pregnancy massage

Pregnancy Massage – Is it safe?

Ladies, please meet the lovely Debbie from Kehren Therapy, in Truro Cornwall. With over 14 years as a massage therapist, and countless qualifications in massage specialties we thought she was just the lady to dispel the myths about massage and pregnancy.  Here’s what she had to say…

“I have been a massage therapist for over 14 years, as well as a registered nurse, and the one question I am asked most frequently is ‘Are back massages safe during pregnancy?’ The short answer is yes, they are, but there is a massive BUT. It’s so important that as a pregnant woman you only receive treatments from massage therapists that are properly trained to provide massage during pregnancy.  In this article I will help you explore how you can enjoy safe and effective back massages during pregnancy.

Why have a massage when you are pregnant?

Why not? Massage when you are pregnant is just as enjoyable, if not more so, than when you aren’t pregnant; not only can a massage help pregnancy related aches and pains it can also make you feel good. A lot of the pregnant ladies who attend my clinic in Truro, Cornwall simply want some time out from their busy lives. That one hour out can make a huge difference; after all massage has  been shown to increase levels of serotonin and dopamine – those ‘feel good’ hormones.

We know that back pain is common in pregnancy, with extra pressure put on ligaments and joints, as the body undergoes many physical changes over those 40-weeks. We also know that hormone changes produce relaxin to increase venous elasticity. A skilled hand can therefore provide a welcome release from all the aches and pains, whilst being incredibly beneficial for your wellbeing.  If you are struggling with back pain, it is important to consider other therapies that deal with this specific issue to ensure that your back pain is not a warning sign of something else pregnancy related. More details can be found on this NHS website:

How can a pregnant lady be comfortable whilst receiving a back massage?

Most professional massage therapists that are trained specifically in Pregnancy massage will use side lying techniques to facilitate massage. This is to avoid you lying flat on you back in the later stages of pregnancy, as this helps avoid unnecessary pressure on the inferior Vena cava from the Uterus.  Basically, it will help prevent your blood pressure from falling, as well as negatively affecting your foetus’s circulation.

During the massage you will lay on you side and cuddle into a cushion or pregnancy pillow.  Your massage will take place in this position as it allows the therapist to access your whole back.

Some therapists (myself included!) use a system called Hydrotherm to facilitate treatments. This involves you laying on two warm waterfilled cushions (cooled slightly In pregnancy to avoid overheating the mother and unborn baby). The therapist will then slide their hands between you and the cushions to provide treatment whilst you lay in a semi upright position, again to avoid pressure on the vena cava. If this is difficult to visualise have a look at this video.

Studies have shown that the placenta and red cell volume increases in pregnancy, producing cardiovascular changes to the body. In turn this increases the pregnant ladies’ metabolism, producing a warming effect throughout the body. Because of this it is important that pregnant ladies do not overheat – you may have noticed signs at Jacuzzis and Saunas advising pregnant ladies against their use.

Can I have a massage in my first trimester?

I have been massaging people in their first trimester and up to (and past!) their due dates for many years. Yet there remains mixed opinions within the industry as to whether massage is safe in the first trimester or not. We do know that miscarriage in more common in the first trimester, you can read more on this here. Yet for thousands of years massage has been part of life and only with modern medicine has it become more medicalised. How many people have had a massage whilst pregnant without even knowing they were pregnant? The NHS now encourages us to stay active and healthy in our pregnancy and talks of movement being good for us.  I believe the answer to this question remains a personal choice to the therapist and to the client.

What about pressure?

At all costs as massage therapists, we should avoid unnecessary pressure on the abdomen during pregnancy massage, but this should be in all cases. Our abdomen area and area below our rib cage contains many organs that are essential to life and even more so now that new life is growing inside us! Yet a soothing and constructive touch to the abdomen can be beneficial to the mother and the developing baby.

Within my clinic the most common areas that I find pregnant women requesting/requiring massage of are their gluteal muscles, lower back and neck/shoulders. I firmly believe that there is no ‘one size fits all’ in massage therapy. Some people may require deeper pressures than others and it may differ for that person dependant on what is going on in life regarding stress levels or even their hormone levels. Personally, I would therefore stress that it’s not about finding a sports massage or deep tissue massage in pregnancy. Instead, it’s about finding someone with the right combination of training.

When to avoid massages during pregnancy

The following are contraindications in Massage and Pregnancy and advice should be sought from a Midwife or doctor before having a massage:

  • Fever
  • Nausea or diarrhoea
  • Open wounds
  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Pitted oedema
  • Placenta Previa
  • Blood clots

This list is not exhaustive and does not constitute medical advice.

Massage and morning sickness.

I have found no evidence to suggest that massage can help with morning sickness but my personal recommendation would be avoiding smells that may make you nauseas and making sure your therapist really knows their stuff when it comes to essential oils.

Just in case you wanted to find out a little bit more about the complementary therapies that are on offer during pregnancy I have popped an article here.

If you have any questions, or feel like you are in need of a fabulous back massage, then please feel free to email Debbie with any questions:

Or visit her website for more information:

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