A guide to pregnancy massage

The Benefits

Massage may seem like a luxury, but one of the most beneficial times to indulge may be during pregnancy. Possible benefits of pregnancy massage include:

  • Lower anxiety
  • Decreased back & leg pain
  • Improved sleep
  • Reduced swelling in hands, feet & ankles
  • Increased oxygen in the blood
  • Increased blood circulation
  • Reduction in muscular discomfort
  • An overall improvement in mood


It is a common misconception that massage should not be performed during the first 3-4 months of pregnancy. However, unless any contraindications are present, it is safe to massage throughout the pregnancy. Areas such as the abdomen and lower back may be avoided during the early stages.

Red Flags

Prior to the receipt of any treatment, the practitioner will discuss reasons not to treat- also known as red flags- and contraindications to massage to ensure it is safe for treatment to proceed. Contraindications to pregnancy massage are:

  • Persistent vomiting
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Severe swelling, high blood pressure or sudden, severe headaches
  • Extreme itching
  • Persistent oedema (swelling)
  • High/low blood pressure
  • Blood clotting conditions
  • Uncontrolled gestational diabetes
  • Cramping, bleeding or abdominal/pelvic pain

The therapist would encourage you to speak to your midwife or GP if you are experiencing any of the above.

If you are unsure whether it is safe for you to receive pregnancy massage, please discuss it with your midwife or GP prior to booking an appointment.


Therapists providing massage to pregnant women have pursued additional training and are able to adapt their techniques to address the changes a woman’s body goes through during this period.

Techniques generally used involve long strokes over tight muscles. Deep tissue massage is avoided when treating calves & thighs in case of blood circulation and blood pressure risks- a woman’s blood volume increases during pregnancy.

In addition to general massage techniques, acupressure points can be massaged during the session or taught as self-help techniques to be used depending on the stage of the pregnancy. These points are useful for:

  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Oedema
  • Pain relief
  • Birth preparation
  • Promotion of labour
  • Some women find areas more useful than others and some are contraindicated before certain stages of the pregnancy.
  • Comfort

During the treatment session, the patient will either be positioned on a pregnancy cushion, allowing her to lie on her front, or will be side-lying using pillows or towels for support.

The comfort of the person being treated is paramount throughout the massage and this will be checked regularly by the therapist during the treatment.

It is advisable to have eaten at least an hour before treatment to help maintain blood sugar levels and to bring a snack with you for after the session. Water will be available for you before, during and after your massage.

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