Relax While Pregnant With a Prenatal Massage

••• Prenatal massage requires specialized training. MECKY/Getty Images

Traveling while pregnant can be painful, especially as you begin to carry more weight further along in your pregnancy, which often leads to overworked muscles that can create knots and other sore spots. Fortunately, many spas and resorts offer prenatal massage, which promotes relaxation, soothes nerves, and relieves strained back and leg muscles in expectant mothers.

Prenatal massage is especially beneficial in the second and third trimesters when the extra weight in your belly puts a strain on your back, but before you book an appointment, ask questions to make sure the massage therapist has received special training.

During this type of training, massage therapists learn the physiology of pregnant women, how to recognize the special positions they require at different stages of their pregnancy, and how to give the body extra cushioning and support. Additionally, licensed prenatal massage therapists learn the pressure points that must be avoided during pregnancy.

Quality resort spas won't offer prenatal massage unless they have a specialist on staff. However, there are independent massage therapists who make a specialty of prenatal and postnatal massage, particularly in large cities, so you should be able to find a specialist nearby.

Special Positions and Things to Avoid

A prenatal massage differs from traditional massage in two key areas: positioning and sensitive pressure points. Being comfortable and not harming the baby, especially in the third trimester, is critical to achieving results safely from a massage while pregnant.

Positioning will differ depending on where you are in your pregnancy, but by the second trimester, all expectant mothers should only receive massages while laying on their sides. This will ensure that the vena cava, the large vein that carries deoxygenated blood to the heart, won't be under any added stress or pressure.

There are a few ways you can get your back massaged safely during the later stages of your pregnancy. Some prenatal massage therapists use special bolsters with a deep cutout in the center so you can lie face-down comfortably while others ask you to lie on your side with pillows under your head and between your legs.

A prenatal massage should be very soothing and allow you to relax, so most deep tissue work, abdominal kneading, and certain acupressure points should be avoided. Pregnant women should also avoid Jacuzzis, hot springs, and mineral springs.

Benefits of Prenatal Massage

Prenatal massage provides relaxation by relieving stress on joints, eases neck and back pain, helps you keep good posture, and provides flexibility to birthing muscles. Prenatal massage also aids the circulatory and lymphatic systems, which keeps blood flowing to both the mother and the baby.

Massage can be an important tool at any point in your life, but for expectant mothers, it stimulates different glands in the body, which help to stabilize hormone levels, and relieves nervous tension. Additionally, the nurturing touch during pregnancy massage promotes relaxation and provides emotional support.

Other benefits include relief from headaches caused by tension in the face, neck, and shoulders and temporary relief from the ordinary aches and pains associated with pregnancy when the massage causes your body to release serotonin, its natural pain-fighting chemical.

Find a Qualified Prenatal Massage Therapist

Not all spas and massage-oriented resorts will offer prenatal treatments, especially if you're traveling abroad. However, there are still a few ways you can book this type of massage no matter where you are in the United States—though it may be more difficult to find trusted therapists abroad.

Consult with your doctor for a recommendation or browse through the referral system of the American Massage Therapy Association to find a qualified prenatal massage therapist in your area. Even when you're traveling, you should be able to enjoy a soothing treatment at the spa to unwind after a long trip, but keep in mind that some practitioners may want clearance from your doctor or midwife before accepting your appointment.

If you plan to book multiple massages during your pregnancy, don't stop once you deliver the baby. Post-partum massage (also called post-natal massage) can help restore your body to its pre-pregnancy condition. It also helps realign your body weight, tone the over-stretched skin of the belly, and relieve muscle tension and stress from mothering duties.