A great maternity massage can work wonders on joint and muscle pain -- particularly the lower back and leg pain that so many pregnant women experience. But studies show that prenatal massage can also help to lower an expecting mother's stress and anxiety, alleviate insomnia and improve mood by increasing levels of serotonin and dopamine. Massage may also help to improve circulation and reduce joint swelling. Sadly, we can't find any evidence that it will eliminate cankles, so you may be stuck with those until after the baby is born.
While it's harder to gauge the immediate effects of massage on the baby (after all, he's relaxing 24/7, enveloped in warmth and soothed by the sounds of your maternal heartbeat), there's some evidence that regular maternity massage can have a positive impact on your newborn's health. Massage has been shown to decrease levels of the stress hormones norepinephrine and cortisol, both of which have been tied to low birth weights and labor complications.
Of course, as with any activity you engage in throughout your pregnancy, there may be a few risks to consider before you book your maternity massage. We'll check out some common concerns on the next page.