A number of things come to mind. You know I’m going to say massage, so I’ll tackle that first. This is a muscle that’s easily worked in a massage session to great affect. Actually I have to laugh because when I’m working on the QL I often observe my client get very quiet as if concentrating. Then I hear “what is that?” It can be a hidden culprit to back discomfort, so be sure to ask for some work there in your next session. You can also massage it yourself if you stand with your back against a wall and position a tennis ball between you and the wall. Lean that low back into the ball with a degree of pressure that feels satisfying, but not painful. You can do this a 2-6 times a day as long as you don’t do it for very long (1 minute should be good). More than that and you’ll make yourself sore. Lastly, and most importantly, keep moving! We naturally lose our flexibility as we age. Unless we’re doing things to actively maintain or increase our flexibility, we will become stiff and immobile. This does not bode well for the QL. Do a little dancing: salsa, merengue, and hula come to mind. Simple side bend stretches are also great for the QL if you’re not on par with Oliver & Luda. Check this out ~