I've worked at many reputable spas and with many competent and highly trained massage professionals throughout my 10-year career plus training in massage therapy. Yet year after year I've witnessed the same apprehension from therapists to massage pregnant women in their first trimester and beyond. For many spas, it is in fact their policy to hold off on providing any bodywork services to pregnant women during those first twelve weeks of gestation feeding into the myth that massage is dangerous or should be contra-indicated during the early phase of gestation while really these establishments instill this policy for liability purposes only.

While many NYS licensed therapists I've worked with are highly knowledgeable in the anatomy and physiology of the human body, not much attention to the proper positioning and draping (draping is the fine art of keeping a clients private areas private with a sheet and/or towel) of the pregnant body is given in the average New York City massage school curriculum helping to foster the apprehensive attitudes commonly seen in massage therapists.

The truth is massage during each and every stage of a normal and healthy pregnancy by a certified pre-natal massage therapist can do wonders for you and your unborn baby! Studies have shown pregnancy massage can help:

~relieve depression, anxiety, and nervousness caused by hormonal changes

~increase blood and lymph circulation, which helps to reduce swelling and improves the oxygen supply to the baby

~relieve muscle discomfort such as cramping, tightening, stiffness, and knots

~reduce pain and encourage relaxation, which can facilitate labor

~improve muscle and skin tone

~provide emotional support through nurturing touch

~relieve insomnia

~relieve stress on weight-bearing joints such as lower back, pelvis, and ankles

~deeply soothe and relax

~alleviate neck, shoulder, and back pain caused by muscle imbalance

Many women in these studies showed lower rates of premature birth, fewer obstetrical problems, a reduction of stress hormones and their babies had a lower rate of postnatal complications. Benefits were seen after just 20 minutes of massage twice a week for five weeks according to the University of Miami, School of Medicine.

However there are reasons women SHOULD avoid massage during pregnancy and they are:

~Any high-risk pregnancy
~Early labor
~Heavy discharge (bloody or watery)
~Gestational diabetes
~Unusual pain
~Pre-eclampsia or eclampsia
~High blood pressure
~Morning sickness
~Infectious disease
~Threatened miscarriage
~Placental dysfunction
~Skin irritation and/or discharge

If none of the above apply a great rule of thumb to follow is if it doesn't feel right during the session, alert your therapist to stop a particular massage application or adjust your positioning on the table, chair or mat.

As an expectant mother myself during my massage training at The Swedish Institute in New York in 2000, I was fortunate to gain the knowledge, confidence and "intuitive touch" to work with pregnant women throughout their ENTIRE pregnancy** because of my own personal experience of receiving pre-natal massage under the watchful eyes of my teachers.

I pursued further training in the area of pre-natal and post-natal massage obtaining certification in the specialization after five days of learning all things pertinent to working with and massaging the pregnant body. That included learning proper positioning of the pregnant body, what areas of the pregnant body to avoid (i.e. pelvic/abdominal area in the 1st trimester), how to prevent stretch marks and the common discomforts, conditions and diseases associated with pregnancy. I was in fact donned the "pre-natal massage queen" at an upscale women-only day spa I worked at because of the high number of personal requests I got from their pregnant clients.

If you are newly pregnant and considering getting a professional massage, be sure to seek out a certified pre-natal massage therapist in your area who has experience working with women in their first trimester. Your doctor or mid-wife, your local online parenting community or yahoo group and The American Association of Massage Therapy website can all be great sources of information on qualified therapists in your area. If regular professional massages are outside of your time and budget, consider attending a one-time partner massage workshop, booking a private partner massage session or view an online video.

You can visit my website at www.zensoulspa.com for more information on pre-natal massage and partner massage. Until then have a happy and healthy pregnancy!

*Almost 90 percent of miscarriages occur within the first eight weeks in which most can't be avoided. Half are due to the embryo being abnormal and not viable or able to sustain life.
**provided they are healthy and/or have clearance from their doctors.

Author's Bio: 

Regine Rousseau is a NYS licensed massage therapist and acupuncturist, certified in pre-natal and post-natal massage and Reiki. She specializes in pain relief, regularly treating back, neck, shoulder pain and sciatica. Her office is in the Flatiron District in Manhattan.