If there is ever a time you need a massage it's when you are pregnant.

The average pregnancy weight gain is 12.5kg and this can create all sorts of aches and pains that massage treats brilliantly, but here many other highly beneficial effects too.

What can pregnancy massage treat?

  • Relieving lower back pain
  • Giving you space to integrate the changes your body is going through
  • Reducing anxiety
  • Providing a neutral space to explore how you feel about your pregnancy
  • Helping get better quality sleep
  • Managing swollen feet and hands
  • Improving postural awareness
  • Easing sore hips and sciatica
  • Giving space to connect with your baby
  • Learning to listen to your body's needs
  • Releasing more oxytocin into your body
  • Creating more space in your belly to accommodate both your baby and your digestion comfortably
  • Helping get your baby into a good position
  • Preparing for birth
  • Helping postnatal recovery

What happens in a session?

The consultation form will contain the usual questions about your pre-pregnancy health but also your fertility and pregnancy history, your feelings about your changing body and the imminent arrival of your baby. This is because the massage can be designed to support you emotionally as well as physically. There are different ways of helping you get comfortable for you your massage, which can include:

  • Side lying and supported by cushions
  • Propped upright on the couch with knees supported
  • Massage table with a hole for your bump
  • Body cushions which support your body
  • Massage over a pregnancy ball
  • Seated massage leaning forward

The actual strokes and techniques your therapist uses will depend on her orientation and your needs, so do ask her about how she works before you book. Because of the relaxin, the hormone that softens the ligaments and prepares for birth, there should not be strong stretches or deep muscular work.

Your therapist may also be able to show you exercises that you can do at home to ease your back and get your baby into a good position for birth as well as visualisations and breath work.

If your birth partner needs some massage skills (and many do), therapists often offer classes or one-to-one sessions to teach massage skills for labour.

Who is pregnancy massage suitable for?

Anyone who likes massage will love getting a treatment when they are pregnant. Nearly all styles of massage have postgrad trainings specialising in pregnancy, so it's possible to have pregnancy reflexology, shiatsu, aromatherapy and Thai massage too if oil massage is not your thing. There are many other treatments that are also safe throughout pregnancy such as Biodynamic, Bowen and Metamorphic Technique.

The first trimester, particularly before you have disclosed your pregnancy can be a very anxious time, especially with the hormonal thunderstorm raging within. Massage can be safe right from conception as long as the therapist has appropriate training. High risk pregnancies also benefit from massage as long as the therapist understands the implications and is suitably trained.

Who is it not for?

If you are anxious about being touched and have never had massage, then pregnancy might not a great time to explore it, save it for after the birth.

History of pregnancy massage

As long as women have been having babies, they've been asking the people around them for pregnancy massage and all cultures will have different massage techniques for pregnant mothers. In the U.S. Elizabeth Noble and Carole Osborne have done much to expand understanding of antenatal massage. In the UK Susanne Yates pioneered an East/West integrated teaching of antenatal and postnatal massage.