Pregnancy Massage

Pregnancy massage is a type of massage therapy specifically designed to be used during pregnancy. It is also called prenatal massage. Pregnancy massage may help relieve some of the aches and pains of pregnancy. But it does have some risks; it isn't suitable for every person or every pregnancy.

Benefits of Prenatal Massage

While every pregnancy is unique, the changes to the body as a baby grows often cause discomfort. A pregnancy massage can help relieve some of these symptoms:

Pain Relief
  • As the abdomen grows outward, posture changes to realign the center of gravity over the hips. For some people, the stress on the joints and muscles results in low back, pelvic, neck, shoulder, or sciatic nerve pain. Professional prenatal massage therapy can relieve these aches. Research shows it is effective for leg and back pain during pregnancy.
Reduced Swelling
  • Some swelling, or edema, is also normal during pregnancy. The fluid buildup tends to be more pronounced in the legs, ankles, and feet because the growing uterus puts pressure on the veins in the legs. Massage may help to reduce fluid buildup.
Better Sleep
  • Difficulty sleeping is common during all stages of pregnancy, thanks to physical discomfort as well as stress and anxiety. Massage may help improve sleep quality and insomnia during pregnancy.
Relaxation and Stress Reduction
  • Prenatal massage is also used to boost mood and enhance overall well-being. For example, in one study that measured pregnant women's stress and immune system function, women who received a series of prenatal massages showed significant decreases in stress hormone levels and enhanced immune function.

What Makes Pregnancy Massage Different?

A pregnant person's body must be properly positioned and supported during the massage for the comfort and safety of the mother and growing baby. After about 20 weeks, for instance, lying on your back can put excess pressure on your abdomen, restricting blood flow. During a prenatal massage, you will usually positioned be lying on your side rather than on your stomach or back. This is particularly important during the later stages of pregnancy. Pillows, bolsters, or padding may be used to support your back, knees, and/or feet. Alternatively, your massage therapist may suggest that you sit upright or in a semi-reclining position. Before your appointment, drink extra water. Massage can be dehydrating (and you already need extra fluids during pregnancy). Continue hydrating after your massage, too.

Safety and Risks of Prenatal Massage

Few studies have examined the risks of prenatal massage. Little is known about the risks of pregnancy massage for women with a high-risk pregnancy and pregnancy-related issues such as preeclampsia, high blood pressure, bleeding, or gestational diabetes. Your doctor, for instance, may recommend avoiding massage therapy during your first trimester, or your massage therapist may not be comfortable performing a massage until you reach the second trimester.

When to Avoid Pregnancy Massage?

As with any new therapy, consult your doctor or midwife before booking a pregnancy massage treatment. Use extra caution if you have a high-risk or complicated pregnancy, including:

  • Increased risk of pre-term labor
  • Preeclampsia or high blood pressure
  • Blood clots or a clotting disorder
  • Problems with your placenta, such as placenta previa