What is pregnancy massage?
Pregnancy massage can help you cope with the changes to your body that occur while you are pregnant. It can be especially useful to ease discomfort at a time when you cannot use some medicines or some other medical options.
Pregnancy or prenatal massage is used to reduce stress, reduce swelling in the arms and legs and relieve muscle and joint pain in pregnant women.
Massage in pregnancy can involve many different massage techniques. It is usually a gentle massage.
What does a pregnancy massage involve?
Pregnancy can put a lot of stress on your back, shoulders, neck and abdominal muscles. Pregnancy massage is designed to relieve some of the aches and pains that are common during pregnancy. A qualified therapist will understand the areas to target and which to avoid.
Before the massage begins, your therapist will talk to you about your health and lifestyle. They will ask you to lie on a specially-designed massage table and will cover you with towels to protect your privacy and to keep you warm. They will probably use creams or oils to help them to massage your skin smoothly.
They will help you to get comfortable with pillows. Remember it is not a good idea to lie flat on your back while you are in the second half of your pregnancy since this puts too much pressure on the vein that runs from your legs to your heart.
What are the health benefits of pregnancy massage?
There is not much research into the health benefits of pregnancy massage, but it does seem to reduce stress, relax and loosen the muscles, increase blood flow and improve the lymphatic system. It can also improve mood, lower anxiety and improve sleep.
Pregnancy massage has also been shown to be very effective during labour to help manage pain and improve your emotional experience of labour.
Is pregnancy massage safe?
It is important to make sure your massage therapist is properly trained in pregnancy massage. They should avoid pressing certain pressure points and should only use gentle movements on your abdomen (tummy).
Heated beds or electric blankets are not recommended in pregnancy. You may also need help to get on and off the table safely.
Always talk to your doctor before you have a pregnancy massage, especially if:
- you are in the first trimester
- you have nausea, vomiting, or morning sickness
- you are at high risk of miscarriage
- you have a high-risk pregnancy (such as due to preeclampsia or high blood pressure)
- you have a blood clot, for example deep vein thrombosis
- you have abdominal pain or bleeding
- you have swelling of one or both legs
Resources and support
Visit healthdirect's massage therapy guide to learn about some of the different types of massage available and help you to choose a massage therapist.
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 to speak to a maternal child health nurse.
Massage therapy is generally considered safe if it is done properly by a trained professional. Contact Massage & Myotherapy Australia on 03 9602 7300 for more information or to find a qualified therapist in your area.
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: April 2021