Massage During Pregnancy – Important Precautions & Right Techniques

Pregnant woman getting massaged

Pregnancy, without a doubt, can be one of the most stressful times of your life. Whether it is your first time or not, the stress levels endured by mothers-to-be do not reduce by much. In these trying times, care must be taken to ensure that you remain as stress-free as possible, in the circumstances. After all, stressful experiences are not good for the growing child.

One of the most common methods to alleviate stress-related problems is a good, long massage. Although massages can be done for any individual, it works great to help mothers too.

What is a Prenatal Massage?

A prenatal massage is not different in many ways to a regular massage. The aim of the action is to help the mother become relaxed, work out tension from muscles, reduce soreness and improve the flow of blood in the body. The actual body parts covered may range from foot massages in pregnancy, to head massages when pregnant. Prenatal massages are tailored to the common areas of soreness in mothers-to-be and customised towards the needs of pregnant women.

Prenatal massages must only be carried out by trainers certified in such massages, as there are some differences in the massage techniques and areas to focus on in the case of pregnancy massages. For example, pregnancy tends to weaken ligaments, which make them rather unstable, especially under the application of force. Also, certified trainers know the right spots most affected by the travails of pregnancy, and also have an idea of which areas to avoid.

When Can You Have a Massage?

Although it sounds harmless and it really is, there is a misconception that a prenatal massage at the start of the pregnancy is harmful to the formation of the foetus. As a result, many massage centres do not allow pregnancy massages for women in the first trimester of their pregnancy. However, it has been found that the massages do not affect the child, in any way. Most experts recommend getting these massages throughout the period of pregnancy, as they are beneficial. The usual schedule is to get one every two weeks up to the third trimester, and then, a massage every week.

Benefits of Massage During Pregnancy

Among the many benefits of a prenatal massage, a few are listed below.

  • Helps alleviate stress on the joints, which are always bearing the weight
  • Reduces stress in the muscles of the body, and the associated tendons and ligaments
  • Reduces many common discomforts which affect pregnant women, including back pain, foot pain, headaches, leg cramps and stiffness in the joints
  • Alleviates the risk of heartburn, fatigue, acid reflux, nasal congestion and hip joint pain in mothers
  • Improves blood circulation, which helps increase the strength of immunity and removal of toxins
  • Reduces the chances of depression, stress, and anxiety by restoring the hormonal balance in the body
  • Facilitates the release of endorphins in the body, which helps the mother sleep easily and feel more relaxed
  • Increases muscle tone and flexibility, which helps the mother carry the extra weight easily
  • Helps keep the blood pressure in the normal range and reduces the load on the heart
  • Improves the health of the skin, and the underlying tissues
  • Increases the blood flow to the uterus and placenta, to help the baby
  • Imparts a sedating effect on the nervous system, and facilitates easier delivery of the baby

Things to Do Before a Massage

The massage has to be done carefully since it has a direct effect on the health of the mother and baby. There are many things to note, depending upon whether the massage is done at home or in the clinic.

Massaging at Home:

While getting a massage in the comfort of your own home, you only need to remember to stay as relaxed as possible. Talk to your masseuse, and elaborate on the sore areas and the areas which do not need much care.

Massaging at the Clinic:

If you plan to get a massage from a certified practitioner at his clinic, you first need to get comfortable with the surroundings of the room. You need to have a talk with your practitioner too, and may even be asked to shed all clothing for the massage to happen smoothly.

How to Lie on the Massage Table When Pregnant?

Especially at the later stages of your pregnancy, you should never be lying on your back to get the massage. This can compress any of the blood vessels running through your back, and consequently, lower blood pressure. Usually, prenatal massages are done with the mother lying sideways, even if it is an oil massage during pregnancy. However, some tables have deep cut-outs in the belly area, which enable the mother to lie face down comfortably.

Are There Any Areas to be Avoided During a Massage?

There are not many areas to be avoided during the prenatal massage, except for a few spots in the ankles or palms, as they tend to cause contractions in the uterus. Therefore, it is best to get the opinion of a certified masseuse before proceeding with the prenatal massage.

