Can I Get a Massage While Pregnant?

pregnancy massage

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Pregnancy comes with its fair share of aches and pains. As your body grows and changes, it puts a strain on your lower back. Your hips and pelvis may be sore as well, as the hormone relaxin increases in your body, loosening your ligaments.

If you regularly get massages, you may be wondering if it's still safe to do so now that you're pregnant. And if massages are not a part of your normal routine, you might consider if getting one could help with your aching back.

"Massages are a great way for an expectant mother to manage stress levels, which is especially essential during pregnancy," says Michael Green, MD, an OB/GYN at Winona, a female-founded anti-aging wellness center. "However, always be sure to get the green light from your physician ahead of time."

While it is generally safe to get a massage while pregnant, there are a few modifications that need to be in place. Here's what you need to know.

Getting a Massage During Pregnancy

You can get a massage while pregnant, but it is very important to let your massage therapist know that you are expecting. "Ideally, I would recommend going to a masseuse who specializes in neonatal massage," says Dr. Green. They should be familiar with pregnancy-safe practices, and if they are not, it's best to seek out someone who is.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recommends lying on your side during a massage, to avoid compressing your uterus and baby. "You can also use a massage table with a special cutout that enables a massage to be carried out in the traditional face-down," notes Dr. Green. Be sure not to lay flat on your back.

There are also certain types of massage that should be avoided at different times during pregnancy. "Deep tissue massage should not be performed during the first trimester, and pressure should be avoided on the abdomen," notes Steve Hruby, a doctor of chiropractic and the founder of Kaizen Progressive Wellness, a chiropractic care facility in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Every pregnancy is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about getting a massage while pregnant.

Is It Safe for Baby?

Getting a massage can benefit your baby. Massage is associated with a lower chance of premature birth or low birth weight. The research indicates that massage reduces anxiety and depression in the expecting parent, both of which make it more likely for a baby to be born small or early.

Taking good care of yourself by getting massages may also help your baby be born with lower stress levels. Newborns born to parents with depression tend to have higher amounts of cortisol in their systems. So, if massages help you manage your depression, they might also help the baby feel their best from birth.

To keep your baby safe during a massage, your massage therapist should refrain from massaging any parts of your body that might push on the baby or the placenta.

Benefits of Prenatal Massage

Getting a massage while pregnant has many benefits for both you and your baby.

Pain Relief

Whether your back is aching, your hips are painfully tight, or you are plagued by headaches during your pregnancy, massage may help. Massage has been shown to reduce many different types of pain, especially back and leg pain in pregnant people.

Improved Sleep

If pregnancy is making it harder for you to get a restorative night's sleep, a massage may help you rest better. Studies show that massage can help you fall asleep faster and sleep for longer stretches. This may be directly related to the fact that massage reduces anxiety and stress, both of which negatively impact sleep.

Decreased Depression and Anxiety

Research indicates that getting massages while pregnant can reduce depression and anxiety. "Massage is a great way to relieve tension and stress, both of which can be big problems during pregnancy," notes Dr. Hruby.

Making sure you feel good is always important, and tending to your mental health during pregnancy can actually benefit your baby and improve your emotional fitness after you give birth.

Better Birth Outcomes

Studies have found a link between massage and better birth outcomes. Massage reduces anxiety by lowering cortisol levels, which in turn promotes improved birth outcomes.

Babies born to parents who got massages during pregnancy had a lower chance of being born early as well as a lower chance of being born at low birth weight. They also have less cortisol in their bodies at birth, meaning they are less stressed and may cry less.

Lower Risk of Postpartum Depression

Reducing your cortisol levels during your pregnancy can also keep them lower throughout the postpartum period. Research has shown that people who get massages while pregnant are less likely to suffer from postpartum depression (PPD).

Safety Precautions

Massages during pregnancy can be great. Just make sure to comply with a few safety precautions to keep you and your baby safe.

Avoid Compressing Your Belly

Physically protecting your baby is one of the most important things to bear in mind while getting a massage. Your provider should not massage any parts of you that might put pressure on your uterus.

You should also avoid lying down on your stomach unless you can do so without pushing on it. A doughnut pillow or a massage table that has a cutout designed for pregnancy may help with this.

Lying on your back should also be avoided, especially in the third trimester. This may put pressure on the vena cava, an artery that sends blood to your fetus.

Talk to Your Healthcare Provider First

Massage may not be safe for every pregnancy, or for every point during pregnancy. Always check with your healthcare provider before booking a massage. They may have special instructions for you to follow, especially if your pregnancy is high-risk. "[Your provider] may be able to recommend a therapist who is experienced in providing massages to pregnant women," notes Dr. Hruby.

Tell Your Provider That You Are Pregnant

Massage therapists will always give a modified massage if you are pregnant. To make sure that you get a pregnancy-safe massage, let them know when you book your appointment and remind them again when you check-in. "This will allow [your therapist] to adjust the pressure and techniques used accordingly," says Dr. Hruby.

Don't assume that the therapist will notice your bump either. Always make it clear that you are pregnant.

A Word From Verywell

Getting a massage while pregnant is safe and has many benefits. Massage reduces anxiety, which can improve sleep and lower your risk of developing PPD. It can even reduce your risk of delivering prematurely.

It's crucial that you let your massage therapist know that you are pregnant so they can adjust their techniques accordingly. Massage should never put pressure on your uterus.

If you have any questions or concerns about getting a massage while pregnant, reach out to your healthcare provider.

7 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Elisa Cinelli
Elisa is a well-known parenting writer who is passionate about providing research-based content to help parents make the best decisions for their families. She has written for well-known sites including POPSUGAR and Scary Mommy, among others.