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Postpartum Project

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New mothers can suffer from depression during or after their pregnancy. Research shows 20 percent of women experience some form of depression or anxiety; however the severity differs from case to case. In fact, one in seven women experience a more severe form of hopelessness called Postpartum Depression (PPD). Women who experience PPD in their first pregnancy are more likely to experience it again in their next one as well. There are a variety of different treatment methods, but massage therapy has been proven to relieve physical discomfort and ailments of depression.

There are several symptoms of PPD which usually emerge within four weeks after childbirth. Some symptoms include panic attacks, guilt at not being to measure up to perceived standards, uncontrollable thoughts that worsen their anxieties and insomnia. PPD can also make a mother fear being alone with the newborn and have repeated thoughts to hurt the baby or self harm. PPD can hamper a mother’s ability to bond with her newborn or care for them properly. This can cause the child’s emotional and mental health to be negatively affected as well as pose a threat to their physical health during infancy.

Massage therapy can relieve physical discomfort and help boost mental health. In fact, one study showed massage therapy could reduce cortisol, the stress hormone, by 31 percent. A 2010 analysis of clinical trials noted that consistent massage therapy can help to lessen the effects of depression. Massage therapy can be combined with other treatments such as psychotherapy, estrogen therapy and home nurse visits to decrease PPD symptoms. Mothers can also attend a class to learn how to massage their infants to create a stronger bond with their baby.

A recent study followed a group of pregnant women during a 12 week period. They participated in massages and short bi weekly yoga sessions. They stated they had decreased back and leg pain, anxiety and feelings of depression. Researches noticed a drop in cortisol levels, excessive fetal activity and premature birth rates.

While massage therapy has been noted to boost the immune system, ease asthma symptoms and ease pain, we now know it can be help mothers who are suffering from PPD. Anyone can be affected, so understand the symptoms and be available to help new mothers to find appropriate treatment.

For more information on how massage therapy can help women with PPD, check out this resource from the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine:


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