Pregnancy Massage

Also referred to as prenatal massage, pregnancy massage is a growing trend that benefits pregnant women the same way ordinary massages benefit non-pregnant women. Of course there are differences in massaging a pregnant woman, as safety comes first. Massage therapists are taught about prenatal massage during their training, but finding a therapist who certified in pregnancy massage is probably the best way to go for an expectant mother.

Therapeutic massages help pregnant women relieve various aches, pains, and tension in the muscles, joints and nerves. There are special prenatal massage tables that have a hole in the center for the uterus to fit into. Not all women need these tables, however, and many find that normal massage tables work just as well.

Benefits of Pregnancy Massages

Hormones are constantly changing during pregnancy, causing circulatory and skeletal changes that lead to discomfort and pain. Here’s a look at some of the benefits pregnant women can experience by receiving a pregnancy massage:

  • Relaxes muscles
  • Eases built up tension
  • Improves blood circulation throughout body
  • Regulates hormones
  • Reduces swelling
  • Reduces nerve pain
  • Relieves back pain
  • Relieves swelling and pain in joints (edema)
  • Plays major role in mood and attitude
  • Improves sleep patterns
  • Improves lymph system

Women who receive regular pregnancy massages are said to have fewer complications during labor and delivery.

Pregnancy Massage Safety

There are a number of safety precautions that both the expectant mother and the massage therapist need to take before a massage is given to a pregnant woman. As an expectant mother, it’s important that you also know what safety measures should be taken. Relying on the expertise and experience of a massage therapist is important, but it’s also important that the mother be educated about positions and pressure points, and that she know whether her massage therapist is certified.

Body positions are an important part of safety during a massage. Many pregnant women are comfortable using a prenatal massage table, but others are not. So when is it appropriate for a woman to choose? Always. There is some controversy about whether a pregnant woman should use a prenatal massage table after her second trimester. Not only is it not recommended for a woman to lie on her stomach during pregnancy, some women who use a table with a hole in it say they feel discomfort and pain in their breasts due to the inflammation and tenderness that accompanies pregnancy. Lying on your back is also a no-no, because in this position the uterus applies pressure to the vein that allows blood to flow from the legs to the heart.

The best position for any pregnant woman to receive a therapeutic massage is lying on her side. Sometimes a full-body pillow is used to provide support, but it’s not always necessary.

Our ankles and wrists have certain pressure points on them that stimulate the pelvic muscles and uterus. Trained professionals are aware of these points, and certified professionals are trained to avoid these pressure points if a client is pregnant. Women suffering from contractions, including Braxton Hicks contractions, should notify their massage therapist so that he or she can avoid these points during the massage.

Can All Pregnant Women Receive a Prenatal Massage?

Not all pregnant women should seek therapeutic massages during pregnancy, especially if they have one or more of the following conditions:

  • High-risk pregnancy
  • PIH (pregnancy induced hypertension)
  • Preeclampsia
  • Recent birth
  • Previous pre-term labor problems
  • Swelling is severe
  • High blood pressure
  • Severe headaches and/or migraines

TIP: Something to keep in mind is that you can receive a pregnancy massage at any point during your pregnancy, but some massage therapists will refuse to provide services to a woman in her first trimester. This is due to the increased chance of a miscarriage during the first trimester.

Who Should I Talk to About Pregnancy Massages?

You can talk to anyone, really. Friends and family are always a good place to start, as they may have advice and referrals for you. You may also want to speak with your OBGYN, doula, or midwife about receiving this type of prenatal care. They too may have referrals for you. You also want to find a massage therapist who is certified and trained to handle pregnant women. Use some of the information found here to create a list of questions for each of the professionals in your life about massages during pregnancy. Example questions:

  • What trimester would be best to start pregnancy massage therapy?
  • Do you know what pressure points to avoid?
  • What type of massage table is going to be used?
  • How often should I receive massage therapy once it begins?
  • Can my massage therapist be with me during labor?
  • Who is responsible if something goes wrong with my pregnancy after receiving a massage?


[Page updated February 2016]