Every time I see a pregnant woman now, I always supply a kind smile. I’m friendly like that. But also, I know that feeling. It is hard being out and about with a big belly and all the aches and pains that come along with being pregnant.
This begs the question…can you have a massage while you’re pregnant? Is it safe?
I’m writing this post because a sweet mama named Sydney reached out to me. She said a friend gave her a gift certificate to a spa for a massage during her baby shower this past weekend. “I’d heard it was dangerous to have a massage while I was pregnant, and I keep finding conflicting information. I would love to use this gift because I love massages, but is it safe? Or should I wait?”
So, I’d like to set the record straight with Sydney and any other mama with this question.
Massage is considered safe for pregnant women, with a few notable exceptions. Let me cover that and plenty more below.
- Massage offers many benefits for pregnant women, but some techniques and pressure points are unsafe.
- Women with certain conditions shouldn’t get massages while pregnant, and every mom-to-be should consult her doctor first to ensure it’s OK for them.
- Massage therapists experienced in prenatal care are the best choice for a professional massage.
Is massage therapy safe for pregnant women?
Yes, massage can be safe during pregnancy. It has an incredible array of benefits (more on that below) that can do you right.
However, certain trigger points on the body and techniques may not be suitable for you during pregnancy. Hitting these particular points could bring on contractions and premature labor. Therefore, it is vital that you go to someone with experience and certifications for massaging pregnant women. I have some tips on that further below.
What benefits do you get from a prenatal massage?
If you’ve had a professional massage at any point in your life before, you know just how relaxing it can be. It’s wonderful for reducing the stress in your body and loosening up muscles. Massage also boosts blood flow and keeps your lymphatic system functioning properly.
The mental benefits of a massage are also important here, as it helps you reconnect your mind and body. It’s a great way to feel better from head to toe, inside and out.
However, there are certain instances that you should know are not ideal for having a massage while you are pregnant.
When should you avoid massage during pregnancy?
There are 2 main scenarios where you should not have massages when pregnant.
The first scenario is if it is your first trimester. Even though the American Pregnancy Association deems massage safe during pregnancy, you may find it challenging to find a prenatal massage therapist who accepts you before you reach your second trimester.
The reason is that you have a higher risk of miscarriage during the first trimester. Many massage therapists worry that the increased blood flow during your massage could be harmful. So, to be safe, it might be best to wait until you’re in that second trimester.
The second scenario has to do with any medical conditions you may have. As you know, massage therapy boosts your blood flow. This has the potential to aggravate certain health conditions.
Regardless of known or unknown conditions, getting on the same page with your doctor about massage during pregnancy is important. Massage therapy is not a good idea if you have high blood pressure and are not controlling it by medication.
Also, any pregnant woman who is a high risk should not get a massage. If you have been recently injured, had surgery, or received an organ transplant, you should not get a massage with these conditions.
What parts of the body should I not have massaged during pregnancy?
Now, even if your doctor says ‘yes’ to the massages, some areas should never be massaged on a pregnant woman. And again, this is why seeing a massage therapist specializing in prenatal massage is the best idea when massaged is OK’d by your doctor because they will know which areas to avoid.
Additionally, you will need to be positioned differently for your massage than you would if you were not pregnant. This is not just for your comfort but also for your baby’s safety. Thus, the only options are lying on your side, sitting upright, or in a semi-reclined position.
If you go for a massage and they want you to lie on your back or stomach, find another massage therapist immediately. Anyone that says they are a prenatal massage therapist and tries to have you lie on your back after 20 weeks is putting your baby in danger.
As for the massage itself, you should not have your belly massaged. It IS safe to rub your belly with cream or oil gently but with a gentle touch.
The legs are also a problematic area. You can have them massaged, but since your blood volume increases during pregnancy, the blood flow in your legs could slow down. This makes you more prone to clots.
And then there are pressure points on the wrists, ankles, and between your fingers that some people swear may cause contractions. There are no scientific studies on this, but it is far better to avoid trouble until there is something more concrete to back up these claims in either direction.
How do I know what kind of massage therapist to choose while I’m pregnant?
So, Sydney, and other mamas, if you’re going to get a massage, you should make sure that you do not have any health conditions, you’re past the first trimester, and your doctor is on board with it.
And then, you must seek a certified prenatal massage therapist. The certification means they have received a deeper level of training to address your pregnancy massage needs. They will know how to position you and prevent straining your uterine ligaments safely. They also know how to watch for any symptoms of blood clots.
I’d also like you to check them out, not just in their reviews but in their credentials. A proper prenatal massage therapist will meet all these requirements. In fact, ask your doctor for any recommendations and start there.
Is it safe for my spouse to give me a massage during pregnancy?
Yes, your spouse, a friend, or a family member can give you a massage during pregnancy, though it is best to stick to these simple tips to avoid complications.
- Foot Rubs
A gentle foot rub on the bottoms of the feet using lotion is a gentle way to go. Make sure they do not apply too much pressure, though.
- Back Rubs
You can also safely get a back rub if you sit up or lie on your side. Focusing on the muscles that line your spine will help bring you relief.
- Shoulder Rubs
It’s also safe to rub shoulders with gentle pressure. They can work on the sides of the neck and glide between your shoulders and the base of your skull.
- Scalp Massages
Scalp massages are so soothing! Gentle pressure should be applied with the pads of the fingertips, not the nails. The face can also be stroked gently.
Hopefully, this has helped ease your mind a little bit about pregnancy massages. Remember to start this conversation with your doctor to see if it’s a good idea for you!
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California, where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs.
She loves eating too much sushi, exercising, and jamming out on her Fender. Read more about Leslie here.