By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Prenatal Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer
Prenatal massage therapy is an area that is generating more and more research. Right now a few of my massage clients are pregnant. I thought I’d share some of the tips on prenatal massage with you that I share with them!
Benefits of Prenatal Massage
Pregnancy Today’s Kelly Lott, RMT, suggests that, in addition to feeling good, prenatal massage therapy can have other benefits for the mom-to-be and her baby, too. “A study conducted by Dr. Tiffany Field at the University of Miami School of Medicine showed that massage actually reduces stress hormones in the body. Touch is vital to the mother’s physical and emotional well-being as she adapts to her new body image. Regardless of individual circumstances, a pregnant woman’s body is challenged, changed and stressed in many ways. Massage gives special attention to the mother-to-be, which in turn nurtures the new life that grows within her.”
In addition, other benefits include:
- Relieves swelling/edema in legs
- Reduces low back pain
- Relieves muscle soreness and pain in neck and shoulder area
- Gives mothers-to-be a place to be pampered, to relax and feel nurtured!
- And according to Shirley Vanderbilt at MassageTherapy.com, “Recent studies from the Touch Research Institute (TRI) in Miami, Fla., indicates that pregnancy massage provides more than just symptom relief for the mother. A group of 26 pregnant women were given either massage or relaxation therapy during a five-week study. In addition to experiencing a reduction in symptoms of anxiety, stress, sleep problems and back pain, the massage group had fewer complications in their delivery. Their newborns also had fewer postnatal complications. Another TRI study reported massage during labor resulted in shorter labor times for the mothers, shorter hospital stays and less postpartum depression.” (Read more from Shirley Vanderbilt on Pregnancy Massage at massagetherapy.com here.)
Cautions for Prenatal Massage
There are, however, times when expectant mothers should avoid seeking massage therapy. Because of the increased risk for miscarriage in the first trimester, it is commonly recommended to wait until second or third trimesters to explore prenatal massage. If an expectant mother is experiencing any of the following complications or conditions, she should abstain from prenatal massage as well:
- heavy discharge (watery or bloody);
- contagious illness;
- unusual pain;
- high blood pressure;
- morning sickness;
- abdominal pain;
- any malignant condition.
Additionally, areas of the body that should not be massaged include:
- skin rashes, open sores, bruises
- raised or distended varicose veins
- Points on the hand between the thumb and index finger*
- Points on the inside of the lower leg about 4 inches above the inner ankle bone*
*These are accupressure points thought to stimulate contractions and labor
Prenatal Massage Positioning
For table massage, pregnant women should not lie on their stomachs. Prenatal massage should be done with the mother to be in a side lying position, usually hugging a body pillow. Some massage therapists will also use a body cushion system that allows the mother-to-be to lay face down with her belly supported by the pillows. Pregnant women love this pillow because ti allows them to lay face down without any pressure on their bellies. However, there is some concern that this body cushion position may over stretch ligaments in the woman’s abdomen and some massage therapists (myself included) prefer to avoid the risk and use the side lying position exclusively.
For chair massage, most massage chairs have a “pregnancy bolster” which allows the expectant mother to sit in the chair without putting any pressure on her belly. The massage chairs at Working Well massage stations are designed to move the breast plate high enough to that the expectant mother’s belly is under the breastplate.
Finding a Good Prenatal Massage Therapist
Massage therapists must be certified in prenatal massage to perform prenatal massage. If you already see a massage therapist, ask him or her if they have this certification or if they can refer you to a massage therapist that does. If you are in Chicago, I, myself, am certified in prenatal massage and I also know of several massage therapists with prenatal certification I can recommend.
To find a reputable prenatal massage therapist in the US, visit the Association of Bodywork and Massage Professional’s massage locator service here. Or visit the National Massage Therapy Certification Board and search for ‘pregnancy massage.’
Read more at Suite101: Benefits of Prenatal Massage: When and Why to Get a Massage During Pregnancy
Read “12 Reasons to Administer Prenatal Massage Therapy” here.