Michelle Ebbin is a mom to three boys and the massage therapy expert who invented those cute Reflexology Sox, as well as the Baby Massage Shirt/Book combo I give at, like, every baby shower. You can see more, including her instructional massage DVDs, at her site, BasicKnead.com.
One thing Michelle knows: how to describe prenatal massage secrets so you can make the most of them yourself. I swear, she's given me tips over the years that I still use. So I knew I was doing my CafeMoms a huge favor when I pressed her for some prenatal massage tips (including a few foot-friendly reflexology pointers) you can put into practice now, tonight, at home. So bust out the cocoa butter, ladies.
Check Your Head:
Headaches are one of the most common pregnancy complaints, and all we're allowed to take is Tylenol? No fair! "Try a little reflexology," Ebbin suggests. "Pinch both of your big toes, thumb on the nail and index finger on the fleshy area underneath, for 10 seconds. Release, then press again for 10 seconds. You can also make small circles with your thumb in the flesh of the big toe. This will release congested energy, ease your aching head, and send healing energy throughout your entire body." Let the healing spread to your neck by rubbing a little lower, at the base of those big toes.
Your Aching Back:
Whether from rotten posture, picking up your toddler the wrong way (guilty!), or an overdose of relaxin turning your ligaments into rubber bands, back pain is a major problem for us gestation stations. "Place a tennis ball where the pain is and gently relax your body weight onto the tennis ball," Ebbin advises. "This brings circulation to the area that is tight and painful."
Balloon-y Fingers, Toes, and Ankles:
Obviously, if you're swollen in your face or throughout your body, or if your hands and feet are really huge, ask your doctor to check your blood pressure to rule out pre-eclampsia or toxemia. But if you're one of the 33 percent of women with a little uncomfortable puffiness, get your partner to try this:
Lie on your side and prop pillows under your head, under your belly, and between your legs. Shift your weight slightly forward. Have your partner sit near your feet, oil up his hands, and massage all around your foot, then up the calf and shin, and then the thigh. The point is to push upward all the time, improving circulation up the leg and toward the heart. When he's done, flip over so he can do the same for the other leg. It should only take about 5 minutes per leg, but the more times you guys can do this, the better you'll feel.
No partner on hand for 5-minute massages all day? Try this: Cross one leg over the other, ankle over knee. (Prop a pillow under your top knee if this is uncomfortable.) Spread lotion over the top of your foot, then the sole, up your calf and shin, and up your thigh. Do this several times with firm pressure, always moving up toward your heart (never down toward the ankle).
Note: Make sure you both stay away from the hollow areas just under your anklebones. Massaging them can stimulate your ovaries and uterus -- and can spark labor. Save them for when you're a week past your due date!
Nodding off during a big meeting? Or during dinner, like me?! "Try a five-minute scalp massage to stimulate all the nerve endings on your head," Ebbin advises.
When saltines and ginger chews just don't cut it, try a reflexology fix: "Press on the inner edge of both feet, from about two inches below the big toe to two inches above the heel," Ebbin says. "Press from the inner edge towards the center of the foot, then back to the edge."
Image via BasicKnead.com