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Professional therapeutic massage therapy in Kansas City, MO by Aaron Harris, BCTMB

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What is a Prenatal Massage?


A prenatal massage is one that is designed specifically for a session during pregnancy.

Let’s face it, pregnancy wreaks havoc on a person’s body. Hormonal changes, weight gain, and unusual pressure in the abdomen that can block blood supply to the legs are all part and parcel to having a baby. A prenatal massage can help manage and treat many of the problems experienced during pregnancy.

Prenatal massage as part of pregnancy self care
A prenatal massage is an excellent way to practice self care during pregnancy.

Massage therapists need to be made aware of your pregnancy. There are specific pressure points that must be avoided and positions that must be used to protect your health and the health of your unborn child.

First Trimester

During the first trimester of pregnancy, you may still be able to lie face down without discomfort. With the exception of a few select acupressure points, any type of massage, including Zen Shiatsu, can help with early pregnancy conditions. These conditions can include:

Second Trimester

Lying face down may be more difficult, especially near the end of the second trimester. A supportive pillow under the chest can be used to increase comfort. The second trimester can present additional aches and pains:

  • Knee pain
  • Mid-back and rib pain
  • Shoulder tightness
  • Occasional “tingling” sensation in the upper legs

From this stage forward, deep tissue, Zen Shiatsu, and Thai prenatal massages should be avoided.

A woman lying on her left side for a prenatal massage
Lying on your left side during a prenatal massage can relieve pressure on abdominal blood vessels.

Prenatal Massage: Third Trimester

You will need to lie on your left side during this stage of your pregnancy. This will reduce the amount of pressure the fetus places on the abdominal blood vessels supplying the lower extremities. Pillows will be used to support your torso and shoulders and reduce tension while maintaining this side-lying position.

During the third trimester, a hormone, relaxin, begins to be produced in greater quantities to aid in the relaxation of muscles in order to prepare the uterus for delivery. This hormone can also make you more susceptible to muscular injury. At this stage you may also experience:

  • Ankle and foot pain
  • Painful swelling of the lower legs
  • Increased lower back pain
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Numbness of the toes and feet

Long smooth strokes along the back and compression to the lower back can help alleviate pain. Reflexology and CranioSacral therapies can be beneficial as they can reduce stress and provide a less invasive opportunity to relieve pain.

Sleep Benefits

Getting enough sleep during your pregnancy can be a challenge. Massage releases important hormones, such as serotonin, that can improve your ability to sleep. Neck and scalp massages can treat headaches that often accompany lack of sleep.

Stress Benefits

One of the universally known benefits of a massage is stress relief. Pregnancy can cause a wide variety of external sources of stress. Decisions about names, big-ticket purchases, home remodeling, and preparation for the life changes that come with the addition of a child to the family can all contribute to your general stress level. Self-care during pregnancy is basically written law – stay off your feet, drink plenty of water, stop smoking, avoid alcohol, forego that sushi dinner.

Adding a regular prenatal massage to your pregnancy self care routine will vastly improve your experience.

What I Will Need for Your Prenatal Massage

When I visit your home, office, or hotel for a mobile prenatal massage, I will need a few additional items to my regular requirements:

  • Two pillows
  • One additional towel
  • A chair or stool

Post-natal Massage

After the baby is born, there is a whole ‘nother list of complications and techniques to consider. You just added a seven pound ball of stress to your life. Don’t skip out on the self care now! Look into a postnatal massage.

As a paramedic, I had the supreme honor of delivering four babies, including one breech birth. I have worked with many prenatal clients and though I've never been pregnant, I have extensive knowledge about the anatomical and hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy.

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