For some, the aches and pains of pregnancy seem to start as soon as they conceive. Some women never complain and feel like they could run a marathon when they are expecting–others, well, not so much. Trying to make due with a warm bath, and maybe even a maternity belt to help support your back and growing belly all work to a degree, but when they need more, many women turn to prenatal massage. While massage during pregnancy has been shown to help with many different maternal ailments, and perhaps even boost baby’s health as well, you must remember to do your homework and check with your doctor before hopping up on the table.

According to research from the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology (doesn’t that sound like a great read?), prenatal massage has been shown to reduce stress hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine, while other levels climbed. The “feel good” hormones that we count on every day to fight depression increased after only two massage sessions a week for four weeks. Prenatal massage has also been linked to improved labor outcomes and fewer low birth weight babies. Researchers believe that massage helps to regulate hormone levels which could help improve baby’s growth processes inside the uterus.

Are these promises guaranteed? Certainly not. Just because you have regular massages does not mean that your labor will be smooth, or your baby perfectly healthy–so take these recommendations lightly, and makes sure to combine any massage with regular prenatal visits, a healthy diet and light exercise. (That’s my little disclaimer before we continue.)
In order to get a safe, effective massage make sure you find a certified massage therapist who has been trained in prenatal processes. Because there are some differences in the expectant mom’s body, you can’t just flop up on the table and go to town. Swedish massage is actually the recommended type of massage to receive because of its focus on muscle relaxation and improvement of blood flow. Ask your massage therapist if they have experience in prenatal massage and find out if they are certified. If not, you may want to keep looking.

Be wary of the massage table with the hole in the center too. Lying on your stomach may be difficult any other time and the thought of getting to try it on a massage table may be tempting. However, tables like this can put pressure on the uterus, or a dangling belly may cause supporting ligaments to stretch–leading to more pain. Most prenatal massages are performed in mom lying on her side.

Massage therapists should also be aware of certain pressure points in the wrist or ankles that can stimulate pelvic muscles (including the uterus). Frequent pressure and stimulation of these areas could result in contractions–so they should be handled carefully or avoided all together.

If you have had a complicated pregnancy, a high risk for pre-term delivery, or medical conditions like preeclampsia, hypertension, or extreme swelling, talk with Dr. Hessel before you make your first massage appointment. Dr. Hessel wants each and every mom she cares for to feel her best, and for their babies to be as healthy as possible. Because she cares, make sure to talk with her, or your own doctor before beginning any prenatal programs. Make an appointment today, or talk with her at your next prenatal check up to ensure your health, and the health of your baby.