Massage Therapy During Pregnancy

Therapeutic massage has been used for centuries to improve overall health, reduce stress, and relieve muscle tension. In fact, the practice of using touch to heal derives from customs in ancient history. The earliest written records of massage therapy were discovered in Egypt and China. Tomb paintings in Egypt depict individuals being kneaded by others. In China, there is ancient written documentation stating that massage therapy dates back to approximately 2700 BCE.
Even though therapeutic massages have been widely accepted for centuries, here in the west, there have been ambivalent thoughts as to the purpose and safety of prenatal massages. Research has clearly shown that not only are prenatal massages safe, they can be highly beneficial to most expecting mothers.

Prenatal Massage Benefits

The majority of women who get prenatal massage therapy state that they feel less depression, less anxious, and they have a notable reduction in leg and back pain.
Massage therapy has been clearly demonstrated to be effective during pregnancy. Cortisol (stress hormone) levels decrease during massage and this has shown that excessive fetal activity decreases. Even better, a study shows that the rate of premature babies is lower in those who receive prenatal massages.
In a study of women having labour pain, women who received massage therapy experienced significantly less pain, and their labours were on average three hours shorter with a great reduction in need for medication. The National Institutes for Health report that an underlying mechanism they have explored is that these effects are mediated by increased vagal activity.
Massage therapy also helps to relieve muscle aches and joint pains, improves labour and newborn health.

What Massage Techniques Are Used?

Most prenatal massages use the principles based on Swedish massage techniques. Swedish massage has been proven to help reduce muscle tension and it can improve blood flow and lymphatic drainage. The primary purpose of Swedish massage is to increase the blood’s oxygen flow and assist in toxin removal from the muscles. It achieves this through the use of six basic strokes. They are:

  • effleurage (gliding);
  • effleurage (gliding);
  • petrissage (kneading);
  • friction;
  • vibration;
  • traction; and
  • tapotement (tapping).

What Makes Prenatal Massage Different?

This type of massage differs from general massage because there can be some risks if certain pressure points are stimulated. There are areas of the body in which the uterus can start to contract when pressure is applied during the third trimester. There must be a level of sensitivity and gentleness extended by the therapist; and this must factor in the baby as well.
Prenatal massage is not just for the mother-to-be. Some expectant couples book a massage therapist to give them both a massage as this is a magnificent way to deepen a bond and enhance emotional connectedness.

Prenatal Massage is not for Everyone

There can be certain conditions in which a pregnant woman is not suited for massage. If you are considering a therapeutic prenatal massage be sure to consult with a qualified health practitioner first. It may be best to avoid massage if:

  • If your midwife or doctor has advised you against it.
  • If you are in a high risk pregnancy category.
  • If you have previously had a premature labour.
  • If you have pregnancy induced hypertension.
  • Some massage therapists have a policy of not doing prenatal massages within the first trimester of a woman’s pregnancy due to a possible increased risk for miscarriage.

The National Institutes of Health Findings

  • Massage therapy is the most common alternative therapy recommended during pregnancy.
  • Massage therapy has been demonstrated to be effective during pregnancy.
  • Depressed pregnant women given prenatal massage experienced fewer prenatal complications.
  • In our study on labour pain, the women receiving massage therapy experienced significantly less pain, and their labours were on average 3 hours shorter with less need for medication.
  • The most important finding was the lower incidence of prematurity and low birth weight in the massaged depressed women.
  • Postpartum depression and cortisol levels were decreased in the massaged women. The newborns of the massaged mothers also had lower cortisol levels than the newborns of the control mothers, and performed better on the Brazelton Neonatal Behavioral Assessment habituation, orientation and motor scales.

Having open lines of communication between you and your massage therapist is critical. If there is a movement that makes you feel slightly uncomfortable you must have your voice heard. At Chiro-Med Rehab Centre you can be sure you are in the hands of not only qualified massage therapists, but therapist who have the best interests of you and your baby.

Established in 2007 by Dr. Behfar Sanjari, Chiro-Med Rehab Centre has been committed to providing quality health care services to the Greater Toronto Area for over a decade. Chiro-Med Rehab Centre has qualified professionals who can help you and your baby experience relaxation and relief from stress during your pregnancy. We have clinics located in Richmond Hill and Newmarket, call 905-918-0419 or 905-235-2620 for more information.


January 25, 2018

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