Michelle McGuckin, CMT
Certified Prenatal Massage Therapist
Frequently Asked Questions
How does pregnancy massage differ from regular therapeutic massage?
Both are full-body massages, and I work on all of the same areas in both cases.
The main differences are body positioning and technique. During a pregnancy massage, you will recline on a special wedge bolster while lying face-up (supine), to elevate your upper body and relieve pressure on the lower back. For back and hip massage, you’ll lie on your side, with a large body pillow to support your knees, hips, and abdomen. Additional smaller bolsters are placed as needed for added support and comfort.
During your massage, I use several specialized techniques unique to pregnancy massage, and I spend more time on common problem areas like the lower back, hips and feet. However, as always, I tailor the massage to meet your personal needs and comfort.
When can I get a prenatal massage?
As long as you are having a normal, healthy pregnancy, you can have a prenatal massage at any time, from conception to labor. Massage is extremely beneficial to mother and baby during all stages of pregnancy.
Is it true that I can’t get a massage during my first trimester?
Absolutely not! This is a myth that, unfortunately, has been circulating throughout the massage community due to lack of education and lack of interest in learning proper prenatal massage techniques. Now, more and more doctors, midwives, doulas and massage therapists are coming to understand and appreciate the therapeutic value (both physical and emotional) of regular massage during the early stages of pregnancy.
During the first trimester, I use a lighter, soothing pressure on all areas, and I avoid work on the abdomen. Light, relaxing pressure is especially good for alleviating the stress and fatigue that most women experience during the first few months of pregnancy. However, due to fluctuating hormone levels, deep tissue massage during the first trimester can cause headache, dizziness, and nausea. Therefore, I do not do any deep massage during this time.
How do I know if my therapist is qualified to give pregnancy massage?
The only way to know if your therapist is qualified to perform prenatal massage is to work with a therapist who holds a special certification in prenatal massage. Sadly, prenatal massage training in most massage schools now consists of only a few hours of lecture or videos, with little or no hands-on practice at all. Most massage therapists graduate from school without ever touching a pregnant woman at all. This is definitely not enough to give a good pregnancy massage, and additional training is an absolute must! Just because a therapist is certified in massage therapy does NOT mean that they are certified in prenatal massage!
I have earned certifications in two nationally accredited prenatal massage programs (MotherMassage® and Massage for the Childbearing Year®), and I have worked with women in all stages of pregnancy for over nine years. In addition, I have massaged women during active labor, and have worked with clients experiencing various types of high-risk pregnancies.
I am always happy to answer any questions you may have. Please feel free to call me at Destress Express (757-873-8968), and I will take the time to discuss any concerns or questions you may have.
Is prenatal massage dangerous?
No. As long as you are working with a well-trained prenatal massage specialist, prenatal massage is just as safe as any other form of bodywork. Like all types of massage, prenatal massage is only unsafe if the client is suffering from one or more of the medical contraindications listed below. If you have any health concerns or complications, I strongly recommend that you check with your doctor before getting a prenatal massage. In high-risk cases, I require a doctor’s note before beginning massage therapy.
What are the contraindications for prenatal massage?
Prenatal massage given by a certified prenatal therapist is completely safe under most circumstances. However, massage is only meant to relieve the general discomforts associated with a normal, healthy pregnancy, and is not a medical treatment for any ailments or diseases.
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, consult your physician before seeking massage therapy:
- Severe morning sickness, vomiting, diarrhea or fever;
- Frequent episodes of dizziness or fainting;
- Pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes or toxemia;
- Excessive swelling in arms, legs, hands or feet that is painful, red or hot to the touch;
- Uncontrolled high or low blood pressure;
- Severe, painful or swollen varicose veins or phlebitis in the legs;
- Unusual reduction in fetal activity over a 24-hour period;
- Mother placed on partial or total bed rest.
Is it safe to massage my feet and ankles while I’m pregnant?
Definitely yes! The idea that gently massaging the feet and ankles may cause premature labor is an old wives’ tale, and has absolutely no basis in fact. In fact, several recent medical studies have found that foot and ankle massage during all stages of pregnancy not only has no harmful effects, but is actually beneficial to both mother and child.
Foot massage is not only intensely relaxing, it is essential to reduce the swelling and tenderness that so often develop in the feet during the later stages of pregnancy. In fact, as a certified reflexologist, I often do 60-minute reflexology treatments on my pregnant clients, who have reported dramatic improvement after only one session.
For more information on foot massage during pregnancy, please see the article entitled "Proceed With Caution: Foot/Ankle Massage for Pregnant Clients," in the Articles section.
Can my baby feel the effects of the massage?
My experience suggests that babies do in fact feel the relaxing sensations of a massage. Many of my clients report that their babies seem to relax or calm down as the massage progresses, kicking and moving around less. Mothers have also told me that they and their babies often enjoy deeper and more restful sleep after a massage session.
How often can I get a prenatal massage?
As long as you and your baby are healthy, and not experiencing any serious medical problems, you can have massage as often as you like, until you go into labor.
Of course, if you are having any problems or are unsure if prenatal massage is right for you, please get your doctor’s permission before scheduling an appointment.