Common Questions About Prenatal Massage

Congratulations, you’re pregnant! And you’re curious about massage. Maybe you’ve heard mixed things about whether or not you can get one. Maybe you’re a massage regular who wants to know how your sessions will change along with your body. Maybe you just want to know why you should get a massage now. I got you, mama!


Why Should I Get A Prenatal Massage?

This might be obvious but pregnancy can be uncomfortable and massage feels good! Your body is going through a tremendous amount of change and preparing for labor, delivery, and having a baby can be stressful.

Massage can:

  • Be a natural, drug free method of easing all the normal aches and pains that come along with pregnancy.
  • Promote the movement of blood and lymphatic fluid, helping to reduce swelling in your extremities.

  • Relax your muscles that are supporting extra weight and different movement patterns.

  • Ease pressure on the nervous system, including the sciatic nerve.

  • Increase proprioception, your sense of awareness of your body, which can help with relaxation exercises during labor.

  • Be a nurturing, soothing touch.

When Can I Get A Prenatal Massage?

Anytime! Really! There’s a myth out there that massage is not safe in the first trimester. I talked about this in a previous post so I’ll quote myself here:

The fears that many massage therapists have is that of “causing” a miscarriage or at the very least being the last person to touch the woman in a professional capacity before she suffers a miscarriage which most often occur during the first trimester. Miscarriages are very rarely caused by something the woman did or did not do. Most often, the embryo is simply not viable or the woman has other risk factors. Massage has not been found to be causative of miscarriage.

Some massage therapists out there still go by the outdated information that massage during the first trimester is unsafe. They may not have received extended training in prenatal massage. Find someone in your area who lists prenatal work on their website or social media and feel free to call or email with them first to see if it’s a good fit.

In a normal risk pregnancy, there’s no end date on when you can get massage. I’ve had clients in my office on or past their due date. Some massage therapists are even trained to do massage during labor! If you’re interested in that, search for a Massage Doula in your area.


How Do You Deal With This (points to belly)?

If you’ve had a massage before you know that you typically lie flat on your stomach or your back. During your first trimester and possibly into your second, you can probably still do that if it’s comfortable for you. When your baby bump makes lying on your tummy impossible, it’s time to switch things up. Lying flat on your back at that point is unsafe because baby will put too much pressure on your vena cava, a major blood vessel, which could cause you to get dizzy, short of breath, and eventually even faint.

Prenatal massage positioning systems can be as simple as a few pillows or elaborate set ups. Some cushioning systems even allow you to lie prone (face down) throughout your pregnancy fully supported. There are some old massage tables out there that just have a cut out for your belly - I would not suggest using these as they can put a lot of strain on your ligaments that are already taxed.

At my office we use a side-lying support system that is SO comfortable I want one for my house just to sleep on. While lying on your side, it props up your torso just a bit so that there is space for your bottom shoulder and you’re not all crunched up. There’s a pillow for your head so your spine is in line and comfortable. If needed, there’s a small wedge pillow that you can put under your belly. There’s then a long pillow to rest your top leg on so your hips are in good alignment.

During my sessions, I configure the cushions so you start in a supported seated position. Think extremely comfy lounge chair. After working in that position I assist you in sitting up as much as possible, reconfigure the cushions, and help you into the side lying position and give you a “snuggle pillow.” It might just be the most comfortable you’ve been in months.


Will Massage Induce Labor?

I try to gently remind those clients who come in after their due date that baby’s gonna come when baby’s good and ready. Will it help that mama is more relaxed? Sure, but there’s no magical button I can push to get the show on the road. Sorry!

On the other hand, there’s also no reason to worry that getting a massage will stimulate labor before the bun is baked. Some therapists will talk about acupressure points around the feet and ankles that should be avoided but just massaging over these points won’t do a thing. Nothing to worry about!

Are There Women Who Shouldn’t Get Prenatal Massage?

There are a few contraindications for prenatal work. If your pregnancy has been diagnosed as high-risk it’s important to get approval from your doctor for prenatal massage. The reason for the high-risk diagnosis may or may not be a contraindication for massage and may just require some modifications.

Other contraindications are:

  • Bleeding, discharge, or pre-term contractions of the uterus (this may indicate miscarriage)

  • Pre-eclampsia or Eclampsia

  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (symptoms include pain, swelling and redness isolated to one leg)

Should I Send My Massage Therapist A Picture Of The Baby?


What About Postpartum Massage?

While getting time away from the new little one can be tricky, getting a postpartum massage is a fantastic way to have some self care! If you had a vaginal delivery, you can receive massage as soon as you’re comfortable. If you had a c-section, you’ll want to wait 6-8 weeks as with any other surgery. Your postpartum massage can be done side-lying if your abdomen is tender. I like to spend a lot of time on the neck and shoulders in these sessions because new parents are always holding and gazing down at the baby which can cause muscle tension there.

Molly Kerrigan