Massage Monday: Prenatal Massage, Part 1

Hello everyone and happy Monday! Let’s go ahead and start with some deep breaths as you read a little further into this blog. In through the nose (1-2-3-4) and out through your mouth (1-2-3-4). Was anyone able to use this breathing technique during their week to help reduce stress? Remember we talked about the nervous system last week; that’s the brain, spinal cord, and all the nerves associated with it. When you encounter a stressful situation, your sympathetic nervous system takes over – it’s your fight or flight responder – and your brain begins functioning on the primal instincts. Bringing in that deep breath full of oxygen (that gets to your brain and says “hey, calm down, buddy”) engages the parasympathetic nervous system. This is your body’s way of forcing relaxion; blocking the fight or flight response. Take a couple more deep breaths as you end this paragraph and we move on to the rest of the blog. Take this information with you and when you encounter something stressful, remember the first response – before you do anything else – is to breathe.

I’m very excited to start this blog about prenatal massage. I’m going to do it in three parts. I want to devote the entire blog to each of my favorite parts of this type of massage. Today we’ll talk about comfort and choosing your therapist for your prenatal massage, next week we’ll talk about massage throughout your pregnancy, and in the third post we’ll talk about labor massage and delivery.

The first thing I want to say about prenatal massage is to consult your physician if you want to have massage. There are many hang-ups about massage during the first trimester of pregnancy. If your doctor recommends that you’re healthy, the baby is healthy, and supports your decision receive massage, let your therapist know when you schedule your appointment. Many therapists will refuse to massage a woman during her first trimester because that is the period of time in which a miscarriage is most likely to happen if it’s going to happen. There is no research stating that massage can or cannot cause a miscarriage; but, because of the statistic of that three months being the most critical, many therapists just take themselves out of the equation. So, should you just wait until your second or third trimester to try to schedule a massage? I say the answer is up to you and your doctor.

My beautiful girl is a little over a year and half old. We were massaged at different stages of the pregnancy and I can’t say enough that I wish I would have been more regular about prenatal massage. There are many fantastic resources out there that will line out what happens to your body as you progress in your pregnancy. Your skin stretches as your uterus grows, ligaments get elongated, you retain a lot of water, morning sickness happens, your back is supporting more weight than it’s used to, so are your legs. As beautiful and magical as pregnancy is, there are just some things that biology dictates will happen that can cause discomfort. Regular massage throughout your pregnancy can help relieve and manage these aches and pains as you and your baby grow. This goes the same for postpartum massage; but, we’ll get to that in a future blog.

Choosing your therapist is a very significant act. This is someone who is going to go on your journey into motherhood with you. He or she is going to physically impact both you and your baby in wonderful ways. This should be someone you can connect with, feel comfortable with, and someone who will take the time to tailor your sessions specifically to your needs; which will change throughout your pregnancy. Unless you already have a therapist you’ve been using, take the time to inquire about the sessions as you call or visit different offices. Some things to ask are: what position is the client in when receiving the massage? What training has the therapist received in prenatal massage? What smells are in the room or the entry office and what lotion or oil does the therapist use?

Positioning. This is very important to understand before you get to the office. Any therapist should instruct you how they need you to get on the table; however, if you ask beforehand then you won’t be surprised when you arrive. There are two ways to be massaged while pregnant: sideline and on a pad. Sideline is my preferred method. Lying sidelined means that you are on the table laying on either your left or right side (as if sleeping) and you’re propped to make you comfortable and to support your back, arms, legs, and the baby. You can be propped with pillows, blankets, or towels. The prop will be soft materials to give you support and comfort. When the therapist completes the first side, you will simply roll over (with the assistance of your therapist if you need it) to the other side and finish the massage there. A regular Swedish massage is the front and then the back of the body (or vice versa). In a sideline position the therapist addresses the front and back of one side of the body and then, as the client turns, the therapist addresses the other side. Using a pad is another technique. In order to receive massage on the back of the body the client lies down in a pad that has concave cutouts for a belly and breasts. Depending on how big or small you are, this may not be the best method for you. Being smaller than the cutout could mean that your belly could dangle in the cutout, causing some stretching of the uterus ligaments. Being too big for the cut out could mean that there is some pressure on your baby and your breasts. Either one will cause you discomfort and could result in a less than satisfying massage. Knowing which type of position the therapist uses will help you (and consult your physician if you have any questions) make an informed decision on what will be most comfortable.

Training. All certified or licensed massage therapists receive training in how to conduct prenatal massage. The difference in finding a therapist who specializes in it is that they will be more comfortable with the flow of the massage, the set-up of the room and the table, stopping for you to go to the restroom in the middle of the massage, and the instructions they give to you for at-home stretching. It can be daunting for a therapist who has had prenatal training only in massage school to massage a pregnant woman if that’s not the type of massage they’ve been doing. If the client picks up on that hesitancy it may make for a really awkward massage session. Let’s face it. When you’re pregnant and your body hurts, any type of massage is going to feel good. What a trained prenatal massage therapist will offer you (as part of their prenatal routine) is passive stretching and range of motion, confidence when massaging your baby, and scientific and personal understanding about what you’re feeling and what your body is going through during each stage of your pregnancy.

Smells. It sounds small, but I can think of several smells that would have made me leave a place of business during my pregnancy. If you are having some severe dislikes for specific smells that you feel might be present in a massage setting, go ahead and ask. If they have that smell at their place of business you can request that they not use it during your massage. That is a completely sound request. Asking about the lotions or oils is just another way to see if they are compatible with your prenatal olfactory senses. Many therapists will use a non-scented lotion or oil and will have the option to add in aromas from essential oils during the massage. Again, consult your doctor if you have any questions about essential oils (or anything else) during your pregnancy.

Prenatal massage is one of my favorite massages to give. It’s incredible to think that I get to massage two people at the same time and send so much positive energy and physical benefits their way. So, find out who you want to be there for you during your journey and get to know their technique and style before you get to their studio. And always, always, always, consult your physician before scheduling a prenatal massage.

I hope everyone has a nice, calm week. As always, I want to hear from you! Let me know your thoughts and questions. You can reach me through the comments section below or email me at with the subject line “Massage Mondays.” I’ll talk to you next week!


Massage tip of the week: Stretch! Can you spare three to five minutes in your day to stretch? The benefits of regular stretching are maintaining, or gaining, flexibility and range of motion. Both of these help ensure comfort in daily activities.

-Hannah, Certified Massage Therapist at The PlayGround