You deserve the best possible care during your pregnancy, and research shows massage therapy can be an excellent way to reduce your aches and pains. Not all massage therapists are cut out for working with mothers-to-be, so you need to know what qualifies a massage therapist to work with you during your pregnancy.
But first, we’ll answer the most important question.
Is prenatal massage safe?
Yes, prenatal massage is safe. However, you need to be well informed of this massage technique before you make your first appointment, and it begins by getting the ‘okay’ from your doctor before you reach out to a massage therapist. Read on for everything you need to know about prenatal massage and specific steps on how to make sure you choose the right professional for the job.
What is a prenatal massage?
A prenatal massage is a special massage performed only on pregnant women. It is designed to ease the aches and pains of pregnancy. Prenatal massage also avoids certain areas and techniques. For example, very deep work on the legs, ankles, and feet is not appropriate during pregnancy massage due to the risk of blood clots. The pressure is typically light to medium, much like a Swedish massage. Deep tissue massage work can be performed on specific areas of the upper back and neck.
Why get a prenatal massage?
Pregnancy involves many physical changes, some of them quite uncomfortable. A pregnancy massage can soothe these aches and pains in a healthy, safe manner. “The benefits of prenatal massage include, but are not limited to, improving low back pain, neck and shoulder tension, anxiety, swelling/sore feet, circulation, and hip soreness,” says Maryana Vestic, a Zeel Massage Therapist certified in prenatal massage. “It can prepare the body and mind for the birthing process.”
I’ve always heard that I can’t get a massage in my first trimester of pregnancy. What’s the story?
Most massage therapists will decline to massage a woman who is in her first trimester of pregnancy. The reasons for this are largely related to liability as opposed to any significant danger to the mother or fetus; because the risk of miscarriage is highest in the first trimester.
That said, it is possible to get a massage from a certified prenatal specialist – just make sure to tell your massage therapist that you are pregnant. Your therapist will make sure to avoid your abdomen, uterus area, and certain pressure points on the legs and ankles. Some types of massage can supposedly induce labor.
How does prenatal massage work? I can’t even lie on my stomach!
A prenatal massage (also called a pregnancy massage), is designed to make your pregnant months more comfortable. During a prenatal massage, your massage therapist will ask you to lie down on your side, which is the least stressful for both you and your baby. The prenatal massage focuses on stress and pain relief and swelling reduction, all issues with most pregnancies. You will be bolstered by cushions, either standard massage cushions or cushions designed for pregnancy massage.
You may have seen some tables that have a cutout for the stomach. This massage table setup is not recommended for pregnant women. Not only does the stomach cutout not relieve stress on the abdomen, letting the stomach dangle can stretch out ligaments in the abdominal area.
As with any procedure or treatment undergone during pregnancy, check with your doctor before booking your first prenatal massage.
How is a prenatal massage set up in your home?
If you go to get a prenatal massage at a spa or salon, you might experience a “pregnancy massage table” with cutouts for the breasts and belly. However, most massage therapists do not find such a table to be ideal for their pregnant clients. Allowing the belly to dangle can stretch out ligaments, causing discomfort. Also, the table is “one size fits all,” which makes it difficult to accommodate women at every stage of pregnancy.
With an in-home prenatal massage, your massage therapist will use 2-3 pillows to position you during the massage.
“Prenatal massage is typically done in the side-lying position,” Vestic says. The customer lies on her side with a pillow between her legs and a pillow under her head. If she chooses, a third pillow can be used for further support.”
The side-lying position is typically used to minimize stress on the stomach. While lying on the back during an entire prenatal massage, customers might be asked to lie on their backs for part of a massage.
Vestic explains, “Additional pillows may be needed for the customer to have enough padding under their knees and back.” The amount of padding/number of pillows needed depends on the term and size of the pregnancy.
Who should perform a prenatal massage?
You should seek to work with a certified prenatal massage therapist during your pregnancy. Massage therapists with training and certification in prenatal massage are aware of the special needs that pregnant women have, based on trimester and physical condition.
These are great questions to ask before you book your appointment, and any therapist should be happy to provide you with this information if you ask for it:
Question 1: How much pregnancy massage training do they have?
While this sounds like a delicate question, it’s perfectly reasonable to ask the massage therapist what kind of special training they’ve done to educate themselves on pregnancy massage techniques.
Some massage therapists received nothing more than a 2-hour workshop during massage school on how to modify a regular massage for a pregnant woman, while others have taken week-long intensive certification courses on prenatal massage on top of their basic training for massage licensure.
Massage therapists are not technically required to receive additional prenatal training outside of massage school to give pregnancy massage. However, you can always search for a provider who has extra training in this area.
make sure to ask how much prenatal massage training the massage therapist has
Before scheduling your session, make sure to ask how much prenatal massage training the massage therapist has, and whether that training was completed in person or online.
Question 2: How many prenatal massage clients have they given?
You’re probably assuming that any bodyworker that lists “prenatal massage” on their service menu has worked with prenatal clients before, right? Actually, this isn’t necessarily true.
Some massage therapists are interested in working on pregnant clients but haven’t yet had any prenatal massage bookings. Of course, we all must start somewhere but know that their “hands-on” experience could be little to none.
let Zeel take care of vetting massage therapists and sending you a qualified expert
Knowing the answer to this question will give you more confidence in their experience with this unique type of bodywork, and when your mind is at ease, it will be much easier for your body to relax on the treatment table.
Question 3: How many pregnant clients do they work on in a week?
This is related to how many pregnancy massages they have done over their career, but the goal here is to understand how many they do regularly.
The reason this is important is that some therapists used to work on pregnant clients but are no longer proficient in prenatal work and so haven’t seen pregnant clients in some time. Or, they’ve only ever seen prenatal clients intermittently. Their skills may or may not be rusty, but it’s a good idea to check how much prenatal work the therapist is currently doing to have a gauge of their proficiency.
While they may still be happy to book you into their schedule if they don’t regularly see pregnant clients, you might prefer to find a therapist who sees at least a few pregnant clients each week so that you know their skills are fresh.
Something else worth noting: If they bristle at your questions over the phone, it may be a sign that you’re better off with a therapist more open to your fact-finding (and more qualified to work on you during pregnancy).
Get the most relaxing prenatal massage
Asking the right questions will put your mind at ease when scheduling your first pregnancy massage. Be certain to ask about the therapist’s prenatal massage training and experience before booking your massage to ensure you get the best quality care.
Let Zeel take care of vetting massage therapists and sending you a qualified expert. When you schedule an in-home massage with Zeel, you can be confident your therapist is formally trained in prenatal massage and is comfortable working with pregnant clients. And when you’re confident you’re in good hands, melting into that massage table is just that much easier.
Hristina Mangelova is a Content Manager and SEO specialist at JumpCrew. Previously she was a Content Manager at Zeel. View Hristina's profile on LinkedIn