Pregnancy Massage Myths Debunked

One of our most popular services at Feel Amazing Wellness Centre in Chatswood is pregnancy massage. A commonly asked question here also relates to pregnancy massage –  is massage safe in pregnancy, especially in the first 12 weeks? The short answer is Yes! There are just a few caveats, so let’s dive deeper into the long answer. 

The three most common misconceptions I hear concerning treatments for pregnant women are: 

Let’s look at each one individually.

You can’t have a massage in the first trimester

Treatment in the first trimester probably causes the most concern, both with clients (and sometimes their family), practitioners and ‘those’ people on the street that like to tell you how to be pregnant! Thanks to research from Author, Registered Nurse, Doula, and Childbirth Educator Leslie Stager, we can trace this fallacy back to the early 1900s. It was at this time that medicine started taking over from midwifery in the care and delivery of pregnant women. This led to pregnant ladies being labelled as ‘fragile’. Not something most men these days would call a woman who was pregnant! This perception was exasperated by the fact that the majority of miscarriages do in fact happen in the first 12 weeks. So the combination of mother nature, a biological event and a general belief in ‘female fragility’ led to this misconception. 

As we are well aware there’s nothing ‘fragile’ about women and pregnancy doesn’t change that. She can go about her normal activities (which was once frowned upon), such as continuing with moderate exercise, going to work, having sex, enjoying the company of good friends, as well as enjoying a relaxing or therapeutic massage. There’s even evidence to back this up – several studies have shown that there is no increased harm to a pregnancy by having a massage. Massage can however provide a whole host of benefits for the pregnant woman.

Don’t massage certain points (i.e. ankles, abdomen or lumbar spine)

A common misconception is that there are parts of the body that can’t be massaged. This myth mainly relates to two disciplines, with misinterpretations of the facts as a result. The first relates to reflexology and the second is acupuncture/acupressure. Both of these treatment practices have areas of the body that aren’t to be treated at certain times during pregnancy. But by treated I mean strong pressure and time spent on this – I should know as I’m a qualified practitioner in both! 

With these reflexology and acupressure areas, certain points need to be systemically held in a particular way, cumulatively for hours at a minimum and usually repeated over several days for it to have an effect. It would be impossible for a layperson to do this and that includes massage therapists not trained in this area. Even as an expert it’s not a given that it will trigger a reaction in the body. I can’t do anything with acupressure points that the body doesn’t want to have happen. Sometimes that includes inducing labour when it is time! If it was easy or common every midwife, obstetrician, partner of a pregnant lady, or interested party would be bringing on babies, on time, every time!  

It’s not safe to lay face down

So, what about lying face down, especially near the end of pregnancy. As long as the correct cushions and bolsters are used there’s absolutely no problem. Most women and massage therapists that get concerned at this point are worried about squashing the baby. This is impossible if you’re well supported and no one is sure if it’s even possible even if you’re not, as there are no reported cases that researchers can find. The biggest barrier to this position especially around the 38-40 week mark is comfort. Most women aren’t feeling comfortable in any position! Sometimes the baby makes it very clear what position they like being in and will kick the poor mum into submission regardless of what position she’s finding comfortable at the time. 

At Feel Amazing, we also have specially designed pregnancy massage cushions that support the whole body. Not just a table with a hole in the middle (I squirm just thinking about others using that!). The majority of our clients who are pregnant love lying down on these cushions. Enough so that we often hear the word ‘wow’ and ‘I want one for home haha!’.

Having a massage throughout pregnancy can improve the functioning of joints, muscles and circulation, decrease physical and mental fatigue, relieve stress, tension and help with common pregnancy related aches and pains, as well as hormonal and emotional changes.

Of course, with any treatment, if you have underlying health concerns then you should check with your doctor first. As I mentioned there were a few caveats where pregnancy massage is contraindicated and these include:

Some high risk pregnancies (your doctor/OB/GYN will advise), symptoms such as:

  • Preeclampsia
  • High blood pressure (if unmanaged)
  • Previous preterm labour
  • Recent bleeding
  • Preterm contractions
  • Sudden severe headaches (if related to high blood pressure)

So, if you are seeking a pregnancy massage, our team of qualified practitioners at Feel Amazing are fully trained and experienced in pregnancy massage. We look forward to working with you to find relief for your individual needs and sharing this special time with you – it’s important to us that you feel nurtured and supported during this time.

I hope this blog article on pregnancy massage has been helpful. If you have any questions please feel free to let me know.



Further Reading and Resources

The two largest Australian massage therapy associations as well as the two largest American associations fully endorse massage from conception through to birth. I’ve included these links to them if you’d like to research more –  Amt, Aamt, Abmp, Amta 

Stager, Leslie, RN, LMT, Nurturing Massage for Pregnancy: A Practical Guide to Bodywork for the Perinatal Cycle.

Field, T. (1999). Pregnant Women Benefit From Massage Therapy. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Mar;20(1):31-8.

Field, T. (2004). Massage Therapy Effects on Depressed Pregnant Women. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Jun;25(2):115-22.

Howell, Julie, NMT, PMT, Prenatal Health Through Massage Therapy: For Women and Their Babies.

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