A pregnant woman may feel discomfort at various times during her pregnancy due to hormonal changes, increased volume of blood and weight gain. These changes are an inherent part of pregnancy but they can cause feelings of fatigue, muscular aches, general stiffness or sore areas. It is always advisable to consult a therapist or doctor before having a prenatal massage.
About the massage:
Pregnancy massage can refer to body massage received during pregnancy or even after the pregnancy (postnatal massage). During pregnancy your body undergoes many changes and strains. A pregnancy massage can include various techniques such as Reflexology, Swedish massage, Body pregnancy massage, Acupressure and others. Like a typical massage, pregnancy massage will normally last an hour but some changes are made to accommodate the baby bump. Sometimes special pregnancy massage tables are used but most of the time the client is positioned comfortably on her side using pillows and bolsters. This is normally the most comfortable position for pregnant women especially during the later stages of pregnancy when lying on the back or abdomen is not possible. Deeper work can be done during pregnancy but this is avoided over the legs. Only light, slow strokes are usually used on the legs. Deep work is avoided here due to the higher risk of blood clots in the legs during pregnancy but light strokes can be very beneficial at helping the blood flow to be less sluggish and increasing the lymphatic flow which helps prevent swelling in the ankles and legs. Aromatherapy oils can be used to complement the massage. These can be used to help reduce tension, stress or anxiety and help you to feel more relaxed but uplifted. Some essential oils are avoided during pregnancy as some have properties that could potentially be harmful to the foetus or pregnancy.
In a couple of studies pregnancy massage was found to have positive effects such as:
- Reduce anxiety and stress
- Reduce pain in the back and legs
- Improve sleep
- Promote the production of serotonin and dopamine (your ‘feel-good’ hormones)
- General mood improvement
Not many clinical studies have been done to study the effects of pregnancy massage but other benefits that have been found are:
- Reduced sciatic pain
- Reduced swelling such as in the ankles, feet and hands
- Reduced muscular aches or cramps and feelings of tightness throughout the body
- Improves the blood and lymphatic circulation which helps eliminate toxins from the body which can help reduce fatigue
- The increase in blood and lymphatic flow can strengthen the immune system as well as increase the oxygen levels in the blood
- The increase in oxygen and blood flow helps to provide more nutrients and deliver more oxygen to the foetus and mother
- Promotes the production of endorphins which are the body’s natural pain killers
- Can help with relaxation before and after birth and help make the birth less stressful and painful
It is normally advised to avoid massage in the first trimester of pregnancy. This is because of the higher risk of miscarriage during the first trimester. There is no evidence to show that massage can cause miscarriage so this is more of a precaution.
After the first trimester, you should usually avoid pregnancy massage if you’re experiencing morning sickness, nausea or vomiting. If you’re at a higher risk of miscarriage or have a complication with the pregnancy which makes it high risk such as preterm labour, massage is best avoided. You can always consult your GP beforehand as they will have a good idea whether massage would be suited to you or not. NHS guide & advice for further support
Some common essential oils to be avoided during pregnancy or if there is a possibility you are pregnant: