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6 Prenatal Massage Myths BUSTED

Updated: Jul 28, 2022

Pregnancy brings much joy and excitement, but it can also create stress and discomfort in the body. Maternity massage is a wonderful way to naturally manage whatever symptoms crop up for you.

Research has shown that prenatal massage benefits include:

  • Ease stress, fatigue, and anxiety

  • Relieve hip, low back, and Sciatic pain

  • Reduce muscle cramps and tightness

  • Decrease swelling (water retention)

  • Improve circulation

  • Ease heartburn and acid reflux

  • Cure headaches

You may choose from any of your favorite Sage Bodywork services during your pregnancy (there’s no separate “prenatal” service you must choose). Just leave a note that you’re X weeks along while you’re making your appointment online and I’ll have everything ready for you when you get here!

Is prenatal massage safe?

Generally speaking massage is very safe and beneficial throughout your pregnancy, with a couple limitations we'll look at below. If you’re having a high risk pregnancy, you should talk to your doctor about massage therapy before making an appointment.

There’s a lot of pseudoscience about prenatal massage that’s still, unfortunately, being perpetuated by massage therapists who lack real prenatal training or research literacy. I’d like to take a minute to debunk some of these myths!

Have you heard any of these before?

6 Prenatal Massage Myths BUSTED:


1. Massage can make you go into labor.

This single concept has done a lot of damage to prenatal massage as a whole, and it's completely unfounded. The idea is that there's special points around the body (on the ankle, hand, low back, and shoulders) that will cause contractions if pressed on. Using these points near the due date can naturally induce labor; accidentally pressing on these points early in pregnancy can cause a miscarriage.

That's what they say, anyway. No study has ever shown any evidence that these points are legitimate. If you think about it, we have so many tools and drugs in the hospital for inducing labor. If it was as simple as pressing an invisible "Have Baby Now" button on the ankle, every midwife in the world would just do that.

There's lots of anecdotal stories of "Oh, I was 39 weeks pregnant and I got a massage and the next day I went into labor," but, of course, that's not really evidence. She was already due. If there's rain clouds in the sky and I do a rain dance, that doesn't mean I made it rain.

Please enjoy your massage at any point during your pregnancy on any area of your body and know that it's safe and won't cause spontaneous baby ejection.

2. You can't massage the foot and ankle.

​Some of the above-mentioned "labor points" are located around the ankle, so some massage therapists are taught to completely the avoid the area. Of course, there's no need for that. Your feet are walking for two now and you deserve a long, relaxing foot rub, with the confidence that it's 100% safe for both of you.

3. You can't massage the low back massage or stomach.

Sometimes there's a sense of protectiveness around the entire womb, and pregnant people are afraid of any pressure near or on the area.

It's completely safe to massage the low back during pregnancy. In fact, pregnancy can stress the spine and low back as your center of gravity shifts, so it's very helpful to soothe the area and improve local circulation with massage.

Similarly, abdominal massage is certainly different during pregnancy, but more valuable than ever for helping the muscles and ligaments of the torso accommodate pregnancy. As the womb expands your organs shift, and that can cause symptoms like rib pain and heartburn, which targeted massage techniques may relieve. These techniques do not endanger the pregnancy in any way and can be done very comfortably. It's not about pushing hard into the stomach, but gently working around the abdomen to create space and (literal) breathing room.

If having your stomach touched just sounds unappealing, you can always choose to completely avoid abdominal massage. But if you're having symptoms like groin pain or shortness of breath, please know that this an option for you that can create a lot of relief.

4. No massage in the first trimester.

There's a myth that early massage may cause a miscarriage, but all the research done on this topic has demonstrated absolutely NO connection between the two. The sad truth is that miscarriages are more likely to happen early on in the pregnancy than later, and many massage therapists simply refuse contact with a person who's early in pregnancy to avoid any threat of liability. It's safe to come in and get a massage right away, you don't have to wait until you're further along. At this point, massage is generally recommended monthly to manage stress.

5. No massage in the last trimester.

I think this myth goes back to the idea that massage can induce labor, which we've already debunked. There is an increase of a hormone called "relaxin" later in pregnancy (it does exactly what it sounds like, it relaxes your ligaments and joints) so it's best to avoid extreme stretches in the third trimester, just to make sure we don't stretch too far. Massage is generally recommended weekly in the third trimester, and again a week or so after birth (you can come in as soon as you want for a post natal massage and it's very helpful for relieving swelling).

6. No heating pads.

Pregnant women are advised to avoid hot tubs and saunas because you don't want your internal temperature to exceed 101F. It's generally considered very safe to use a heating pad on your low back; as long as you're not sweating, you're not at 101F. I usually heat the massage table on a low setting so you can be comfortably warm during your treatment, and of course we can adjust it to be warmer or cooler for you.

So with that said, you can see we can safely massage pretty much anywhere at any time during pregnancy. Our bodies are resilient, and we'll be guided by what feels comfortable and safe for you.

What makes prenatal massage different?

Prenatal massage side lying

We do have to make a couple adjustments to massage safely and comfortably during pregnancy. The only hard rule is to avoid deep pressure on the inside of the thigh (because there's an increased risk of deep vein thrombosis during pregnancy, and just in case you have developed DVT, we want to leave it alone).

Many pregnant people prefer to switch to Lymphatic massage, especially right before and after birth. This unique massage style focuses on circulating "lymph" (fluid) through the body, which reduces swelling and empowers your cells to detox and regenerate. It relieves many of pregnancy's uncomfortable symptoms and keeps your body strong. Additionally, it's very relaxing to receive.

One major difference with prenatal massage is the positioning, how you lie on the massage table.

Later in pregnancy, when it's not comfortable to lie face-down, you can lie on your side with support from pillows. This is a good, safe option that allows us to massage the back and hips. Most therapists consider this side-lying position as the default for prenatal massage.

Prenatal massage therapy

If it's uncomfortable to lie flat on your back, I also offer prenatal massage where you lie back on a wedge, at about a 30 degree angle. This angle takes the weight of the womb off the inferior vena cava, so your circulation is protected. This is very comfortable position and many people prefer it to lying on their side for the whole massage.

As with any massage, just about everything can be adjusted to make your experience more comfortable and restorative. Your massage time is 100% about you.

So whether you’re pregnant, postpartum, trying, or otherwise, you can choose from any Sage Bodywork service and expect a soothing, scientifically informed treatment that helps you feel calm and pain free. Feel free to message me with any questions or concerns, or go ahead and schedule your treatment online. I hope to see you in soon!

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