The Pros and Cons of Pregnancy Massages | Revere Health

Therapeutic massage has many benefits from reducing stress and encouraging healing in soft tissue injuries to enhancing performance and improving quality of life. It stands to reason that during pregnancy, a massage would be beneficial. Prenatal massage therapy is very similar to a regular massage, but therapists take special care during the massage to ensure comfort, such as using cushions to provide support and alleviate strain on the lower back and pelvic region. Here are some things you should know about pregnancy massage.

The Benefits of Pregnancy Massage

Massage therapy has been shown to be effective in reducing depression, anxiety and back pain during pregnancy. In one study, professional therapists provided 20 minutes of massage therapy on pregnant women each week for 5 weeks. The women in the study showed lower cortisol levels, which reduced excessive fetal activity. In addition, the rate of premature births was lower in the group that had massages over the control group.

In another study of depressed pregnant women, their significant other provided 20 minutes of massage twice weekly over 16 weeks. Again, depression and anxiety decreased, which was confirmed by lower cortisol levels. These were not trained professionals, but the rate of prematurity in the group that received massages was also lower than the control group.

Pregnancy massage has also been shown to:

  • Relieve headaches by focusing on the head, neck and shoulders
  • Reduce muscle tension by encouraging blood flow to affected areas
  • Alleviate or greatly reduce fatigue, leg cramps and swelling
  • Release serotonin, a natural anti-pain chemical made by your body
  • Boost relaxation and diminish anxiety, which is shown to improve sleep patterns during and after pregnancy
  • Reduce stress on weight-bearing joints

In addition, massage therapy as part of regular prenatal care can significantly change hormone levels, which leads to better mood regulation, fewer complications during birth and improved cardiovascular health. Massage can lower the levels of stress-inducing hormones, such as norepinephrine and cortisol and increase the levels of dopamine and serotonin. Low levels of dopamine and serotonin are correlated with depression and anxiety.

Precautions About Massage During Pregnancy

Women who are pregnant should discuss pregnancy massage with their prenatal healthcare provider before getting a massage. It’s also important to work with a professional massage therapist who is prenatal certified, which means he or she has had additional training.

Although some spas offer massage tables with a cut-out hole for the abdomen, this is not usually very comfortable and may not fit your body. Before getting a massage, talk to the therapist about their technique and what they do to help you be comfortable. It’s typically recommended that pregnant women lay on their side.

Massage therapy is beneficial during any trimester of pregnancy, but some facilities are hesitant to give massages to women in the first trimester. There may be an increased risk of miscarriage during this time, although there is little research that connects massage to miscarriage.

Discuss the potential benefits and considerations of pregnancy massage with your healthcare provider to see how it fits into your prenatal wellness routine. Just be sure to find a gentle and experienced massage therapist who can work with your changing body and needs.

Dr. Oneida practices the full range of family medicine including obstetrics, pediatrics, adolescent medicine, adult medicine and some orthopedics. She also performs colposcopy, cryotherapy and vasectomies. Due to the volume of deliveries done, her practice has evolved to be more centered on women and children’s medicine, although she enjoys all aspects of family medicine. 

Sources:

“Massage And Pregnancy – Prenatal Massage.” American Pregnancy Association http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/prenatal-massage/

“Pregnancy and labor massage.” Tiffany Field, Expert Review of Obstetrics and Gynecology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2870995/

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.

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