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  • Writer's pictureMurray Kovesy

Massage When Pregnant: A Comprehensive Guide

Updated: Mar 27

Pregnancy is a transformative journey that brings immense joy and excitement, but it also comes with its fair share of physical and emotional challenges. From morning sickness and back pain to swollen feet and restless nights, the discomforts of pregnancy can be overwhelming. However, one natural remedy that has been proven to alleviate many of these issues is prenatal massage. This article aims to provide an in-depth exploration of the benefits, safety considerations, and best practices surrounding massage during pregnancy.

When to Get Massage When Pregnant
When to Get Massage When Pregnant

The Benefits of Prenatal Massage

Prenatal massage is a specialised form of massage therapy designed specifically for expectant mothers. It offers a wide range of benefits that can greatly improve the overall pregnancy experience. Here are some of the most notable advantages:

1. Relief from Back Pain and Muscle Soreness

As the baby grows, the added weight and shifting centre of gravity can put tremendous strain on the back, shoulders, and neck muscles. Prenatal massage can help alleviate this discomfort by releasing muscle tension, improving circulation, and promoting better alignment. Studies have shown that pregnant women who receive regular prenatal massages experience significant reductions in lower back and leg pain compared to those who don't.

2. Reduced Stress and Anxiety

The hormonal changes and physical demands of pregnancy can often lead to increased stress and anxiety levels. Prenatal massage has been shown to lower cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and boost the production of serotonin and dopamine, which are known to promote relaxation and feelings of well-being. This can have a positive impact on both the mother's mental health and the development of the baby in utero.

3. Improved Sleep Quality

Many expecting mothers struggle with insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and disruptive sleep patterns. Prenatal massage can help calm the mind and relax the body, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. By promoting better sleep, massage can help alleviate fatigue and improve overall energy levels during pregnancy.

4. Relief from Swelling and Fluid Retention

Pregnancy often leads to swelling in the legs, ankles, and feet due to increased fluid retention and decreased circulation. Prenatal massage can stimulate lymphatic drainage and improve circulation, helping to reduce swelling and alleviate discomfort. This can be particularly beneficial in the later stages of pregnancy when swelling is more pronounced.

5. Preparation for Labour and Delivery

Certain massage techniques can help prepare the body for labour and delivery by improving pelvic mobility, promoting optimal foetal positioning, and teaching relaxation techniques to manage pain and anxiety during childbirth. It has been shown that women who receive prenatal massage are more likely to have shorter labour times and require less pain medication during delivery.

Safety Considerations for Prenatal Massage

While prenatal massage is generally considered safe when performed by a trained and certified professional, there are certain precautions and contraindications to be aware of:

1. First Trimester Concerns

Many massage therapists recommend avoiding prenatal massage during the first trimester due to the increased risk of miscarriage, especially in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. However the research is lacking and if your pregnancy is deemed low-risk by your healthcare provider and you have no history of miscarriage or other complications, gentle massage may be permissible after the first trimester.

2. High-Risk Pregnancies

Certain pregnancy complications, such as pre-eclampsia, placenta praevia or risk of premature labour, may contraindicate prenatal massage. Women with high-risk pregnancies should always consult with their obstetrician or midwife before receiving any prenatal massage treatment to ensure it is safe for their specific condition.

3. Positioning and Pressure

Proper positioning and pressure adjustments are crucial during prenatal massage. Expectant mothers should avoid lying flat on their backs after the first trimester to prevent compression of the vena cava (a major blood vessel), which can restrict blood flow to the baby. Side-lying positions with supportive pillows or semi-reclined positions are recommended.

4. Pressure Points and Areas to Avoid

There are certain pressure points and areas on the body that should be avoided during pregnancy, as they may stimulate contractions or cause other complications. For example, massage therapists should avoid deep abdominal massage, as this area is particularly sensitive during pregnancy. They should also steer clear of pressure points located on the ankles and wrists, which have been linked to the induction of labour.

Choosing a Prenatal Massage Therapist

To ensure a safe and effective prenatal massage experience, it is essential to choose a licensed and certified massage therapist who specialises in prenatal massage. Here are some tips for finding the right practitioner:

1. Look for Prenatal Massage Certification

Many massage therapy schools and organisations offer specialised training and certification programs in prenatal massage. These programs cover proper techniques, positioning, and safety considerations specific to working with expectant mothers. Seeking out a massage therapist who has completed a prenatal massage certification program is highly recommended.

2. Check for Experience and Qualifications

In addition to certification, look for massage therapists who have extensive experience providing prenatal massage services. Don't be afraid to ask about their training, qualifications, and the number of prenatal clients they have worked with. An experienced prenatal massage therapist will be better equipped to address the unique needs and concerns of pregnant women.

3. Seek Recommendations

Ask your obstetrician, midwife, or other trusted healthcare providers for recommendations on reputable prenatal massage therapists in your area. They often have a network of professionals they can refer you to. You can also seek recommendations from friends or family members who have had positive experiences with prenatal massage.

4. Prioritise Communication and Comfort

When meeting with potential prenatal massage therapists, pay attention to their communication style and how comfortable you feel with them. A good prenatal massage therapist should be knowledgeable, attentive, and willing to address any concerns or questions you may have. They should also make you feel at ease and create a relaxing environment for the massage.

