Jun 2016 18

Massage and pregnancy

By: Dave Wheeler

This week I got asked a question that gets posed pretty regularly: I'm pregnant can I get a massage?

The answer is pretty much, yes, but with some caveats.


General contraindications to massage across term of pregnancy

  • If blood pressure has increased during the pregnancy, no massage at all may be performed
  • Massage over the abdomen must be undertaken with extreme care and with lightness only (see also 1st trimester contraindications)
  • Essential oils should be avoided
  • Aggressive joint play and mobilisation techniques should be avoided (since joint mobility increases during pregnancy)


There are extra considerations to think about for each of the trimesters of pregnancy


Massage & the 1st trimester


Some massage therapists, especially sports massage therapists, won't treat people in the first trimester of pregnancy.

To be clear, there's no medical reason for this - it's based on a concern that the therapist might get blamed for any miscarriage.

Whilst it's not nice to think about the possibility of miscarriage in the early days of pregnancy, it's estimated that around 10-20% of pregnancies miscarry.

So it's understandable that massage therapists are wary of being caught up in blame for something so devastating.

Clinically, though, there is no reason why you shouldn't have a massage during the first trimester of pregnancy.

There are a couple of absolule no-no's, or contraindications:

  • ‚ÄčNo deep tissue massage or trigger point work on the lower back.
  • No massage at all (even light strokes) of the abdomen if there is a risk of miscarriage. To be honest, since there's always a risk of miscarriage during the 1st trimester, that effectively means no massage of the tummy during the 1st trimester.


Massage & the 2nd & 3rd trimesters

During the 2nd & 3rd trimester, as the pregnancy becomes more established, the only contraindication concerns positioning of the client - in other words, how you lie on the couch:

  • The client must not lie face down (prone)

The rule  is to be guided by comfort. The client can be positioned face up (supine) or side-lying. Shoulder work can obviously also be done seated.

So there's no reason why you can't have a massage, including a deep tissue massage at any stage of your pregnancy, providing the common sense guidance above is followed.