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Pregnancy is a time when your body undergoes many changes and these changes can cause physical discomfort and stress. Feeling stressed and anxious during pregnancy is common; however, high levels of stress can lead to pregnancy complications . When you are pregnant, it is important that you stay stress-free as much as possible. And one of the most common methods of alleviating stress-related problems is getting a good massage. Prenatal or pregnancy massage works great for pregnant women as it helps lower pregnancy pains and discomfort.
In this article, we'll talk about pregnancy massage, its benefits, risks and who should avoid it.
What Is Pregnancy Massage?
Pregnancy massage, also called prenatal massage, is a type of massage therapy specifically designed for pregnant women. Pregnancy massage is similar to a full-body massage, but with few changes for the safety of the mother and foetus. It is considered effective during pregnancy because it has been shown to decrease anxiety, depression, leg and back pain . In addition, pregnancy massage also helps relax the mother, ease tension and reduce soreness from the muscles and improve blood circulation.
A pregnancy massage typically lasts for an hour. The certified massage practitioner will focus on different areas of the body while massaging, such as the muscles, joints, and other acupressure points.
Is Massage Safe During Pregnancy?
Some pregnant women prefer to get a pregnancy massage in the second or third trimester of pregnancy or even during labour to help manage labour pain. In the first trimester of pregnancy (14 weeks or less), the massage is avoided because of the higher incidence of miscarriages and an increased feeling of nausea .
Benefits Of Pregnancy Massage
Several research studies have shown the benefits of pregnancy massage for both the mother and her baby  . A 2010 review study reported that pregnancy massage reduces depression, anxiety, leg and back pain. It also decreased cortisol (stress hormone) levels, excessive foetal activity and lowered the rate of premature birth and lowbirth weight  .
Other benefits of pregnancy massage include the following:
- Relieves stress  
- Improves mood and sleep 
- Reduces swelling
- Relieves migraine headaches 
- Lowers low back, pelvic, neck, shoulder, leg or sciatic nerve pain 
- Stabilises hormones 
- Improves blood circulation
- Lowers risk of premature labour
Risks Of Pregnancy Massage
Many pregnancy massage therapists avoid massaging pregnant women in the first trimester as it can increase the risk of miscarriage . And also there are pressure points in the body, such as ankle or foot that are thought to cause contractions or induce labour.
Women with certain medical conditions, like high blood pressure, preeclampsia and gestational diabetes, should consult with their doctor before receiving a pregnancy massage.
How Pregnancy Massage Is Different From Other Typical Massages?
- First, a pregnant woman's body must be in a proper position (lying on one side) and supported with pillows or bolsters during the massage for the comfort and safety of the mother and foetus.
- The abdomen should be gently massaged to increase the moisture and elasticity of the abdominal skin to help decrease the stretch marks.
- The most common massage technique used during pregnancy massage is effleurage, a long, gliding stroke movement that helps reduce pain in the third trimester of pregnancy .
- Essential oils such as rosemary, sage and cinnamon are avoided during pregnancy.
- The massage therapist may use deeper pressure in certain areas away from your abdomen, like your shoulders; however, the overall pressure may be lighter on your body.
The pregnancy massage should be customised to your health concerns and preferences.
When To Avoid Pregnancy Massage?
You should avoid pregnancy massage if you have the following problems:
- High risk of preterm labour
- High blood pressure or preeclampsia
- Blood clots or a clotting disorder
- Placenta problems
What To Expect During A Pregnancy Massage?
- If you are in your second or third trimester of pregnancy, you will be asked to lie down on one side supported with pillows.
- The massage therapist may usually begin massaging from the neck, shoulders, head and move down to the arms and legs.
- The massage usually lasts for one hour.
What To Expect After A Pregnancy Massage?
After the pregnancy massage, you may be in a relaxed state of mind. The improved blood circulation, reduced muscle soreness and pain may make you feel fresh and rejuvenated.
Tips To Follow Before Starting A Pregnancy Massage
- Consult with your doctor before receiving a pregnancy massage. If your doctor recommends you, then only you can consider having one.
- Make sure to get a certified massage therapist from a professional organisation, who has training and experience in pregnancy massage.
- Before and after your massage, drink water to keep your body hydrated.
- Make sure that the room is clean and the linens are properly cleaned too.
- Ensure that your massage therapist washes their hands prior to the massage.