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Can I lie face down in a prenatal massage?

As the demand for pregnancy massage has increased over the past few decades, various products have come on the market aiming to make delivering that massage simpler. There are now special tables you can purchase or pillows that go on top of a table that have special cut-out sections for a pregnant belly and breasts, thus allowing a woman to lie face down throughout her pregnancy. This sounds like a dream come true to many pregnant women who have been struggling to adapt to lying on their side as their pregnancy progresses. In fact, this is often one of the first questions prospective clients ask when they call; "Do you have a special table so I can lie face down?"

Well, no, I don't. In fact, experts in the field caution against using these tables and recommend other positions as optimal for pregnant clients, for the following reasons:

  • No matter how well these tables try to support the belly, they still force women into a position in which her very heavy uterus is now suspended from her lowback by an already stressed ligament structure. These stressed ligaments are often the cause of many pregnancy aches and pains that women are looking to alleviate in massage.

  • Having massage applied to you while lying face down might risk increasing intrauterine pressure. Not good.

  • Many women are very uncomfortable lying face down as they feel they are lying on top of their baby, despite the accommodations of the belly cut-out.

  • For women who are quite advanced in their pregnancies, it can be quite awkward to attempt to lower both your belly and breasts into these pre-cut holes, and then turn over later in the massage.

  • One size does not fit all. Though these holes are meant to accomodate the average woman, the varation in sizes of women's torsos, pregnant bellies and breasts complicate the ability of these tables to support all women.

  • One alternative to this style of table is a large pillow that covers much of the table and provides similar cut-outs for the breasts and belly, allowing the woman to lie face down. Depending on how the therapist uses these systems, sometimes there is not enough of an opening for the woman to breathe and she can sometimes leave feeling suffocated.

Most experts agree, the optimal positioning for pregnancy remains a side-lying and semi-reclined positions; the same options women have at home. Fortunately, however, most trained therapists have high-tech pillows and enough experience to make you a lot more comfortable than you are in your own bed (or so my clients claim).

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