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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Hutson

Pregnancy Massage

Pregnancy Massage focuses on addressing the special needs of expecting women. Prenatal massage is very beneficial in the second and third trimesters, when the extra weight in the belly puts strain on your back. This massage can be done after the first 12 weeks.


Massage Trimester Goals

1st Trimester (6-13 weeks)

  • Assessing posture, gait and tissue prior to pregnancy related change

  • Provide acceptance and reassurance about physical complaints

  • Opportunity for education and support regarding any fears she has

2nd Trimester (14-26 weeks)

  • Relieving stress on weight bearing joints

  • Focus on chronically stressed areas

  • Improve circulation

  • Providing a non-judgmental space

3rd Trimester (27-42+ weeks)

  • Addressing acute needs (edema, sciatica, venous engorgement, spasm)

  • Relieving pelvic tension

  • Relieving soreness in back, hips, legs, neck and shoulders

  • Focusing on overall rest, relaxation and turning in

  • Preparing emotionally

Postpartum Recovery

  • Focus on postural muscles

  • Belly work, check for diastasis recti

  • Focus on nursing neck

  • Educate on need for regular bodywork during motherhood-emotional benefits


Changes to The Body

A women's body experiences many physical and hormonal changes to accommodate for the gestation and delivery.

1st Trimester

  • Swollen breasts

  • Nausea

  • Morning sickness

  • Exhaustion

  • Frequent urination

  • Constipation

  • Minor structural stresses

  • Emotional stress, anxiety, excitement, fear

  • Concerns

2nd Trimester

  • Structural stresses increase

  • Postural changes

  • Body shape changes, pregnancy is visible

  • Skin stretching

  • Muscle cramping

  • Varicose veins can appear

  • Hemorrhoids can develop

  • Tension in low back, upper back, neck and shoulders

3rd Trimester

  • Frequent physical discomfort

  • Stretch marks, itching skin

  • Rib pain

  • Shortness of breath

  • Low back pain

  • Pubic symphysis pain

  • SI joint pain

  • Hip pain

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Frequent urination

  • Swollen feet and ankles

  • Neck and shoulder tension

  • Concerns about giving birth

  • Anxiety

Postpartum Recovery

  • Exhaustion form her new role; overwhelm

  • Exhaustion from birth, recovery from birth

  • Processing the birth experience whether positive or negative

  • Lack of sleep

  • Bonding with baby

  • Engorged breasts

  • Normal but heavy postpartum bleeding

  • Body image stress

  • Depression, anxiety, feeling of inadequacy to care for a newborn

  • Stress

  • Fear of leaving baby


Positioning in Prenatal Massage

Prenatal massage differs form a traditional massage in a few ways. Positioning is going to differ depending on where you are in your pregnancy. You can assume several positions, depending on which is more comfortable. When the fetus has grown enough to "show" special considerations are made.

Prone Position (Face Down)

  • This can be used early in the pregnancy before the abdomen starts to protrude (1st and 2nd trimester)

  • A Preg-Pillow can be used for a safe and comfortable position for a short period

Supine Position (Face Up)

  • This can be used early in the pregnancy before the abdomen starts to protrude (1st and 2nd trimester)

  • Pillows or foam wedge is arranged under your back to support in a semi-reclining (45 degree to 70 degree) position

  • Small pillow or folded towel under her head to support the head and neck

  • Pillow or a small bolster (6 or 8 inches) under the bend of her knees to take the strain off the low back and abdominal muscles

  • During second and third trimester this position is used with great caution because of the weight of the fetus can press on the descending aorta and impede the flow of blood to the placenta

Side-Lying Position

  • Plenty of pillows and bolsters are used to comfortably support the head, womb, upper leg and arm

  • Top leg is elevated (90 degree from hip), while your knee and hip are at the same level

  • Hips, shoulder and ear are aligned

  • You can also have a pillow to hug at your chest


Areas Subject to Discomfort & How to Help


  • Strained because of the head forward position

  • Pectoralis stretch

Upper Back, Shoulders

  • Strained because of the head forward position

  • Sacroiliac Release

  • PSIS Release

  • ASIS pulling backwards

  • Roll shoulder joint

Low Back

  • Extra strain, especially in the later stages of pregnancy, owing to the extra weight of the protruding abdomen

Abdominal Muscles

  • Strain from carrying the extra weight and from stretching to accommodate the growing fetus

Legs & Feet

  • Added weight and reduced activity results in fatigue and minor swelling

  • TFL Release

  • Soleus stretch


Prenatal Massage Benefits

Massage during pregnancy helps women feel good, hurt less, and sleep better!!

