A heavy belly. A sore back. An emotional rollercoaster. Welcome to pregnancy! Many women ask whether massage therapy is a safe way to relieve these physical and mental stressors. The answer is: Generally, yes.
Massage therapy during pregnancy has been shown to provide many benefits, including a sense of wellness, improved relaxation, and better sleep. But certain techniques and trigger points in the body can cause contractions and premature labor, so seeking expertise is vital. Prenatal massage is a specialized certification, and massage therapists who practice it receive advanced education in safe techniques for pregnant women.
Before you schedule a massage, visit with your doctor and follow specific guidelines to protect yourself and your baby. I’ve invited Bridgette Young, a massage therapist who also is a mom-to-be, to share insights about things to consider and the benefits of prenatal massage.
Massage guidelines for pregnant moms
I’ve practiced massage therapy for many years, though I’m not certified in prenatal massage. I fully appreciate the benefits of massage when I get to be the client rather than the provider! However, it isn’t recommended for every pregnant woman.
Two scenarios in which a pregnant woman should think carefully about getting a massage
1. Women in their first trimester of pregnancy
The American Pregnancy Association says that women can begin massage at any point during a pregnancy. However, many prenatal massage therapists will not accept clients until the second trimester of pregnancy. The first trimester carries an increased risk of miscarriage, and some therapists are concerned that the increased blood flow during a massage might be harmful.
Second, there are pressure points in the body that are thought to initiate contractions or potentially induce labor. Because of this, many prenatal massage therapists require a doctor’s release to work with women in their first trimester of pregnancy.
2. Women with certain medical conditions
Massage therapy engages the circulatory system, which can alter blood flow in the body and potentially affect certain health conditions. If you have any of the following issues, talk to your doctor before getting a prenatal massage at any point in your pregnancy:
- High blood pressure that isn’t controlled by medication
- High-risk pregnancy concerns, such congenital heart disease or preeclampsia
- Recent injury or surgery
- Recent organ transplant
What to look for in a massage office
Pregnant women should look for a few specific details when selecting a massage therapist:
- A hygienic shop: Make sure the shop is clean and free of dirt and grime. Illness can happen easily during pregnancy if you come into contact with germs or viruses.
- Prenatal massage certification: Look at the office’s menu of services and ask whether it specifically offers prenatal massage. You also can look up therapists online by their name or license number to verify their license and qualifications.
- Proper equipment and techniques: A pregnant woman can experience dizziness or increased blood pressure from lying on her stomach or back too long. Offices that specialize in prenatal massage usually have women lie on their sides while propped up with pillows or use tables with cut-outs where their bellies can rest. It’s also important that the therapist is aware of what essential oils or lotions are OK to use in pregnancy, as many have analgesic and calming properties. Not all are considered safe.
Tips for a pleasant massage experience
The first thing I tell my clients is to try not to feel self-conscious. A good massage therapist is not judgmental. The therapist won’t care (and probably won’t even notice) if you haven’t shaved your legs in a while or if you’ve gained a little extra weight during pregnancy. Massage therapists see the human body like an artist sees a canvas. Our goal is to help you feel less pain and greater relaxation. On that note, your privacy is very important. A professional massage therapist will never ask you to expose more of your body than you’re comfortable showing. If you feel uneasy for any reason, be sure to tell your therapist right away.
Finally, it’s important to hydrate before your appointment. Pregnant women require additional fluid intake anyway, so drink a few extra glasses of water before and after your appointment.
It’s safe to have up to weekly prenatal massages as long as you don’t have a condition that could put you or your baby at risk. Call 214-645-8300 or request an appointment online with your doctor to discuss your personal risk factors or to get clearance to enjoy a prenatal massage.