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Is it Safe to Get a Massage While Pregnant?

Is it Safe to Get a Massage While Pregnant?

It’s no secret that pregnancy can be hard on the body. All kinds of new aches and pains spring up as the pregnancy advances. Hormonal changes can affect your state of mind, making it impossible to relax or relieve stress. This is why many expectant mothers wonder: Is it safe to get a massage while pregnant?

Under the right circumstances, it’s absolutely safe and beneficial to get a professional massage while pregnant. Most pregnant women are free to get massages after their first trimester. But, if you have a high-risk pregnancy, it’s best to talk to your physician or midwife before booking a massage.

Benefits of Massage When Pregnant

If you’ve ever had a massage before, you know how good it felt and how peaceful and serene your mind was afterward. Well, massage therapy while pregnant, also known as prenatal massage, does much the same thing. In fact, studies show prenatal massage to be beneficial for both the mother and the baby

Many mothers who can’t seem to find relief or find themselves suffering from depression have benefited from prenatal massage. Some other benefits include:

  • Reduced pain and soreness.
  • Improved hormone regulation, which may help reduce instances of low birth weight and other birth complications. 
  • Reduced swelling. 
  • Improved joint pain, back pain, and nerve pain (like sciatica).
  • Reduced headaches.
  • Better circulation.
  • Better sleep. 
  • Reduced anxiety, depression, and stress.

What Kind of Massages Can You Get While Pregnant?

Now that you know the benefits, let’s go over what kind of massages are safe when pregnant. The most common type of prenatal massage is a Swedish Massage. This type of massage is gentle yet forceful enough to provide the benefits above. Swedish Massage mostly focuses on the topmost layer of muscle with long strokes and incorporates beneficial movements of the joints. 

You’ll want to avoid deep-tissue massage when pregnant. And make sure to communicate to the massage therapist if you’re uncomfortable in any way. 

1) Prenatal Back Massage

Oftentimes the posture changes during pregnancy. The center of gravity shifts and the back tends to work harder. This means the muscles are commonly sore and stiff. This is why a prenatal back massage can be beneficial

The massage therapist will generally massage your back while you’re sitting or lying on your side. Long strokes on the muscles and gentle kneading are common for back massages, with much of the focus on the muscles along the spine and in the low back. Prenatal back massages are beneficial if you’re suffering from sciatica. 

2) Prenatal Neck Massage

Like a back massage, a prenatal neck massage is usually part of the overall pregnancy massage. Most massage therapists will start with the neck and arms while you’re sitting up, then have you lie down and work on the rest of your body. 

Massaging the neck can help with tight muscles, poor posture, nerve pain, and flexibility. It can also help any nerve pain in the arms along with helping to relieve or prevent tension headaches. 

3) Prenatal Chiropractic Massage

If you’re looking for a good overall massage while pregnant, consider getting a chiropractic massage. This type of massage is done by a licensed massage therapist and at the direction of a chiropractor. Chiropractic massage therapists are well-versed in prenatal massage and always take care to avoid any pressure points or areas that may make the mother or baby uncomfortable. 

Many expectant mothers seek both chiropractic massage and chiropractic care during pregnancy, as both are safe and beneficial, according to studies. You can expect to be in good hands (literally) during a chiropractic massage. 

Areas to Avoid During Massage When Pregnant

Although professional massage therapists will know to avoid certain areas during your prenatal massage, it’s always good for you to be aware, too. So, here are a few areas to avoid during the massage:

  • The pressure points in the wrist and the hollows of the ankles. 
  • Around the belly – although gentle, low-pressure rubbing is okay to do at home.
  • Near open wounds, rashes, or other skin conditions. 

Safety Tips for Getting Massage When Pregnant

There are some other precautions to take when receiving a massage while pregnant. For instance, your massage therapist should look out for symptoms of blood clots or varicose veins. Some other precautions are as follows:

  • Make sure to tell your massage therapist that you’re pregnant before the massage begins.
  • If the massage makes you nauseous, uncomfortable, or you don’t enjoy it, ask to stop. 
  • Avoid massage tables that have a hole cut out for your belly. The best way to receive a massage is on your side, supported by plenty of padding to ensure stability and comfort. 
  • The massage should last no more than an hour. 
  • A massage in the first trimester isn’t recommended. Although there is little evidence that a massage can cause a miscarriage during this time, many massage therapists err on the side of caution and won’t grant massages in the first trimester. 
  • Make sure the massage oil (if any) you use is safe. Avoid peppermint, rosemary, sage, and thyme oil. 
  • Avoid massage if you have a high-risk pregnancy or any of the following:
    • Preeclampsia
    • High blood pressure
    • Sudden severe swelling or headaches
    • Have had a previous preterm birth
    • Hypertension (pregnancy-induced, or PIH)

Getting a Prenatal Massage at Home

While it’s best to get a prenatal massage from a trained massage therapist, your partner can massage you at home by following a few simple guidelines.

  • Avoid the hollows of the ankles and the areas around the wrists as a precaution. 
  • Stick to back, neck, scalp, and foot rubs. 
  • Use long, gentle strokes with an all-natural and safe massage oil or lotion.
  • Avoid massaging the belly or the area around it, although gentle rubbing is okay for a little bit. 
  • Know the signs and symptoms of blood clots, as pregnant women are more susceptible to them. These include pain, swelling, heat and/or discoloration of the affected area. Talk to your physician to see if you’re at high risk for blood clots. 

Conclusion: Can You Get a Massage When Pregnant?

With a few exceptions, you can absolutely get a massage when pregnant. Studies show that adding massage to prenatal care can benefit both the mother and the child. 

Among other benefits, prenatal massage can improve hormone regulation, help you sleep, reduce stress and anxiety, help keep you and the baby healthy, and may even reduce the risk of birth complications and low birthweight. Chiropractic massage and chiropractic care often go hand in hand and are considered safe during pregnancy

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Dr. Brent Wells - Anchorage Chiropractor
About the Author

Dr. Brent Wells, D.C.

Dr. Brent Wells has been a trusted chiropractor since moving his family from Oregon to Alaska back in 1998 and founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab – B.S. from Univ. of Nevada, Doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College, volunteer for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Foundation, and member of the American Chiropractic Association. As a chiropractor his focus is on family, including his 3 children and wife of 20+ years, his clinics, and ongoing education.

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