Aching muscles, swelling, and headaches are often all part of the pregnancy experience for women. Turning to a massage treatment is frequently how women who are not pregnant address these conditions. However, many mothers-to-be hesitate, not knowing if massage therapy would be entirely safe or even comfortable while they are pregnant. We would like to address a few common questions and concerns about prenatal massage.
Is it safe?
The American Pregnancy Association states that massage therapy for mothers-to-be is safe during the entire pregnancy. However, some massage therapists will not minister to women in their first trimester simply due to the increased risk of miscarriage for any woman during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The website for a best-seller, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” cautions women that receiving a massage during the first three months of pregnancy could trigger dizziness or nausea.
Of course, any pregnant woman should check with her healthcare provider before booking a massage. It’s especially important that women with any of the following conditions speak with their health care provider prior to scheduling a massage appointment:
- Experiencing severe swelling, high blood pressure, or sudden, severe headaches
- High-risk pregnancy
- Pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH)
- Previous pre-term contractions or labor
It is very important to receive care from a certified massage therapist. Each of our mother-to-be massages at Peak Day Spa is conducted by certified massage therapists with extensive experience in prenatal massage. They are experienced in how to address the specific conditions particular to pregnancy, so you are able to truly relax.
How is mother-to-be massage different from standard massage therapy?
Our therapists are knowledgeable about how to position you safely and prevent strain to the uterine ligaments. They will note any symptoms of blood clots and varicose veins, as well. Our prenatal massages are adapted for the anatomical changes you go through during pregnancy.
A regular massage will often have you lying face-down on your stomach half of the time and facing up the other half. However, both of these positions are challenging when you are pregnant. Lying on your stomach is uncomfortable with a baby in your belly. Lying face up can put pressure on a major blood vessel, disrupting blood flow to your baby, and cause you to feel nauseous. Our massage therapists use special pillows which allow the mother to lay face down. Clients love these and appreciate having the ability to lie face down safely and comfortably.
While many women experience foot and leg swelling during pregnancy, our experienced prenatal massage therapists will avoid deep massage on your legs. Although gentle massage strokes are safe, pregnant women are specifically vulnerable to blood clots, which could be dislodged with deep massage strokes.
What are the benefits of mother-to-be massage?
Research indicates that massage has therapeutic benefits during pregnancy. Women who received massage therapy reported decreased depression and anxiety, as well as reduced leg and back pain. Levels of cortisol, the body’s main stress hormone, decreased. Most significantly, excessive fetal activity decreased and the rate of prematurity was lower in the women receiving regular massages. Clients should always discuss their plans to have prenatal massages with their obstetrician prior to making an appointment, however, so that their physician may review their current health circumstances and advise them accordingly.
Many women struggle with depression and anxiety while pregnant. Low levels of dopamine and serotonin are often linked to these mood conditions. Studies suggest that healthy hormone levels are encouraged when massage therapy is included in prenatal care. In women who received bi-weekly massages for only five weeks, hormones levels of norepinephrine and cortisol (stress hormones) were reduced, while dopamine and serotonin levels were increased. These changes in hormone levels also correlated to lower premature birth rates and the incidence of low birth weight.
Reduction of swelling
Swelling due to excess fluid, or edema is often caused by reduced circulation and the increased pressure put on major blood vessels by a heavier uterus. Massage therapy encourages the dispersal of fluids in swollen joints. The elimination of tissue waste by the body’s lymphatic system is also encouraged by massage.
Reduced nerve pain
Sciatic nerve pain is often experienced by women in the last trimester of their pregnancy. As the uterus rests on muscles of the pelvic floor and lower back, this pressure creates tension in the muscles of the upper and lower leg. This causes them to swell, creating pressure on nearby nerves and resulting in pain. Mother-to-be massage therapy relieves the tension in those muscles, helping calm the inflamed nerves.
Other potential benefits of prenatal massage include:
- Better sleep
- Improved oxygenation of soft tissues and muscles
- Improved circulation
- Reduced back pain
- Reduced joint pain
- Reduced edema (swelling due to excess fluid)
- Reduced muscle tension and headaches
- Reduced stress and anxiety
Click here to book a prenatal massage at Peak Day Spa today.
 Field T. (2010). Pregnancy and labor massage. Expert review of obstetrics & gynecology, 5(2), 177–181. https://doi.org/10.1586/eog.10.12
 Field, T & Diego, MA & Hernandez-Reif, Maria & Schanberg, S & Kuhn, C. (2004). Massage therapy effects on depressed pregnant women. Journal of psychosomatic obstetrics and gynaecology. 25. 115-22. 10.1080/01674820412331282231.