Is Prenatal Massage Safe During the First Trimester?

Just about every pregnant woman has been given a laundry list of do’s and don’ts for what she should (or should not) do with her body during pregnancy. Generally, people offer this advice with the best of intentions — to make the prenatal experience healthy and safe for mother and child. However, many of these suggestions are based on myth and misinformation. This is especially true for myth that massage can negatively impact pregnancy or cause a miscarriage.

The study of reflexology notes that certain points in the feet, ankles and shoulders can help prepare a woman’s body for labor and influence contractions. However, a trained reflexologist/acupuncturist or acupressure bodywork must hold these specific points for very long periods of time (5, 10, 30+ minutes at a time) before any changes may begin to take place. There are contradictory or inconclusive findings about the efficacy of reflexology/acupuncture in inducing labor, but there is no credible research that indicates simply massaging a woman’s ankles or shoulders will cause the body to spontaneously begin labor, and certainly not in the first trimester.  

The sad and frustrating truth is that the vast majority of miscarriages are caused because chromosomal abnormalities which prevent the pregnancy from becoming viable (American Pregnancy). There are many other causes of miscarriage and, dishearteningly, most of them are out of the control of the pregnant woman. It is natural to reach out for answers to what could have caused the loss of a pregnancy. There may have been coincidences where a woman received a massage in her first trimester then miscarried a day or two later and a mental association may be created between the loss of the pregnancy and the massage. But an association is not a cause.

safety of prental massage during the first trimester

If you have concerns about receiving a massage during your first trimester, make sure to talk with your massage therapist so you feel comfortable with the work you are about to receive.

For the vast majority of women, prenatal massage is a safe and effective option during all stages of pregnancy. There are some contraindications and adaptations that massage therapists need to take into consideration during the first trimester, but that is the case for any number of different health conditions. Any licensed massage therapist can safely give a prenatal massage during the first trimester, but a Certified Prenatal Massage Therapist will be more aware of considerations, positioning and precautions specific to a prenatal massage in all stages of pregnancy.

If you’re in your first trimester and are ready for a massage, contact your massage therapist so you can discuss any concerns that you may have. Most massage therapists will be very happy to listen to your thoughts and answer any questions. Massage can provide great benefits to both mother and baby during pregnancy, but it’s important  that the expectant mother feels comfortable physically and emotionally while she is receiving her massage.

So why do some massage therapists refuse to provide massage for women in their first trimester? I’ll go over some of those reasons in the next post.

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