Prenatal Massage: Is It Helpful? What Are the Benefits?

Over the centuries, massage therapy is used to improve the general condition, relieve stress and muscle tension. The attitude to massage during pregnancy is ambiguous, and opinions of experts on this issue very often diverge. Modern research proves that prenatal massage can be very useful, but in pregnant women, it should be applied with special caution.

Today, a lot of specialists provide massage services, but it is better for future mothers to find a person who specializes in massage for pregnant women. After all, the characteristics of the physical state of women during this period require a competent approach.

What Is Prenatal Massage?

Prenatal is the massage that is done before the birth of a child. In the normal course of pregnancy, the massage can last from 10 to 60 minutes. The optimal number of procedures for a general massage is 1-2 per week.

Pregnant women can suffer from pain, muscle tension, and swelling, as well as psychological load, as a result of stress (insomnia, anxiety, hormonal changes). Consequently, the body does not always cope with the additional functions assigned to it.

In addition, during pregnancy, the center of gravity in women shifts. This can lead to the development of curvature of the lower back and shoulders (lordosis). What’s more, a growing belly leads to pain in the lower back and muscle tension.

Prenatal massage helps to relax the muscles, improve blood circulation, relieve pain and just help you feel better.


Correctly performed massage session helps pregnant women to cope with depression, insomnia, and irritability. Stagnation of blood is eliminated, which reduces pain in the muscles of the neck and lower back. For a more effective massage, natural and essential oils are used. Thanks to such rubbing, the elasticity of the skin increases, the cells take more oxygen and remove the decay products, reducing the risk of varicose veins.

The Use of Prenatal Massage

  • Massage during pregnancy can reduce anxiety and relieve the symptoms of depression, especially often manifested in the first trimester of pregnancy. Proper massage also relieves pain in the joints.
  • What’s more, incorporating a massage into the routine procedure of prenatal care can improve the emotional and physical health of the mother and the baby at birth.
  • Massage has a positive effect on the hormonal background, which is especially important during childbirth.
  • Studies conducted in the United States have shown that due to massage, levels of such hormones as relaxin and cortisol have changed in concentration. In turn, this led to an improvement in mood. In women who received massage 2 times a week for 5 weeks, the level of such hormones as norepinephrine and cortisol (stress hormones) decreased. And the level of hormones dopamine and serotonin (hormones of good mood, with their lack depression develops) increased.
  • A change in the levels of these hormones also led to a reduction in the number of complications during childbirth. The incidence of such complications as low birth weight decreased as well.
  • Swelling of the joints during pregnancy is often caused not only by the action of hormones, progesterone and relaxin. The increasing with the course of pregnancy uterus presses more and more on the blood vessels reaching the lower limbs. In such situations, prenatal massage is very useful. It activates the metabolism in the tissues, thereby reducing the accumulation of fluid in the swollen joints. As a result, the outflow of lymph of the feet is activated.

Sciatic Nerve

Such complications of the second and third trimesters of pregnancy as the pain of the sciatic nerve are experienced by many women. At the end of pregnancy, the uterus presses not only on the muscles of the pelvic floor and lower back but also on the muscles and nerves that reach the legs. For many women, rest and massage around the area of the inflamed nerve help relieve acute pain during this period and alleviate the general stress associated with pain.


Other Potential Benefits of Prenatal Massage:

  • Reducing back pain
  • Reducing pain in the joints
  • Improvement of blood circulation
  • Decreased edema
  • Reduction of muscle tension and headaches
  • Reduction of stress and anxiety
  • Improvement of oxygenation of soft tissues and muscles
  • Sleep improvement

Peculiarities of Prenatal Massage

Massage for pregnant women differs from a traditional one, i.e. there are a number of features of its performance. First, the massage is done very carefully. Only soft massage techniques are used. Here, light strokes and rubbing predominate. The aim is to relax the body. Movements are performed by relaxed hands without excessive effort and pressure. Vibration is performed by shallow light movements of the fingertips.

Secondly, in the process of prenatal massage, the position of a woman is on the side, to reduce pressure on the abdomen.

In recent weeks before giving birth (after the 35th week), it is especially useful to massage the buttocks.

Massage will help pregnant women reduce swelling, relieve the excessive load from the back and joints, help maintain good posture. Prenatal massage also relaxes and prepares the bone and muscle systems for childbirth.

What’s more, prenatal massage stabilizes the level of hormones, promotes relaxation, and eliminates psycho-emotional stress.

Postnatal massage (postpartum) is also an excellent way to quickly restore the body of a woman. It helps to normalize weight, tighten and tone the skin on the abdomen.

Contraindications of the massage during pregnancy include fever, flu, blood and skin diseases, purulent processes, heart disease, digestive disorders, tumors, excessive agitation, and nervousness.

Precautions For Prenatal Massage

As with any therapeutic approach during pregnancy to the well-being of a future mother, a woman should discuss the massage with her doctor. The best way to prevent the risks of prenatal massage is your awareness about them and working with professionals.


Body Position During Prenatal Massage

Many experts say that the best position for a pregnant woman during a massage is position on the side. Massage tables with a hole in which the stomach can be placed are not reliable and still can create pressure on the stomach or allow the stomach to hang, resulting in stretching of the ligament of the uterus. Discuss with the massage therapist in advance, in what position he works with clients during the massage.

Look For A Professional

It is important to seek the help of a certified prenatal masseur. Certified doctors have been trained to meet state standards for masseurs, and know how to work with a specific pregnancy, what your needs and sensitive areas of the body are.

Be Aware Of Sensitive And Painful Points

Trained prenatal massage therapists know about pain points on the ankles and wrists that can gently stimulate the pelvic muscles, including the uterus. Certified prenatal massage therapists are trained to avoid deliberate pressure on these areas during pregnancy. Any woman who has experienced early contractions or premature Braxton Hicks contractions should warn the doctor about this fact, and therefore pressure points should be avoided completely.


There are a number of contraindications to the use of prenatal massage:

  • acute inflammation of blood vessels and lymph nodes, venous thrombosis and thrombophlebitis, pronounced varicose veins;
  • gestational diabetes;
  • fever;
  • vomiting;
  • pre-eclampsia or eclampsia;
  • an intestinal disorder;
  • threat of abortion;
  • placental dysfunction;
  • infectious diseases;
  • diseases of hair, nails, skin;
  • tumors, etc.

Is Prenatal Massage Safe Throughout Pregnancy?

Women can start massage sessions at any time during pregnancy – during the first, second, or third trimester. But many experts refuse to massage women in the first trimester because of the high statistics of miscarriages in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy.

Prenatal Massage as a Part of Prenatal Care

Massage can improve the general condition of many pregnant women. Along with the guidance and advice of the prenatal physician, massage can be included in daily prenatal care as an emotional and physical supplement to improve the outcome of the pregnancy and maternal health. Still, it is better to consult your doctor before starting any new therapeutic procedure.