Guilt free self-care during pregnancy

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Becoming a mother involves a whole lot of changes: pregnancy can have an impact on your body, your appetite, your sleep patterns, your sex life, your relationships, and your job. Most pregnant women recognize this and talk about all these changes with their friends. But what many women don’t talk about is the issue of guilt. Guilt over that glass of wine either before you even knew you were pregnant or when your day was so awful that you just had to have one. Guilt over not feeling joyous every minute of every day about being pregnant. Guilt over resenting the fact that this little being is taking over your body. Guilt over not being happy with the gender of your baby, guilt over your friends who are infertile or unmarried, and guilt over the sushi you snuck at lunch.

The guilt factor

Most pregnant women won’t talk about their guilt but my patients do. Some sessions, that is all we talk about. Which is fine with me since that is what most women talk about in my office. I have spent most of my career trying to teach my patients the art of self-nurturance. And what I mean by self-nurturance is meeting your own needs in conjunction with the needs of others. I am not talking about taking your savings and bopping off with your sister to Paris, leaving your partner to mow the lawn in your absence. That would likely be defined not as self-nurturance but as self-ish. By self-nurturance I mean respecting your needs the same way you do the people you love. So if your mom has had an awful day, you might well recommend a massage. But if you have had an awful day, would you feel comfortable booking one for yourself?

Read more: 6 little pregnancy indulgences to make you feel like a million bucks

Benefits for baby, too

Well now, there might be actual evidence that you don’t need to feel guilty about heading to the spa after all. In a study just released by the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, there is now evidence that massage could be beneficial for pregnant women. PJ Chen and colleagues recruited 52 healthy pregnant women and randomized them to either receive 70 minutes of aromatherapy massage (with lavender oil!) every other week for 20 weeks plus routine prenatal care, or just routine prenatal care. The researchers found both short-term (e.g. immediately after the massage) and long-term (e.g. at the end of the study period) benefits: the women who received the massages were less stressed and had better immune function than the women who received no treatment.

Does this mean that you can pop over to the spa whenever you want, without regard to the cost? Not unless your last name is Gates or Zuckerberg. But it does add evidence that when you are pregnant, doing things which make you feel good can be good for you, and for your baby as well.

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