Massaging a woman from 13 weeks onwards during her pregnancy is a fantastic way to keep a mum-to-be relaxed and comfortable as her growing body accommodates the new weight. To massage a woman before 13 weeks pregnancy, you will need to be highly trained. The main benefits of regular safe and effective mama massages are:
- Relief of pain
- Improved circulation for mother and baby
- Improved immune system for mother and baby
- Better sleep
- A more relaxed attitude towards giving birth, and thus better birth outcomes
- Better bonding between mother and baby
- Improved chances of carry the baby to full-term
- A healthier and calmer baby of good weight
- Improved skin condition
- Relief of headaches and possibly nausea
EQUIPMENT YOU WILL NEED
- A firm, steady, thick pillow, such as a yoga bolster, for the leg plus a towel to cover
- A separate pregnancy belly pillow, thin cushion or towel, for under the belly
- Two towels or sheets for draping
- A pillow to hold hug
A pregnant woman should NEVER lie on her stomach. This is partially for insurance reasons, but also because the weight of the uterus will pull the ligaments on the mothers’ sacrum (lower back) and cause back ache (not what we’re trying to do!)
Unless you are specialist trained, do not massage any woman who is less than 12 weeks pregnant due to the increase risk of miscarriage. This is through nothing you would have done, but for insurance reasons stay safe. A woman who has lost her baby following a massage is more likely to accuse and sue you and cause bad relations than someone who had a sore muscle from a strong massage.
It is possible to have a pregnant woman of 13-22 weeks lying on her back with a supportive cushion under her hips/ buttocks, but any pregnant woman who is more than 22 weeks should not lie on her back for more than 3 minutes. She may be propped up to a seated position if you need to work on her front. Lying on her back, the weight of the uterus, after 22 weeks, is too much pressure for the vena cava (main vein running up the right side of the spine) and will cause breathlessness and nausea in the mother and nutrient and oxygen restrictions to the baby.
You will find it easier and generally safer to always massage a pregnant woman in the side lying position, asking her to turn over half way through so you can massage both sides effectively.
When lying on her side, the pregnant woman should have her knee and foot on a firm and steady cushion that is high enough for her hip to be at a right angle so her leg is not pulling on her hip and lower back. Make sure the foot is supported as this creates more comfort for the mother.
If her belly is feeling like it is pulling while lying on her side, the mother-to-be will need a small cushion or towel under her belly. Let her put the cushion there so she can make herself comfortable. Any woman who is more than 22 weeks pregnant will need the belly cushion even if they initially feel comfortable… 1 hour on a couch can change things.
Ask your pregnant lady to lie on the couch with her back as close to the edge as she can… this makes it more comfortable for you to massage her so you don’t have to over reach. Make sure that the cushions under her legs are close enough to her so her back and hips are not twisting.
Once you have made sure her leg is comfortable and the blankets are neatly in place you can then give your mother-to-be a pillow to hold on to like a teddy bear so as she doesn’t put any pressure on her growing, tender breasts.
You will need two towels to drape your pregnant client. Make sure one towel covers the legs and is tucked neatly into the lady’s undies, pulling them down far enough so you can work on the hips. And drape another towel over her back so it falls across the front and back of the woman. Ask her if she’s comfortable with a blanket over her as many pregnant ladies get over heated. Ask her if she’d like her feet covered or uncovered.
Make sure your pregnant client has a pillow under their head that is not too high or too low…their neck should be in line with their spine. If the pillow is too low for her she is likely to put a hand under her head, so you’ll know if she needs extra support.
Whether a pregnant woman has a large belly or not, always use side lying when giving a mama massage.
You can use as much pressure as your client wants when working on the back of a pregnant lady. The lower back and sacrum is often very sore and stiff because of bad posture so working as strong as the client likes is good to help release tight muscles. The shoulders and neck are also sore spots for pregnant women and can be massaged as strong or light as your client requires.
The only place on a pregnant body that you must NOT massage is the inside of the legs. A pregnant woman has 40% more blood in her body which is thicker and prone to clotting. This is a great design feature for giving birth in case of hemorrhaging. Normally the clots will disintegrate naturally, but if you use pressure on the inner thigh and calves, or any shaking/percussion moves on the leg you may accidentally move a clot which could cause thrombosis (dangerous restriction on blood flow) and cause problems for mother and baby.
You can safely massage a pregnant woman’s feet with as much pressure as she is comfortable with. Massaging the feet has a different intention and effect than reflexology, so is not dangerous to the mother or baby. Reflexology can safely be given to a pregnant woman from 13 weeks onwards, so long as you stay away from the reproductive area and the pituitary gland as both of these can stimulate a miscarriage or premature labour.
If your client has water retention (puffy) hands and or feet, make sure you use very light pressure on these areas.
Some women really like their belly’s being touched when their pregnant, while others hate it. Ask the mother before the start of the massage if she would like her belly touched. If she would like it to be massaged, only use gentle pressure with the flat of your hand (no pushing or poking with fingers)
- No massage before 13 weeks (unless you’ve had specific training)
- No massaging the inner leg
- No shaking moves on the legs
- No massage for any pregnant lady who is bleeding
- Always ask if there has been any complications, nausea, bleeding and if all their scans and tests have come back good.
- Always ask the client to tell you if there are any sore/painful spots… never make the massage so strong it’s painful. The baby gets the same as the mum, so if she’s in pain the baby will be also. There’s a difference between a strong massage that feels good and a strong massage that is painful but the client thinks it’s doing good.
Pregnant women deserve to be massaged… so don’t be shy! If in doubt about massaging your pregnant client, don’t do it. Seek medical or other specialist health professional advice.
If you’re looking for comprehensive training in pregnancy, labour and postnatal massage visit www.bodytherapyassociates.com
Samantha Thurlby-Brooks is the founder and managing director of Mumanu Ltd. Having specialised in pregnancy, labour & postnatal massage for over 15 years, as well as being a qualified BirthWorks Childbirth Educator and a birth doula, she’s got a huge wealth of knowledge and experience with all things pregnancy, birth and postnatal.
All Mumanu Balms are safe to use for pregnancy massage
(Note: Paradise Balm can only be used from 37 weeks as it’s the same product as Birth Balm)
Organic Massage & Body Balm – Sensual£20.00 Buy Now
Organic Birth Balm – With Jasmine Oil£35.00 Buy Now
Organic Massage & Body Balm – Passion£20.00 Buy Now
Organic Massage & Body Balm – Sunshine£20.00 Buy Now
Organic Massage & Body Balm – Love£20.00 Buy Now
Organic Massage & Body Balm – Fragrance Free£20.00 Buy Now
Organic Massage & Body Balm – Magic£20.00 Buy Now
Organic Mum & Baby Balm£20.00 Buy Now
Organic Foot Balm – Spearmint£20.00 Buy Now
Organic Massage & Body Balm – Lavender£20.00 Buy Now
Organic Massage & Body Balm -Frankincense£20.00 Buy Now
Organic Massage & Body Balm – Vanilla£20.00 Buy Now