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Safe Techniques for Pregnancy Massage continued...

Pregnancy massage experts adapt their techniques to address the changes a woman's body goes through during pregnancy. For instance, blood volume increases dramatically -- as much as 50% -- during pregnancy. Blood flow to the legs often becomes sluggish. And the levels of anticoagulants in the blood -- designed to prevent hemorrhaging during delivery -- naturally rise.

These circulatory changes put a pregnant woman at risk of blood clots in the lower legs, typically in the calves or inner thigh. To be safe, pregnancy massage experts avoid deep massage and strong pressure on the legs. Using strong pressure could dislodge a blood clot. Instead, they use very light, slow strokes on the legs. Types of massage to avoid on the legs include deep-tissue massage, deep acupressure, shiatsu, cross-fiber friction, and percussive tapping. All leg massage strokes should move toward the heart.

Very light pressure on the abdomen is advised, if the belly is massaged at all. Some massage therapists avoid massaging the abdomen.

Is Pregnancy Massage Safe?

Some doctors hesitate to advise massage during pregnancy because there is a huge variation in training. There is also a lack of certification standards nationwide. This is especially true for the specialty of pregnancy massage. Not all states have laws requiring a set minimum training for a massage therapist, regardless of whether or not the therapist's client is pregnant.

Also, like many forms of complementary medicine, massage therapy during pregnancy hasn't been rigorously studied with high-quality clinical research methods. One area of controversy is whether it's safe to have a massage during the first trimester.

Many massage therapists won't give pregnancy massages during the first trimester. The reason is the potential for miscarriage. Some pregnancy massage experts argue that pregnancy massage doesn't, in itself, cause miscarriage, but no research has been done to show a link between a massage and a miscarriage. Because many miscarriages happen in the first trimester, some massage therapists and doctors counsel against first-trimester massage simply to avoid any potential liability issues should a miscarriage occur.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine advises all pregnant women to consult with their doctor before trying massage.

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