A certified massage therapist specializing in pregnancy massage is a safe option.

Massage Safety During Pregnancy

by Shelley Frost

Massage during pregnancy helps alleviate pain, improve sleep and generally boost an expecting mother's mood. Massage might also improve circulation, reduce swelling and diminish stress. Like all activities during pregnancy, safety precautions during a massage protect your baby's well-being. While most massages are safe, technique and positioning are key to a successful and safe pregnancy massage. Consult with your physician if you have specific concerns about massage during pregnancy.

1. Time Frame

The first trimester of pregnancy is the period with the highest chance for a miscarriage. Massage professionals often refuse to massage a women in her first trimester because of this risk. While no research is available to determine if massage increases the risk of miscarriage, massage therapists may choose not to do a massage to avoid liability should a patient experience a miscarriage. Later in pregnancy, the growing abdomen presents a challenge. Lying directly on your stomach isn't an option and lying on the back isn't recommended because it can reduce blood flow.

2. Qualifications

State laws vary on the requirements for massage therapy certification. This makes it difficult to find a massage therapist who is experienced and knowledgeable about prenatal massage. Ask acquaintances for recommendations. When you choose a massage professional, ask for a list of references. Your prenatal care provider might have recommendations as well.

3. Position

Your body positioning plays a role in the massage safety during pregnancy. Lying on the side is often considered the safest position for pregnant women. This alleviates unnecessary and potentially dangerous pressure on either the back or abdomen. Some massage tables feature a hole for the abdomen, but this could strain the ligaments in the uterus since the abdomen isn't supported.

4. Considerations

Certain pressure points in the body are known to stimulate muscles throughout the pelvis. Massaging these pressure points could cause uterine muscle stimulation, particularly risky for women who are experiencing pre-term contractions. These pressure points are located on the ankles and the wrists. The legs also need special treatment during a prenatal massage. Blood clots are a potential problem, particularly in pregnant women. Avoiding the legs or using gentle strokes reduces the change of dislodging an existing blood clot. The abdomen is another area that needs the gentlest of massages, known as effleurage, or no massage at all.

5. Warning

Pregnant women experiencing complications or medical problems should consult a physician before getting a massage. Women with an increased risk of miscarriage, preterm labor, high blood pressure, preeclampsia, severe swelling or those labeled high-risk in particular should get approval from the prenatal care provider before a massage.

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