Best Practices for Prenatal Massage

To ensure a safe and enjoyable prenatal massage experience, it's essential to follow some best practices:

1. Communicate Your Needs and Concerns

Before your massage session, be sure to communicate any specific areas of discomfort, concerns, or preferences you may have with your massage therapist. This will help them tailor the massage to your individual needs and ensure they avoid any areas or techniques that may be contraindicated for you.

2. Stay Hydrated

Drink plenty of water before and after your prenatal massage to help flush out any toxins released during the massage process and to prevent potential dizziness or lightheadedness. Proper hydration is important during pregnancy, and massage can contribute to increased fluid loss.

3. Adjust Positioning as Needed

Don't hesitate to ask your massage therapist to adjust your positioning or the pressure used during the massage if you feel any discomfort or strain. Your comfort and safety should be the top priority. A skilled prenatal massage therapist will be responsive to your needs and make adjustments accordingly.

4. Listen to Your Body

If at any point during the massage you experience severe pain, dizziness, or any other concerning symptoms, inform your massage therapist immediately. It's essential to trust your intuition and prioritise your well-being and that of your baby.

5. Schedule Regular Sessions

For optimal benefits, many experts recommend scheduling prenatal massage sessions every 2-4 weeks throughout your pregnancy. However, consult with your healthcare provider to determine the appropriate frequency based on your individual circumstances and any potential risk factors.

6. Wear Comfortable Clothing

While most prenatal massage therapists will provide draping for privacy, it's a good idea to wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing that allows easy access to the areas that will be massaged. Avoid tight or restrictive clothing that may hinder the massage process.

7. Communicate with Your Healthcare Provider

Before beginning a regular prenatal massage routine, it's important to discuss it with your obstetrician, midwife, or other healthcare providers. They can provide guidance on the safety and appropriateness of prenatal massage based on your specific medical history and current pregnancy. Open communication and coordination between all members of your healthcare team is essential.

Prenatal Massage Techniques

While prenatal massage follows many of the same principles and techniques as traditional massage, there are some specific adaptations and considerations that should be made to accommodate the unique needs of expectant mothers. Here are some common prenatal massage techniques and modalities:

1. Swedish Massage

Swedish massage is a gentle and relaxing form of massage that is often recommended during pregnancy. It involves long, gliding strokes, kneading, and circular motions to promote relaxation and improve circulation. During prenatal massage, the therapist will modify the techniques to ensure the safety and comfort of the mother and baby.

2. Deep Tissue Massage

While deep tissue massage is generally avoided during pregnancy due to the increased sensitivity and risk of complications, some light to moderate pressure may be appropriate in certain areas, such as the lower back and hips. The massage therapist will adjust the pressure based on the mother's comfort level and any specific concerns or conditions.

3. Trigger Point Therapy

Trigger point therapy can be beneficial for relieving muscle tension and discomfort during pregnancy, particularly in areas like the back, shoulders, and legs. However, certain trigger points may need to be avoided to prevent the risk of inducing premature labour.

4. Reflexology

Reflexology, a form of massage that focuses on specific pressure points on the feet, hands, and ears, can be a useful complementary therapy during pregnancy. It is believed to promote relaxation and address various pregnancy-related discomforts, such as nausea, fatigue, and swelling.

5. Prenatal Massage Positioning

Proper positioning is crucial during prenatal massage to ensure the safety and comfort of both the mother and the baby. Side-lying positions with supportive pillows or semi-reclined positions are commonly used to prevent compression of the vena cava and alleviate pressure on the abdomen.

Complementary Therapies and Self-Care

In addition to professional prenatal massage, there are several complementary therapies and self-care practices that can be beneficial during pregnancy:

1. Prenatal Yoga

Prenatal yoga is a gentle form of exercise that can help improve flexibility, reduce stress, and prepare the body for childbirth. Many prenatal yoga classes incorporate breathing techniques and relaxation exercises that can be used during labour and delivery.

2. Meditation and Mindfulness

Practicing meditation and mindfulness can be an excellent way to manage stress, anxiety, and other emotional challenges that may arise during pregnancy. These practices can also help promote better sleep and overall well-being.

3. Prenatal Aquatic Exercise

Low-impact prenatal aquatic exercise classes, such as water aerobics or swimming, can provide a safe and effective way to stay active during pregnancy while alleviating pressure on the joints and muscles.

4. Partner Massage

Learning basic prenatal massage techniques can allow partners or loved ones to provide regular massage sessions at home, fostering connection and relaxation throughout the pregnancy journey.

5. Self-Massage Techniques

While not a substitute for professional prenatal massage, learning simple self-massage techniques can be helpful for managing discomfort and promoting relaxation between professional sessions.

Incorporating complementary therapies and self-care practices alongside professional prenatal massage can provide a holistic approach to managing the physical and emotional challenges of pregnancy.


Prenatal massage is a powerful tool that can significantly enhance the pregnancy experience by alleviating discomforts, reducing stress, and promoting overall well-being for both the expectant mother and the developing baby. By understanding the benefits, safety considerations, and best practices, expectant mothers can make informed decisions and fully embrace the nurturing power of prenatal massage.

Remember, open communication with your healthcare provider and a qualified, certified prenatal massage therapist is crucial to ensuring a safe and enjoyable massage experience throughout your pregnancy journey. With the right professional guidance and self-care practices, prenatal massage can become an integral part of a healthy and comfortable pregnancy.


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