A good massage can be enjoyable at any time. But when you’re pregnant and every fiber of your body is busy growing another person? Well, that’s when pregnancy massage can be amazing!
Why get massages during pregnancy?
There are many potential benefits of massage during pregnancy. The most obvious, of course, is that, like any massage, it feels good and can be relaxing.
There is limited research into pregnancy massage (sometimes called by its more official name, prenatal massage). Still, the findings of those limited studies are promising.
Pregnancy massage may reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. A study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology showed that depressed pregnant patients showed:
- Increased dopamine and serotonin levels. These hormones promote feelings of well-being.
- Decreased cortisol. Cortisol is the primary stress hormone.
A different study, published in the same journal years prior, suggested that pregnancy massage may:
- Decrease pain, particularly in the legs and lower back
- Lower anxiety
- Improve sleep
Plus, there’s the fact that massage has shown potential advantages in the typical, nonpregnant population. Studies suggest massage may reduce pain and possibly improve immune function.
It’s not a stretch to imagine those same benefits may continue during pregnancy. (Although, again, more research is needed.)
Is pregnancy massage safe?
As always, you should discuss any treatments, even “nonmedical” treatments like prenatal massage, with your medical provider. Assuming he/she approves, massages are generally considered safe after the first trimester.
The American Pregnancy Association says that pregnancy massage is safe at any point during pregnancy. Still, there is already increased risk of miscarriage during the first trimester.
For this reason, many massage providers won’t work with a woman until her second trimester. One theoretical concern is that the increased blood flow could cause additional risk, though this theoretical risk hasn’t been validated in research.
Other medical situations may contraindicate massage (not just during pregnancy). This article is providing information, not medical advice, so you should speak to your provider about any preexisting conditions that may make prenatal massage unsafe for you.
Assuming you decide prenatal massage is for you, there are two things you should do to ensure you have a positive, safe experience.
- Only use a certified, professional massage therapist who has experience with pregnancy massage.
A woman’s body undergoes so many different changes during pregnancy. Her body is, quite literally, not the same as a nonpregnant client. A certified, experienced professional will know about such physical changes and how to best work with them in a safe and comfortable manner.
2. Consider lying on your side for massages during pregnancy.
Many therapists who specialize in prenatal massage have pre-fashioned tables with a cutout for a woman’s stomach. They have their clients lie on their stomachs.
Unfortunately, the cut-outs on these tables don’t always fit well. Even if they do, lying with your stomach dangling for an extended period can be uncomfortable. Even worse, it risks damaging the uterine ligaments and abdominal muscles.
Lying on your side can protect your body while also maintaining sufficient blood flow to your baby. Pregnant women should avoid lying on their backs as much as possible during the second and third trimester to ensure adequate blood flow.
What type of massage is best during pregnancy?
As I said before, any type of pregnancy massage cleared by your medical provider is fine. However, pregnant women may find that Swedish massage best meets their needs during pregnancy.
According to the American Pregnancy Association,
“[Swedish Massage] addresses many common discomforts associated with the skeletal and circulatory changes brought on by hormone shifts.
Of course, if you prefer a different massage method, there’s nothing stopping you from going with that. In the end, prenatal massage is about doing whatever makes you feel most comfortable during your pregnancy!