You've done your research, but reviews aren't always enough. Like most things pregnancy, prenatal massage is cloaked in myths, rumors and fear: is deep tissue massage safe? foot massage? will it put me into labor?
We put these questions together almost a decade ago to help people ask the right questions when they are booking a prenatal massage. (We periodically update this list and the ?s still hold true.)
Is Deep Tissue massage safe in pregnancy?
Do you have special pillows? Do I lie facedown?
Is first trimester massage allowed? Is it ever too late to get a massage?
How are your MTs trained in prenatal massage?
Can I get DEEP TISSUE MASSAGE during pregnancy?
Yes! We can’t tell you how many times we talk to women who were thoroughly disappointed in a prenatal massage experience simply because the therapist used very light pressure. Many massage establishments have internal policies that prohibit their therapists from doing any deeper work on pregnant mamas. If a pregnant woman is experiencing a lot of muscle tension and hoping the massage will address it, she might be quite disappointed by the lighter prenatal massage that is very common at many spas. It is not a safety issue. A properly trained therapist can deliver much needed pressure and muscle work to a pregnant client. KEY: Does the massage therapist ask you extensive questions about your health and the pregnancy? This is critical for any safety modifications!
Can I go Facedown? How do you position the pregnant women in the massage?
This is a HUGE deal for a lot of women. She WANTS and NEEDS to be comfortable in her massage — if she can’t get comfortable, she won’t relax.
There are many options out there — women could receive the massage face down on a special table that has a “cut out” area for her belly and breasts. Or she could be lying on her side, supported with either traditional bed pillows or very specialized positioning pillows.
Not all options are equal! Nor recommended. There’s a lotta buzz out there about lying face down on specialized massage tables. Although that is very popular, it’s more complicated than that. It is not recommended by national experts in prenatal massage AND not appropriate for all pregnancies. We use specialized, contoured positioning pillows, mostly in a side-lying position. Facedown can be an appropriate option for some pregnancies.
KEY: Does the massage therapist talk to you intelligently about your options? Is it based on safety AND your individual pregnancy? Does the therapist do a thorough intake of your health and pregnancy and screen you?
Do you have restrictions on WHEN a pregnant person can get massage?
Did you know that not all massage therapists, spas or massage centers are comfortable working with women until their second trimester when general risks of miscarriage (unrelated to massage!!) have passed? This is not because massage is risky. In fact all the scientific evidence suggests that massage does nothing but support pregnancy. However, not all massage therapists have enough training and experience to work comfortably with women in those first few months. If you are not sure, have a history of miscarriage or are a high risk pregnancy, call your doctor/ midwife and get their opinion, too. And then call around and find a massage therapist who is comfortable with first trimester massage and you feel confident about. Similarly, many centers do not want to work with women at the very end of pregnancy. A related question to ask is this: Does your pregnant mama-to-be have any personal restrictions on when she wants to get massage? Keep in mind that she may not feel comfortable with massage in the first trimester for her own reasons — whether she is listening to her inner caution or just feeling miserable. This is this most important consideration. She needs to feel comfortable and confident in her decision to get massage. KEY: Does the massage therapist do a thorough intake of your health and pregnancy? Do they talk with you about safety modifications?
What type of TRAINING do your therapists have?
There are no state regulations on pregnancy massage education. Pregnancy massage is so popular today that most massage schools include some general safety considerations and adaptations for working with pregnant women. Or there are online trainings. This might be totally fine for your mama-to-be. (Seriously! If she’s an experienced massage receiver, a good self-advocate and experiencing an easy pregnancy -- she can get a good, safe prenatal massage in many places.)
Other massage therapists, however, have much more advanced training in pregnancy and postpartum under their belts. They have taken certifications programs that teach them not only how to adapt a massage for safety, but how to design the massage from the beginning to address the most common pregnancy concerns.
We are obsessive about our own training here at Equilibrio. In a good way. All of our therapists are CA State certified with additional advanced certification in pre and perinatal massage with industry leaders.