You may think of massage as a luxury to indulge in on occasion. But one of the most beneficial times for massage may be during pregnancy.
What is Pregnancy Massage?
Pregnancy massage refers to hands-on massage during or after pregnancy.
A pregnancy massage typically lasts an hour. Some practitioners use a pregnancy massage table that is designed to accommodate a woman's pregnant belly. Aesthetic Beauty & Massage use specially designed pillows called bolsters to position our pregnant client comfortably on her side. This helps especially during the later stages of pregnancy. To lay on your side is often the most comfortable position for massage.
Possible Benefits of Pregnancy Massage
Only a handful of small studies have focused on massage in pregnancy. No definite benefits have been established. But one study at the University of Miami School of Medicine suggests that massage therapy might have multiple positive effects, including:
In another study of pregnancy massage in depressed women, researchers found:
Research has shown that, for the general population, massage has other potential benefits. It may relieve pain, or it may boost the immune system’s ability to fight off viruses.
Safe Techniques for Pregnancy Massage
There are more than 80 styles of massage taught in the massage therapy programs in Australia. Examples of common types of massage include:
From a scientific standpoint, the mechanisms that make massage therapy work are still largely unknown. More research is needed to understand how applying different types of manual pressure to the body can:
Pregnancy massage experts adapt their techniques to address the changes a woman's body goes through during pregnancy. For instance, blood volume increases dramatically as much as 50% during pregnancy. Blood flow to the legs often becomes sluggish. And the levels of anticoagulants in the blood, designed to prevent haemorrhaging during delivery, naturally rise.
These circulatory changes put a pregnant woman at risk of blood clots in the lower legs, typically in the calves or inner thigh. To be safe, pregnancy massage experts avoid deep massage and strong pressure on the legs. Using strong pressure could dislodge a blood clot. Instead, they use very light, slow strokes on the legs. Types of massage to avoid on the legs include deep-tissue massage, deep acupressure, shiatsu, cross-fibre friction, and percussive tapping. All leg massage strokes should move toward the heart.
Very light pressure on the abdomen is advised, if the belly is massaged at all. Some Massage Therapists avoid massaging the abdomen, and will only do so if specifically requested.
Is Pregnancy Massage Safe?
Some doctors hesitate to advise massage during pregnancy because there is a huge variation in training. There is also a lack of certification standards nationwide. This is especially true for the specialty of pregnancy massage. Not all states have laws requiring a set minimum training for a Massage Therapist, regardless of whether or not the Therapist's client is pregnant.
Also, like many forms of complementary medicine, massage therapy during pregnancy hasn't been rigorously studied with high-quality clinical research methods. One area of controversy is whether it's safe to have a massage during the first trimester.
Many Massage Therapists won't give pregnancy massages during the first trimester. The reason is the potential for miscarriage. Some pregnancy massage experts argue that pregnancy massage doesn't, in itself, cause miscarriage, but no research has been done to show a link between a massage and a miscarriage.
Because many miscarriages happen in the first trimester, some Massage Therapists and Doctors counsel against first-trimester massage simply to avoid any potential liability issues should a miscarriage occur.
The National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine advises all pregnant women to consult with their doctor before trying massage.
When to Avoid Pregnancy Massage
Because the research on pregnancy massage is minimal, many Doctors advise a conservative approach. They may even advise all pregnant women to avoid massage. There are no scientifically agreed upon guidelines. Be sure you get clearance from your doctor before you try a massage, especially if:
A Massage Therapist may require written consent from your doctor and a liability waiver from you before performing pregnancy massage.
How Are Pregnancy Massage Therapists Trained?
Most massage therapy training programs require about 500 hours of education. That education may or may not include specific training in pregnancy massage. Continuing education classes and workshops that specialise in pregnancy massage vary widely in terms of how much training and hands-on experience is provided.
Look for a Massage Therapist through one of the national associations that trains and certifies Massage Therapists. For example, you could contact the Australian Association of Massage Therapists or Massage Australia. Before your first appointment, ask about the therapist's specific training and experience in pregnancy massage. A doctor, midwife, or chiropractor may also be able to recommend a qualified Massage Therapist in your area.
Aesthetic Beauty & Massage employs only Remedial Massage Therapists who have undertaken the Diploma or Remedial Massage. This qualification takes approximately 1600 hours of education in addition to over 50 hours of practical clinic supervision.
Information sources: WebMD, Google Scholar