Touch In Pregnancy
As your pregnancy progresses you have no doubt thought about what exactly your growing baby is feeling, hearing, seeing? There is much research being carried out in these areas and fascinating scientific evidence is produced that tells us that a baby in utero can hear around 18 weeks, when the bones of the inner ear and the nerve endings from the brain are developed enough. Also around this time, even when your babies eyelids are still closed, they are sensitive to light and by 33 weeks your baby can start to make out shapes as their pupils are able to constrict and dilate. As early as the 5th week of development your growing baby has a complex range of reflexes and is sensitive to outside Influences. It is recognised that a baby can feel pain in the uterus, research also shows us that they can also feel calm.
I find all this so fascinating and crucial to my work in offering ante natal massage. Touch for me is the most crucial of the senses.
Our skin is the largest organ in our body, the oldest and the most sensitive of our organs. The whole body is covered by it, even the cornea of the eye is overlaid by a layer of modified skin. It turns inwards in to all our orifices and in the evolution of the senses touch was undoubtedly the first to come into being. Though its structure and functionality change as we age, touch remains a constant, the foundation upon which all the other senses are based.
Through the skin we learn about our environment and our body adapts accordingly. An area the size of a penny contains more than 3 million cells. The enormous amount of receptors present receives stimuli of heat, cold, pressure and pain. It has the ability to repair itself and we shed loads of it every day, we all know the statistics about household dust! The skin is a picture of life’s experiences from the radiance of youth to the wrinkled visage resulting from the passing years.
It is well documented that when we receive positive touch, and massage is a good way to receive this, we produce the hormone Oxytocin – This is our feel good hormone and the reason why we feel great when being massaged. You may have read about it in relation to breast feeding and the bonding process, but it is produced every time we are touched – in a good positive, loving way- it’s not just a pregnancy hormone.
So what are the consequences to your baby when you receive a massage?
Research has shown that when we are massaged we increase the production of natural painkillers and give our immune system a boost. It lowers our blood pressure and respiratory rate, which improves the function of our heart and lungs. Excess fluid and metabolic wastes are pushed back into the circulation for removal. Muscles are warmed up and stretched, and given more space to move.
The soothing effect of touch sedates our body and calms our nervous system, resulting in us feeling calmer and less stressed and anxious. All of this will be relayed to your baby by the hormones you release. On the flip side of that tests have shown that when a pregnant women is placed in a stressful situation her adrenaline levels rise and in response to that foetal heart rate increases.
Now every day stresses can’t be avoided and you should not worry about the effect that’s its having for your baby, but what you can do is maximise the good effects by receiving regular massage throughout your pregnancy.