If you’re pregnant, uncomfortable and cranky, we probably don’t need to remind you that your body needs lots of TLC at this time. But you might need a nudge to actually do something about it.
Consider this that nudge.
Getting a prenatal massage is not only the perfect way to escape into relaxing bliss for a while, research shows that it has benefits for you and your unborn child. So according to SCIENCE, you need a massage. (Sold?)
Read on to get the details.
What is a prenatal massage?
A prenatal massage is a specialized type of massage that takes into account the needs of – yep you guessed it – pregnant women. For example, your baby bump. Ain’t no way you’re gonna lie face-down on a table with that thing under you. A certified prenatal massage therapist will help you lie comfortably, and will be trained in how to treat all the common pregnancy problems areas.
The style of a prenatal massage: what to expect
This isn’t exactly your typical type of massage. So what does a prenatal massage consist of?
Pressure will be gentle
The American Pregnancy Association draws similarities between prenatal massage techniques and Swedish Massage. This style of therapy aims to relax muscle tension (yes please), and boost blood circulation through mild pressure applied to certain muscle groups. It won’t feature deep tissue techniques, but will be gentle and relaxing as all hell.
You’ll probably lie on your side
The American Massage Therapy Association notes that positioning is a key consideration of prenatal massage. While some clinics may offer massage tables with a hole for your belly to fit through, it’s widely agreed that a side-lying position is best for pregnant women receiving a massage.
Lying on your back isn’t ideal after 20 weeks gestation anyway (even when you’re sleeping), because it can put pressure on a major artery called the vena cava and make you feel dizzy or nauseous.
You’ll be made nice and comfy
A prenatal massage pillow is sometimes used to help you get into a comfortable position, and your therapist will generally avoid massaging your abdominal area as pressure on a pregnant belly can be uncomfortable AF. They’ll be selective about what massage oils they use on you as well, as some aren’t suitable for pregnancy.
Prenatal massage benefits
Well, plenty of research supports prenatal massage as an effective treatment for yucky pregnancy symptoms – woo hoo! In particular, it helps you relax (much-needed) and it relieves pain.
Some of the main prenatal massage benefits include:
- Reducing swelling and discomfort – It will stimulate soft tissues to reduce the amount of fluid in your swollen joints. (Thank f*ck!)
- Relieving pain – Prenatal massage can do wonders for lower back pain and pelvic pain, particularly sciatic nerve pain in later pregnancy.
- Improving sleep – Massage will relax your nervous system, release endorphins, and decrease stress hormones.
- Prepping you for labour and birth – It will relax your muscles and flood you with labour-friendly hormones, yes. But, studies also suggest that massage decreases hospital stays, time in labour, and incidence of postnatal depression. (Yas!)
- Boosting your mood and mental health – Because your pain is reduced and you feel UH-mazing, but also because it raises serotonin and dopamine levels.
BONUS: The mental health benefits of prenatal massage have also been shown to carry over into the postpartum period too.
ANOTHER BONUS: A regular prenatal massage practice has been associated with maternal and newborn health outcomes. (i.e. Decreased chance of low birth weight.)
Do you really need any further convincing to phone your local prenatal massage provider? (We didn’t think so.)
How often should you get a prenatal massage to see these benefits?
You’ll probably get a pep in your step even from one measly prenatal massage. But some doctors recommend ongoing treatment, in conjunction with taking prenatal vitamins and other medical care, to ensure best birth outcomes. Have a chat to yours to get the lowdown on what they suggest for you.
When can you get a prenatal massage?
The American Pregnancy Association says that women can get a prenatal massage throughout all stages of pregnancy. But you should always ask your doctor, ‘When is it safe to get a prenatal massage for ME?’ They might have specific advice for your pregnancy, and any unique medical conditions might make a prenatal massage unsafe. For example:
- High risk pregnancy concerns, like pre-eclampsia.
- High blood pressure.
- Recent surgery or injury.
- Recent organ transplant.
Health concerns aside, here’s the general outlook on prenatal massage practise throughout your pregnancy.
Prenatal massage trimester 1
Some massage therapists won’t give a woman a massage in her first trimester. Basically, because it’s the most unstable, “risky” time in the pregnancy where most miscarriages happen. But there isn’t any conclusive evidence that prenatal massage increases the risk of pregnancy loss.
(There IS, however, a study that shows social media posts make mums fearful of having prenatal massage. Go figure.)
The Australian Association of Massage Therapists supports prenatal massage in trimester 1 when carried out by certified therapists. However, you may still prefer to avoid it until your early pregnancy symptoms (morning sickness in particular) subsides a bit.
Prenatal massage trimester 2
Some medical professionals might suggest waiting until after Week 16, but your second trimester is usually a great time to have a prenatal massage.
(PSA: It makes for a very good halfway point celebration at 20 Weeks.)
Prenatal massage trimester 3
The increasing size of your pregnant belly may make you genuinely wonder, ‘Can you get a prenatal massage in your third trimester?’ As mentioned, prenatal massage therapists have clever ways to keep you safe, comfortable and hella relaxed even when you’re feeling enormous.
Okay, but how about at full-term? Can you get a prenatal massage at Week 37, and even closer to your due date?!
You sure can! Some massage therapists may not feel comfortable with it (maybe because there’s a risk you’ll go into labour right there on the table), but some might even suggest specific pressure point work to help induce labour for you.
How to DIY a prenatal massage at home
You may be able to tee up a home visit from your local prenatal massage therapist. But failing that, grab your partner or any willing participant (actually we don’t mind if they’re willing – you’re pregnant and sore and you can demand a massage!), and try out these best prenatal massage techniques for at home:
Massage neck, shoulders, arms
Most people carry heaps of tension here. Have your massage buddy apply gentle pressure along your neck and shoulder area. Rubbing down your arms with massage oil can be beautifully relaxing too.
Apply belly oil
Belly massage isn’t recommended for pregnant women, but it can feel lovely to apply some belly oils or creams to relieve itchy skin.
Massage back, especially the lower back
Note sure what to do about your achy back? Have your partner review a YouTube tutorial or two to get this right.
Rub down legs
You’re probably carrying a lot of fluid and tension in your tired legs. Have someone rub them down from thigh to calf.
Avoid the ankles, but apply pressure specifically to the balls of the feet. Utter. Bliss.