Nervous System Benefits

  • Helps to relax nervous tensions, which aids in better sleep

  • Resolves muscle spams

  • Reduce sciatic pain

  • Help reduce or alleviate headaches

Circulatory System Benefits

  • Encourages blood circulation (2-3 lbs of extra blood in the body)

Integumentary System Benefits

  • Enhances the pliability of skin and underlying tissues

  • Skin stimulation produces prolactin (hormones)

Endocrine System Benefits

  • Decrease levels of cortisol (indicator of stress) and catecholamine production

  • Help relieve depression or anxiety

  • Decrease levels of stress hormones

  • Increase levels of serotonin and dopamine

  • Cope with life and emotions

  • Overall sense of wellbeing enhanced

  • Increase energy levels

  • Reduce fatigue and insomnia

Lymphatic System Benefits

  • Help relieve edema

  • Encourages lymph circulation

  • Helps reduce swelling

Skeletal System Benefits

  • Reduce stress on weight-bearing joints

  • Alleviate musculoskeletal stress and pain

  • Relieve swollen and sore feet

  • Helps postural strains

Reproductive System Benefits

  • Placental functions increases


Massage Benefits During Labor

  • Provide natural pain relief

  • Promotes relaxation

  • Increase mother's comfort

  • Facilitate in shorter deliveries

  • Course-correct non-optimal fetal positioning

  • Help mother connect with her body and stay relaxed

  • Help conserve energy for labor by staying relaxed and letting the uterus work

  • Help lower the presence of stress hormones which may interfere with normal labor

Massage Benefits After Giving Birth

  • Helps her recover from the physical, mental and emotional exhaustion of labor and birth (help the body decompress)

  • Helps re-orient her to her post-pregnancy body

  • Helps to recover her pre-pregnant shape and alignment

  • Helps to relieve 'nursing neck' - stiff neck and shoulders from carrying and/or breastfeeding

  • Helps relieve maternal exhaustion

  • Helps improve sleep by letting her rest for a bit

  • Helps flush her system by increasing circulation

  • Nurtures her so that she can nurture her baby

  • Release 'feel good' hormones in her body


Prenatal Massage Myths

  1. Massage during pregnancy is dangerous because it can over-tax or overstimulate the body system (its actually safe)

  2. Foot massage can cause a miscarriage or preterm labor; don't do it (foot massage is fine and safe, wont cause contractions)

  3. Don't touch the ankles during pregnancy (you can massage the ankles, just not acupressure)

  4. Don't rub any place where there are acupressure points that are contraindicated during pregnancy (feet, traps, sacrum) (massage and acupressure is different)

  5. Foot massage can cause contractions so don't do it until 39 weeks

  6. All massage therapist are qualified to do pregnancy massage (you can get training and get specialized)

  7. Certain massage techniques can induce labor in women who have arrived or gone over their due dates

  8. Acupressure or acupuncture can start labor in 24 hours

  9. You should not massage a woman with varicose veins (perfectly fine, but gentle)

  10. Face down on tables with holes for the belly and breasts is the best way to do pregnancy massage

  11. Only do sidelying massage after the first trimester (don't limit way of laying)

  12. No deep work; prenatal massage is a light touch (do as deep as she likes, deeper for weight-bearing joints and lighter on legs)

  13. BodyCushions in the prone position create uterine ligament strain and intrauterine pressure and are therefore dangerous

  14. All pregnancy support pillows are safe

  15. Massage during the first trimester is contraindicated (False, massage wont cause miscarriage)

  16. Don't touch or massage the belly during pregnancy

  17. No massage for a high-risk pregnancy

  18. There is a point in pregnancy when it's too late to get a massage

  19. All essential oils should be avoided during pregnancy (nose is more sensitive)

  20. The only real benefit of massage during pregnancy is that it feels good

  21. Massage during pregnancy is always safe (certain cases are different)

  22. It really doesn't matter what position you put a pregnant women in for massage as long as she is comfortable

  23. Pregnancy massage requires knowing special techniques just for pregnancy women

  24. You cant massage a women who is in labor

  25. If a women is having contractions during a massage, you need to stop (early labor can be long, if she's relaxed keep going)

  26. The baby kicking during the massage is a sign that he/she is uncomfortable (shows a healthy baby)

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