What Is Prenatal Massage?

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

Prenatal massage, also known as pregnancy massage, promotes relaxation, soothes nerves, and relieves strained back and leg muscles in expectant mothers. Prenatal massage is especially benefical in the second and third trimesters, when the extra weight in your belly puts a strain on your back.

Before you get a prenatal massage, ask questions to make sure the massage therapist has received special training.

In advanced classes massage therapists learn about the physiology of pregnant women.  They know the special positions pregnant women require at different stages of their pregnancy, and how to give the body extra cushioning and support.  Particularly important is knowing the pressure points that must be avoided during pregnancy.  

Quality resort spas won't offer prenatal massage unless they have a specialist on staff.  There are also independent massage therapists who make a specialty of prenatal and postnatal massage, particularly in a large cities, or who have the special training.  

Knowledge of Special Positions 

A prenatal massage differs from traditional massage in a few different ways.  If you’re lying on your back, there will be pillows underneath your knees and shoulders. If you’re far along in your pregnancy, you might be positioned in a semi-reclining position, where you’re looking at the wall instead of the ceiling.

Some prenatal massage also uses special bolsters with a deep cutout in the center so you can lie face-down comfortably. You can also have your back massaged during pregnancy by lying on your side, with pillows under your head and between your legs.

Positioning is going to differ depending on where you are  in her pregnancy.

 By the second trimester, all massage should be done with the mother lying on her side to keep pressure off the vena cava, the large vein that carries deoxygenated blood to the heart.  

A prenatal massage should be very soothing and relaxing in style. Deep tissue work, abdominal kneading and certain acupressure points should be avoided.  Pregnant women should also avoid Jacuzzis, hot springs and mineral springs.

The Benefits of Prenatal Massage

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

It stimulates different glands in the body, which help to stabilize hormone levels, and relieves nervous tension throughout the body. And the nurturing touch during pregnancy massage promotes relaxation and provides emotional support. 

Don't stop getting massage once the baby comes along.  Post-partum massage (also called post-natal massage)  can help restore your body to its pre-pregnancy condition. It helps to realign your body weight, and tones the over-stretched skin over the belly.

It also relieves muscle tension and stress from mothering duties.