Precautions for Prenatal Massage

  • The most important precaution to take is to clear the possibility of a massage with your doctor. Discuss any existing medical conditions, and ask your OB/GYN if you are in the right condition to be receiving the massage.
  • If you are getting the massage from your husband or friends, not an expert, make sure that they understand how an oil massage during pregnancy is different from a massage during normal times. Educational articles and Youtube videos will help greatly. As much as possible, try to have it done by an experienced practitioner itself.
  • Also, remember not to use any substances that you are allergic or averse to in the massage. This is supposed to be a relaxing affair, and more stress or discomfort will not help the mother in any way.

Pregnancy Massage at Home

The best place to get a massage, prenatal or not, is the comfort of your own home. However, there are a few things to note before carrying out the prenatal massage.

Right Techniques for the Massage

  1. Back: The massage for the aching back must begin from the nape of the neck, and proceed down up to the hips, in a firm manner. Any pressure on the spine, however, must be avoided to prevent problems.
  2. Buttocks: The bone at the base of the spine needs to be massaged softly, with fist and knuckles, while the tailbone area needs to be avoided.
  3. Legs: Reducing the strain on the legs can be done by stroking the legs in a circular or sideways motion, starting from the foot and moving up to the buttocks.
  4. Hands and Feet: Muscle soreness is usually not the problem here; fluid retention, which causes swelling, is the main cause of discomfort. The massage should increase blood circulation and should be done with the thumbs working towards the centre of the body.
  5. Neck: The stress in the neck muscles can be eased by massaging the shoulders from a wide position using the thumbs

Tips for the Partner While Giving the Massage

  • The atmosphere plays a huge part in helping your wife relax, so make sure to dim the lighting and put on some scented candles!
  • Make sure that your wife is lying in a comfortable position, and use pillows to make her more comfortable.
  • If you plan to use any aromatherapy oil, ensure that it is safe to use during pregnancy, and diluted properly.
  • Use only gentle stroking movements on the body, since deep movements can cause pressure, especially in the abdomen area.
  • Finally, feedback from the mother is the most important aspects. Understand what makes her comfortable, while taking care not to stretch or pressure any uttering ligaments.

Alternatives to Prenatal Massage

There are not many alternatives to a proper prenatal massage, as it can have wonderful effects when it is carried out in the right way. However, some common massage-like practices. which can be practised as alternatives. include shiatsu techniques or the practice of acupuncture. Acupressure and foot reflexology are other alternatives, which have similar effects on the mother.

Is It Safe to Get Prenatal Massages Throughout the Entire Pregnancy?

While there have been a few reports of massage clinics not performing pregnancy massages on mothers in their first trimester out of the fear of miscarriage, it has been found that these fears do not have any scientific standing whatsoever. A pregnancy massage can be received throughout the duration of the pregnancy, with the ideal schedule being one every two weeks until the third trimester, and one every week from there on.

Can a Pregnant Woman Give a Massage to Herself?

Pregnant women may not always have people nearby, so they might have to rely on themselves for that massage they crave. However, there are many limitations associated with self-massaging, as there are many parts which are hard to reach on your own. While the feet and arms can be massaged well, it is difficult to reach the neck and back satisfactorily.

Pregnant woman massaging belly

For a relaxing belly massage, sit against a couple of pillows on your bed, in such a way that your body is at a 45-degree angle, and stroke your belly in motions towards the heart (upwards). Apply lotion/oil as needed. You can also try a head massage with your favourite, calming essential oil. Simply rub your temples in a gentle, circular motion, trace along your eyebrows, and return to your temples. This head massage even works as a pre-bedtime ritual.

When to Avoid Massages?

  • Massages need to be avoided when you are experiencing nausea, morning sickness or bouts of vomiting.
  • Pregnant women with a high risk of miscarriage also need to avoid prenatal massages.
  • High-risk pregnant women, afflicted with placental abruption or preterm labour, also need to avoid pregnancy massages.

What to Expect After the Massage?

After the massage, women experience deep sleep and an overall relaxed feel. The improved blood circulation and reduction of muscle soreness also help them cope up with the increased weight better and makes them feel rejuvenated and refreshed for extended periods of time.

The pregnancy massage or prenatal massage can work wonders in making you feel more at ease, and comfortable. However, like with every action, massages too have to be done with care in the right way. Make sure you get a massage from a trained individual so that both you and your baby are able to benefit from it.

Also Read: A Quick Guide to Postnatal Massage