Is Pregnancy Massage safe?

The answer is absolutely 100%.

Booking in for a pregnancy massage is a very sensible option for pain relief and relaxation throughout the whole journey of your pregnancy.

Now you may have seen or been told that the first trimester is not a good time to get one however that myth has slowly drifted off into the sunset (thank goodness).  But it still lingers amongst the profession, with some massage therapists still urging caution because they are not truly qualified to understand how massage and pregnancy work.

Let’s take a typical day – you might go for a walk, run, or do yoga;  lift numerous things (heavy toddler alert), bend and twist, do school runs, oh yeah, and you’ll clamber up the bench to clean the top cupboard in the kitchen with no ladder (this is called nesting)– the list goes on.  Now compare this to a massage, where you lie still.

Which one do you think is going to be the least strenuous?  You got it…massage because a typical pregnancy massage will require you lie in a position which is relaxing – psssst it’s similar to sleeping.  So there should be no cause for concern unless your condition is not suitable for massage regardless if you are pregnant or not.

Why should I get a pregnancy massage?
Massage is beneficial for everyone and pregnancy is no exception.  For exactly the same reasons you would choose to relieve aches and pains, or any emotional stress.  Massage is a natural,  safe and drug free alternative for pain relief.    

The common discomforts experienced during pregnancy are

  • muscle soreness,
  • headaches,
  • leg cramps,
  • sciatica,
  • stiffness,
  • carpal tunnel syndrome,
  • fatigue,
  • swelling of hands and feet,
  • pelvis and hip pain.  

​Our massage therapy sessions will focus on your needs, because your experience of pregnancy is very different from the next.  ​We start with your pelvis, hips, lower back and we then move up between the shoulder blades and around the upper shoulders and neck. We can also do a full body session where your arms, legs and feet also get attention. 

What is the safest position to be massaged in?
All positions used in massage therapy are safe, however, the position we advocate for and use at Top Notch Massage is side lying.  For some of you, this position is how you sleep at night and we often hear our mum’s breathe a sigh of comfort as they snuggle under the blankets.   Side lying is very beneficial for accessing all of the areas you may be experiencing issues with.

We use approved bolsters such as the Mumanu pregnancy pillow (see video below) which helps to keep your posture correct and relaxed to avoid placing stress on the lower back and pelvis, ensuring maximum comfort. Designed by a Pregnancy Massage Specialist and the only pillow endorsed by the Osteopathic Society of New Zealand and BirthWorks International, the Mumanu is the best pregnancy pillow / low back pain pillow on the market.
[And yes! We are as gutted as you are that Mumanu pillows are no longer in stock!]

Why are my ankles are swollen?
It is normal to have swelling in the ankles and feet, especially in the third trimester because you are retaining more water.  Sometimes it is just pure genetics that you will have it.  What you need to be aware of is ‘sudden swelling’ which can be a sign of deep vein thrombosis, preeclampsia or cellulitis.  Massage therapy can sometimes assist with fluid retention, however, outside of your massage session it is more beneficial to go for walks and keep active.  The muscles in your legs (and around your chest) will act as a natural pump mechanism which assists with drainage of the fluid in your tissues, and also helps to return the blood in your veins back to your heart. 

I’ve heard that I should not get massaged around certain points like my ‘ankles’ or up near my shoulders? 
There is much misinformation out about pregnancy and prenatal massage.  It’s really distressing to me as a therapist to hear these ‘myths’, because some of it is downright harmful and incorrect.  In some countries, pregnancy women traverse sweltering, endless deserts; rugged, arid mountains; and frigid, unforgiving tundras and nothing happens.……but if we rub a specific area this is bad? Hmmmm, so OK let’s talk about these areas.

Here is an example – Your ten weeks pregnant and in a session, your therapist has told you they will avoid massaging your ankles  because you are still in your first trimester and this may cause you to have a miscarriage.  Ok, so then a couple of weeks later you experience the misfortune of a miscarriage but then you later remember when you had an itch and scratched around your ankle, or your ankles were aching, so you got your partner to rub them, or you you rubbed them. This gets you thinking, by touching those areas based on what that therapist told me, did I cause the miscarriage.  Which is utterly rubbish and a horrible thing to even fathom.

If this was true then you should also avoid wearing socks and shoes for the fear of triggering these pressure points. There is no physiological reason to think any such reflex points cause miscarriage – it is just unfortunately around the time when a miscarriage may occur, due to many unidentified reasons such as genetic, uterine or hormonal abnormalities; tissue rejection; reproductive tract infections; but not because of massage therapy.  

Yes, there are supposed to be reflex points in the body and they are everywhere – in the ankles, feet, hands, back (both upper and lower), tongue and ears.  But if massaging these areas caused miscarriages (or induced labor), then we would not be able to massage pregnant women at all and the human species would not have thrived as it has.  And if I could be so bold as to say there would be absolutely no requirements for anyone to use Family Planning clinics or need to be medically induced. 

Why do I need to get clearance if my pregnancy is considered high risk?
There are of course a few things we like to keep an eye on.  In New Zealand, pregnancies are usually managed between you and your leading maternity carer, or you will be referred to and managed by a specialist.   At Top Notch, we like to know about who is managing your pregnancy and whether you are under specialist care, especially if you have uncontrolled high blood pressure, any organ dysfunction (kidney or cardiac etc) or pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, syndromes, or neurological signs and symptoms’.  This is so we can accurately assess whether massage is right for you, or that we have you booked in with the right therapist who has had the right training and expertise to understand your condition.

Take some time out for you
As a mum or ‘mum to be’ you tend to give so much and sometimes your needs get put on a back burner, so we feel that it’s such a gift to be able to give you the emotional support and a nurturing touch during this amazing time of your life!  

If you know of anyone who is having difficulty managing their pregnancy and you want to send them to someone you can trust, let them know about us or share this link with them. ​If your loved one really needs some TLC then book them in, or perhaps get them a voucher.  Whatever your choice, we will be excited for their arrival.

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