Pregnancy massage is massage therapy specifically tailored to the mother's needs during her pregnancy. It is also known as pre-natal massage. Unfortunately, many people still think of massage as a luxury or something reserved for special occasions. In general massage is now recognized as a form of healthcare, and has dozens of therapeutic benefits. One of the most beneficial times for massage is during pregnancy.
Most pregnancy massages last about an hour. Pregnancy massage is generally done on a regular massage table with the mother-to-be positioned side-lying for comfort. Some practitioners use a special pregnancy massage table or a specially designed pillow system to position a woman comfortably, however as long a the therapist uses pillows and bolsters to support the clients comfort, these extras are not necessary.
The most common massage modalities incorporated into a pregnancy massage are Swedish, Deep Tissue (indicated in some areas & contraindicated in others), Trigger Point Therapy.
Possible Benefits of Pregnancy Massage
A study at the University of Miami School of Medicine suggests that massage during pregnancy can have many positive effects, including:
- Lowered anxiety
- Decreased back and leg pain
- Improved sleep
- Decreased levels of the stress hormone Norepinephrine
- increased levels of the hormones serotonin and Dopamine (feel good)
- decreased levels of Cortisol (another stress hormone)
- an overall improvement in mood
- decrease swelling in the arms and legs
- relief from general aches and pains in muscles and joints.
Massage Therapists who are Certified in Pregnancy Massage have learned to adapt their techniques to address the changes a woman's body goes through during pregnancy. Most therapists are trained to avoid deep pressure on the legs, as pregnant women are at a high risk for blood clots there. While therapists still massage the legs, they use slow light pressure, moving in a direction towards the heart.
One area of controversy is whether it's safe to have a massage during the first trimester due to the potential for miscarriage. There is little to no research showing that massage in anyway causes miscarriage, however because most miscarriages happen in the first trimester, some massage therapists and doctors advise against first-trimester massage simply to avoid any potential liability issues should a miscarriage occur.
In general it is important for any pregnant woman to discus this and/or any other alternative or complementary healthcare with their primary healthcare provider before scheduling a massage.
When to Avoid Pregnancy Massage
There are times when massage may not be appropriate. You may choose to avoid massage or get clearance from your healthcare provider before you try a massage if:
- You're experiencing severe nausea, vomiting, or morning sickness
- You're at high risk of miscarriage
- You have a high-risk pregnancy such as placental abruption or preterm labor
With all of that being said, Pregnancy Massage is one of the safest and best pain relief alternatives for pregnant women with the most added benefits.