May 20, 2024

Zenith Tranquil

Information treatments and health conditions

What is a prenatal massage?

5 min read

What’s a prenatal massage, and should I have one?

Prenatal massage is a type that’s similar to regular massage – it aims to relax tense muscles, ease sore spots, improve circulation and mobility, and just make you feel good. But prenatal massage is also customized to the needs of pregnant women and their changing bodies, and therapists trained in prenatal massage adjust their techniques accordingly.

Carrying a baby inside you changes your center of gravity and puts a lot of stress on your back, neck, abdominal muscles, and shoulders. Pregnancy also relaxes your ligaments, meaning your pelvic joints are less stable, and it also changes your posture, pulling your pelvis forward. Add to that the extra weight you’re carrying and you may end up with an aching lower back.

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A trained prenatal massage therapist knows where a pregnant woman’s sore and swollen spots are likely to be and may be able to provide some relief. They’ll also know which techniques and areas to avoid.

So should you get a prenatal massage? Absolutely, as long as your healthcare provider gives you the okay.

When to get a prenatal massage

You can get a prenatal massage at any point in pregnancy, as long as you have your doctor or midwife’s approval. Some massage therapists won’t see pregnant women until the second trimester because of the increased risk of miscarriage in the first trimester. But there’s no evidence or reason to believe that prenatal massage in the first trimester would raise your miscarriage risk. 

Your massage therapist should be able to help you get comfortable at every stage of pregnancy. Right from the start, it may be uncomfortable to lie facedown because of your tender, swollen breasts. And you can’t lie facedown on a traditional massage table once your belly has started to grow.

You can lie on your side with pillows, wedges, or a full-length body pillow for support. Some prenatal massage therapists use a special table or pad with hollowed areas and pillows to accommodate your belly and breasts, so you can lie facedown.

If lying facedown on a special pregnancy massage table stresses your lower back, try lying on your side or ask your therapist to help you find a comfortable position.

And remember that it’s not a good idea to lie flat on your back, especially once you’re past midpregnancy, because the weight of your uterus puts too much pressure on the vein that returns blood from your legs to your heart.

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Prenatal massage benefits

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends prenatal massageOpens a new window as a good way to relax and improve circulation.

Research on the therapeutic benefits of massage for pregnant women is limited, but small studies suggest that prenatal massage may also:

Getting a pregnancy massage can also put you in a more relaxed state of mind to help you cope with all the big changes that are going on in your life.

If you decide to get a massage, it’s important to tell your massage therapist that you’re pregnant. And let them know right away if anything – including your position – causes discomfort during the massage.

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To find a good prenatal massage therapist, get recommendations from your hospital, healthcare provider, or friends. If you already have a favorite massage therapist, ask whether they have training in prenatal massage or can recommend a colleague who does.

Some massage therapists want clearance from your doctor or midwife before treating you, so ask about that ahead of time. When you meet your therapist, remind them that you’re pregnant before you begin your session.

How much does a prenatal massage cost?

An hour-long session can cost anywhere from $60 to $150, depending on where you live. Check your health insurance benefits: Some plans cover part of the cost of a massage if you can get a prescription from your midwife or doctor for a medical reason, such as back pain.

If your health plan includes a health savings account (HSA), or if you have a flexible spending account (FSA), you can pay for the massage out of either account and save money in taxes. You’ll just need paperwork from your provider showing that the massage is medically necessary.


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How to get a prenatal massage at home

If a professional massage isn’t an option, ask a partner or friend to give you a hand. A gentle back rub – avoiding too much pressure – may help you relax.

And if you don’t have a friend or loved one to pitch in, using a massage chair during pregnancy is another great option.

Just remember: It’s a good idea to check in with a healthcare provider before trying anything at home. They might have other ideas to help with your pregnancy aches and pains.

When is a prenatal massage unsafe?

Having a prenatal massage may be risky in a few situations, such as if:

  • You have a blood clot or a bone fracture.
  • You have a skin injury or condition that could be aggravated by rubbing. These include burns, open wounds, skin infections, or eczema.
  • You’ve had an allergic reaction to massage oils.

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You’ll also want to make sure a massage therapist (or whoever’s giving you a massage) avoids putting too much pressure on your belly and legs – and generally avoids your ankles,Opens a new window where your body has pressure points that can potentially lead to complications.

If you have concerns about whether it would be okay for you to have a prenatal massage, talk to your healthcare provider.

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