Is massage during pregnancy safe?

The answer is YES but….

Only with a therapist who has specifically been trained in pregnancy massage.

Hotel spas and beauty salons in particular tend to have therapists who just do a regular massage on a pregnant woman.

Some even use those god awful pregnancy beds with the hole cut out for the bump.

The first rule of pregnancy massage is that it must be done in a side-lying position. 

This is more not only more comfortable for the client but will prevent any strain put on the ligaments that attach the womb to the low back.  Those beds with the holes cut out will stretch those ligaments and could even shift the uterus out of position – a malpositioned uterus could cause problems with the birth and after the birth could make periods more painful and cause low back ache.  It could also make it more difficult for the woman to conceive again.

Some therapists will also have the woman lying on her back to massage the front of her body.  This is also a big no, no.

She must remain semi reclined or fully upright depending on the size of her bump.  Lying on the back puts pressure on the inferior vena cava (a major vessel for blood to return to the heart)

Deep tissue massage in pregnancy?  No, sorry.

If you’re used to going for a good sports massage, then be warned you will not get the same type of pressure in a pregnancy massage.

The strokes should be flowing and relaxing.  This still provides great benefit for mother and baby, helping blood flow, swelling, hip and back pain – you don’t always need to go deep to get results.

The reason we don’t do deep pressure in pregnancy massage is because a woman’s blood volume doubles during pregnancy and deep pressure could increase the risk of blood clots and elevating her blood pressure.

Bone density loss is also common in the later stages of pregnancy, so care should always be taken not to hurt or injure the woman.

So to recap….

Why not to lie face down in the 2nd and 3rd trimester?

As the uterus and baby expand during this time, lying face down creates added stress on the body. It may contribute to:

  • Strain and pressure on ligaments
  • Increase in lumbar lordosis (as your centre of gravity shifts forward) creating musculoskeletal issues of the lower lumbar region, gluteals and legs.
  • Due to the hormone relaxin, joint laxity is increased
  • Direct compression to the lumbar region can increase intrauterine pressure
  • Breast discomfort and sinus congestion


Why not to lie on your back in the 2nd and 3rd trimester?

  • A syndrome known as supine hypotensive syndrome may present whereby the uterus presses on the inferior vena cava (a major vessel for blood to return to the heart). By compressing this vessel for prolonged periods of time results in low maternal blood pressure and decreased circulation to both mother and baby. Therefore, a mother may feel dizzy, shortness of breath or other discomforts.
  • It increases pressure on the lower back and sacrum.


Benefits of Side Lying during pregnancy

  • It is comfortable
  • It supports labour and women also breastfeed their baby in this way.
  • Lying on your left side reduces pressure on the inferior vena cava
  • No pressure on the lower back


At Devata Holistic Centre all our therapists are trained in Pregnancy Massage & Reflexology.

If you do plan to go to a hotel spa for a pamper session, then please phone ahead and ask the spa if any of their therapists are certified pregnancy massage therapists.

If you do arrive and they ask you to get on a maternity massage bed, or have you lying flat on your back, you will know how to correct them after reading this article.

Safety is paramount during your pregnancy so don’t be afraid to speak up!

Read about the treatments we have for pregnancy & post natal:

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