There seems to be some general confusion when it comes to pregnancy massage. While there are massage therapists who specialise in massage therapy during pregnancy, there are also therapists who turn away pregnant women out of fear that it may do more harm than good. The truth is that pregnancy massage is completely safe in the hands of a skilled, qualified prenatal massage therapist.
What’s more, massage therapy can help relieve a number of unpleasant pregnancy symptoms, as well as act as some special ‘me time’ for the mother-to-be. Find out more below.
Is it safe to have a massage when pregnant?
Pregnant women who are interested in using massage therapy for stress or pain relief should always adopt a ‘safety first’ approach. Most therapists and health professionals recommend that you don’t get a pregnancy massage until after the first trimester. This is because the first trimester of pregnancy carries an increased risk of miscarriage, with many massage therapists concerned that the increased blood flow stimulated through massage may be harmful.
Try to stick to a Swedish massage – a form of relaxation massage with a focus on long strokes applied to tight muscles. More intense forms of massage, such as deep tissue massage, might have negative impacts on blood circulation and blood pressure. Your massage therapist should also lay you down on your side. This is because lying on your back after 20 weeks should be avoided due to the pressure it places on a large blood vessel, the inferior vena cava, that brings blood flow to your heart
A qualified prenatal therapist is knowledgeable in certified prenatal massage techniques and will ensure you’re in a safe position while being mindful of any risk factors. In any case, massage therapy is best left until the later stages of pregnancy when common symptoms such as back or foot pain begin to appear.
Why you might need a massage when pregnant
It’s common for women to experience back, neck and shoulder pain and tightness during pregnancy. Given this, massage during pregnancy can be useful to manage symptoms of muscle soreness, as well as fatigue, anxiety and stress. Massage therapy can address different needs during pregnancy, including relaxing muscle tension, improving circulation, and addressing emotional symptoms brought on by hormone shifts and anxiety.
You should consider getting a massage when pregnant if:
- You’re experiencing muscle, joint or nerve pain
- You’re experiencing headaches, heartburn, or digestive issues
- You’re experiencing emotional fluctuations, including depression, stress and anxiety
- You want to learn relaxation techniques to manage labour pain and delivery.
The benefits of massage for pregnancy
One of the most common complaints during pregnancy is lower back pain. Massage therapy is particularly effective at managing and easing back pain, as well as sciatic nerve pain. The latter is most commonly experienced by women in the later stages of pregnancy as the uterus spreads tension to the muscles of the upper and lower legs, inflaming nearby nerves.
Other benefits pregnancy massage has include:
- Reduced joint pain
- Improved circulation
- Improved oxygenation of soft tissue and muscles
- Improved sleep
- Stabilised hormone levels
- The maintenance of good posture and increased flexibility to help support baby weight
- A natural, safe alternative choice for pain relief
- Builds connection, empathy and rapport with another person
- Allows the mum-to-be to have an opportunity to take time out for themselves and be pampered.
Pregnancy massage is an important component of a woman’s continued self-care, as pregnancy can be a tumultuous time, particularly for first-time mothers. Massage therapy can help ease both physical and emotional tension, as well as equip the mother with important skills to help her self-manage pain, stress and tension.
Massage has also been proven to be an effective means of pain management during labour. A qualified pregnancy massage therapist can also help to suggest comfortable resting positions, as well as self-massage techniques to apply at home.
Find a qualified pregnancy massage therapist
To ensure you’re receiving the best and safest massage therapy while pregnant, it’s important to seek care from a certified pregnancy massage therapist. Therapists should have a certification in any one of Discover Massage Australia’s courses, as well as be trained specifically in prenatal massage.
Therapists should be mindful of how to position you safely and prevent strain to ligaments. They also need to be able to address your specific pregnancy concerns and provide you with at-home self-care techniques, as well as pain management exercises for during labour.