Guest Blog - Manual lymphatic drainage in pregnancy
Women often approach me for manual lymphatic drainage (or MLD) treatment during pregnancy. It seems to appeal to women around this time in their lives particularly as they experience fluid retention for the first time. Or perhaps it is just because of MLD’s reputation for being an incredibly relaxing and calming massage.
MLD was first developed by Dr Emil Vodder and is a soft tissue massage which consists of light pressure applied in a specific way to coax the lymphatic system to work as effectively as it can. Movements are circular in nature, gently stretching the skin in a slow rhythmic way. One of the main benefits during pregnancy is that it can be effective in relieving swollen and achy legs.
For some women, generalised swelling can occur during pregnancy and it may be associated with or contribute to other conditions such as carpal tunnel symptoms.
Often it is in the third trimester when circulatory problems can begin to appear, with swelling in the legs, ankles or feet. A tired, heavy feeling in the legs can be caused by poor circulation and there are two main factors contributing to this. Firstly, physical compression of the inferior vena cava (IVC) by the expanded uterus. This reduces the return of blood up the body from the legs resulting in pooling in the lower legs. Secondly, high levels of hormones such as oestrogen and relaxin are secreted which influence vascular permeability and consequently increased leakage of fluid into the tissues. It is the lymphatic system that is required to clear this fluid and it can become overloaded and overwhelmed.
Many women find that as they progress towards the final few weeks of their pregnancy swollen ankles and feet can become very uncomfortable. This is where the lightness, gentleness and pain reducing effect of MLD can bring immediate relief. However, the benefits of MLD can be twofold. In addition to reducing swelling, MLD can also calm the nervous system and relax muscles. So, it can also be helpful for reducing back pain and physical aches from carrying the baby and accommodating the extra passenger!
After the birth, swelling and fluid may also linger as the body struggles to deal with excess fluids; the IV fluids used during epidural or c-section procedure, an increase in hormones (oestrogen, progesterone, HCG and prolactin), being more sedentary than normal plus residual fluid from pregnancy build up during the 9 months all may contribute to this. MLD can help with recovery from the physical demands your body has been through and help bring everything back into balance again. Gentle and safe even after surgery, MLD can assist in recovery and the formation of ideal scar tissue after a c-section (although only over the area once it is fully healed). No oils or powder are used, so it is completely safe for those with sensitive skins.
How often should you have treatment? Generally, between once a week to once a month depending on your goals.
If you have any health conditions or complications arising during your pregnancy, please consult a medical practitioner for advice before booking an appointment.
Carol is a Manual Lymphatic Drainage practitioner with over 30 years of experience.
Carol runs clinic from Emma Kenny Massage Therapies and is one of our Specialist Therapists.