How Safe Is Massage During Pregnancy?

By: Alex Harmon, ellaslist

Massage can be a great way to relax and unwind during pregnancy, but many expectant mamas-to-be are hesitant to go for a massage for fear of hurting themselves or the baby. Massage therapy is generally safe and can be really good for you if you do the right thing. We spoke to massage therapist Jackie Messaike from Jackie’s Sports Massage who gave us some great advice.

Which trimester is the best time for a massage?

Massage therapy is safe and incredibly beneficial throughout pregnancy, including the first trimester. Many pregnant women have been told to avoid massage in the first trimester which is a shame as it can have wonderful health benefits for mother and child. Some clinics won’t book mothers in before the second trimester sadly due to liability concerns if miscarriage coincidentally occurs after the massage and then then the massage be blamed. Miscarriages happen frequently and most cannot be avoided. In over half of the known losses, the embryo was chromosomally abnormal and not viable or able to sustain life. This is clearly unrelated to massage.

What are the benefits of pregnancy massage?

I’ll give you 10:

1. Massage calms the nervous system and promotes relaxation which is highly beneficial to mother and child.

2. Massage helps to ease lower back pain which is common in pregnancy by addressing the changes happening throughout the lumbosacral region.

3. Pregnancy massage can relieve upper back and neck pain which is important to release before the child is born and breastfeeding begins. Breastfeeding is quite hard and puts a lot of stress on the mother’s shoulders, neck and upper back. So if your upper back tension is released before the baby is born you are 10 steps ahead and ready to take on the breastfeeding load.

4. As your belly grows added stress and tightness may occur around the chest and middle back. Regular pregnancy massage softens the muscles around these areas which helps expand breathing capability thereby increasing the oxygen supply to your baby.

5. Massage therapy helps mothers to sleep better. A good night’s rest is vital for a healthy, growing baby.

6. Muscle cramps can be common during pregnancy and massage can definitely help with this along with increased hydration.

7. When you are pregnant your blood volume increases as much as 40%, which can then stress the lymphatic system, and increase fluid retention. Massage can reverse this.

8. Pregnancy can be quite a stressful time for most mothers and massage has been proven to reduce stress hormones and increase the “happy hormones” improving the mood of the mother and benefiting the growing baby at the same time.

9. Increased circulation aided by massage therapy helps transport nutrients around the body and to the baby. Increased circulation can also help eliminate fluid retention which is common in pregnancy.

10. It’s always nice to hear the recent research and studies which indicate that pregnancy massage is safe and does more than just give symptom relief. The Touch Research Institute in Miami, Florida did some case studies and found that as well as all the above listed benefits the women also had fewer complications during their delivery as well as fewer postnatal complications. The report stated shorter hospital stays, shorter labor times and less postpartum depression.

Having had 3 healthy pregnancies and delivering 3 healthy, calm and happy babies I feel confident in saying the above benefits of regular pregnancy massage definitely were true in my experience.


A pregnant Jackie with her two boys


In your opinion, which areas make for the most satisfying massage while pregnant?

Honestly all areas. I loved having the pressure relieved from my lower back as my growing belly was very large, very early on in my pregnancies which put a lot of strain on my lower back. My upper back and neck were tight before pregnancy due to my work as a massage therapist so I felt the relief in those areas vital to help me cope with the breastfeeding months ahead. I had lots of fluid retention in my legs and feet so to have them massaged every week really helped with my restless leg syndrome and reduced my swelling symptoms.

What are the risks of massage while pregnant?

Massage can lower blood pressure which can cause dizziness after your treatment. At Jackie’s Sports Massage we advise all ladies to sit on the bed for a few minutes before they get up and dressed to be sure the dizziness does not occur.

Are there any oils that should be avoided while pregnant?

There are quite a few essential oils not to use in pregnancy so I recommend not using any at all when you go for your pregnancy massage. Just a plain, non fragrant grapeseed oil is best. If you would like to use essential oils during your pregnancy it’s best to see an aroma therapist who specializes in this area and would be more familiar with which oils are safe. Some of the most commonly used oils to stay away from are wintergreen, arnica, eucalyptus, lemongrass, citronella, peppermint and cinnamon oils. In short, natural, non fragrant is always best.

Portrait of beautiful pregnant woman having a massage in spa.

What are the warning signs that a pregnancy massage might be unsafe?

Always be sure to see a qualified Remedial Massage Therapist in a reputable clinic that has pregnancy massage experience. Rest assured Pregnancy massage is safe but there is the potential to be slightly uncomfortable. Trigger point/ pressure point massage is not recommended until you are ready to give birth so never opt for those type of treatments whilst pregnant. Also, it is safe to massage the feet but again no trigger point/ reflexology should be used until you are ready to give birth.

How do you know if someone is qualified to do pregnancy massage?

Make sure your therapist has a Diploma in Remedial Massage and has also done a course in Pregnancy Massage.

Can my partner help with massage at home and if so, what are the most important tips?

If your partner would like to help ease your pregnancy symptoms at home the best advice I can give is to use a plain oil and make sure they just give a very light pressured massage to help flush out any fluid retention and to aide in relaxation. Best to leave the firmer pressured massages to the professionals.

To book a massage (whether it’s for pregnancy or just relaxation!) with Jackie’s Sports Massage, take a look here.