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Pregnancy Massage

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.

When to Avoid Pregnancy Massage

Because the research on pregnancy massage is scant, many Western-trained doctors advise a conservative approach. They may even advise all pregnant women to avoid massage. There are no scientifically agreed upon guidelines. Be sure you get clearance from your doctor before you try a massage, especially if:

  • You're experiencing nausea, vomiting, or morning sickness
  • You're at high risk of miscarriage
  • You have a high-risk pregnancy such as placental abruption (where the placenta slightly detaches from the wall of the uterus) or preterm labor

A massage therapist may require written consent from your doctor and a liability waiver from you before performing pregnancy massage.

How Are Pregnancy Massage Therapists Trained?

Most massage therapy training programs require about 500 hours of education. That education may or may not include specific training in pregnancy massage. Continuing education classes and workshops that specialize in pregnancy massage vary widely in terms of how much training and hands-on experience is provided.

Look for a massage therapist through one of the national associations that trains and certifies massage therapists. For example, you could contact the American Massage Therapy Association. Before your first appointment, ask about the therapist's specific training and experience in pregnancy massage. A doctor, midwife, or chiropractor may also be able to recommend a qualified massage therapist in your area.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH on July 20, 2014

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