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Many pregnant women have been told that during the first trimester massage must be avoided. Many massage therapists will not book you for a pregnancy massage until the 2nd trimester after they find out that you are 7, 8 or even 9 weeks pregnant when maybe you have just received a massage not only 2 weeks prior.... Why? Is it true that massage can be so bad for you in the first weeks of pregnancy when we know it’s wonderful health benefits for our over all well being? When under the care of a Certified Prenatal Massage Therapist, pregnancy massage is not only safe, but can be completely beneficial to mom and baby during these first few weeks of flux. Many of these misconceptions are due to practitioners receiving contradictory information, or from a simple lack of knowledge, fear, and sadly for liability concerns.
One misconception about massage during the first trimester is that some women suffer from morning sickness and thus cannot be worked on. While this is a valid concern, not all women have morning sickness and the women that do may not have it in the morning or even in this trimester at all. Other women carry morning sickness past their first trimester also. While massage therapists do not usually work on anyone who is nauseous or vomiting, appointments can be made for the mama to be when she is not experiencing any symptoms. Certain points can be worked during these sessions that may reduce the severity of her symptoms.
Other suggestions can be made to the mama to be such as eating smaller, frequent meals throughout the day. Eat foods high in protein prior to bedtime so you don’t wake up with an empty stomach. Fresh cut lemons put into a bag and inhaled when needed. Ginger ale, ginger candy and ginger tea. Any mint tea or raspberry leaf tea can also help to settle the stomach. Stimulating the pericardium point 6 acupuncture points of both forearms (located about 1 1/2 inches below the wrist in the middle of the inner forearm) has been found useful in treating the symptoms of morning sickness and nausea. Press and hold the points for a count of 10 and repeat 10 times.
Another misconception is that the abdomen should never be massaged during the first trimester of pregnancy. This is due to the fear of the massage therapist causing a miscarriage by dislodging the the placenta. Although the placenta is not fully matured until the end of the 3rd month, it is firmly anchored to the uterine wall within weeks into the pregnancy. Only a traumatic shock to the abdomen could cause such a serious injury.
Abdominal massage during all stages of pregnancy should be gentle, which dispels the fear of placental abruption. Massage of a pregnant woman’s abdomen should be extremely light. The stokes are done with open handed effleurage in a slow rhythmical way. Permission must always be granted in order to perform abdominal massage since this can be a very sensitive and emotional area of a woman’s body.
Perhaps the biggest misconception is that pregnancy massage can cause miscarriage. This is probably the top reason why a practitioner or spa will refuse to book your appointment until the 2nd trimester. A miscarriage is defined as a spontaneous loss of a pregnancy before the fetus is viable, which generally means before 20 weeks gestation. Most miscarriages happen within the first 8 weeks. In early pregnancy, signs of miscarriage are bleeding, abdominal pain and cramping, lower back pain, thigh or pelvic pain. Later in pregnancy the symptoms are heavy bleeding, and intense uterine contractions.
Miscarriages happen frequently and most cannot be avoided. In nearly half of the known losses, the embryo was chromosomally abnormal and not viable or able to sustain life. This is clearly unrelated to getting a massage. There are other factors that can come into play such as genital and reproductive abnormalities (fibroids, retroversion of the uterus, and bicornuate uterus), infections (rubella, chlamydia, listeria), maternal disease (renal disease, diabetes, thyroid conditions, and nutritional deficiencies), ectopic pregnancies, hormone imbalances resulting in progesterone deficiency, immunological rejection of the fetus(antibodies that destroy the fetus are created), maternal age, and environmental factors (second hand smoke, excessive alcohol consumption). Massage does not factor into any of these causes of miscarriage. The mama to be who has a healthy lifestyle (which includes massage) is more than likely going to have a very successful pregnancy, birth and postpartum.
A therapist that is certified in Prenatal Massage can safely and effectively treat any first trimester concerns. Special thanks to Elaine Stillerman for her knowledge and expertise for with whom I gained my knowledge and expertise in Prenatal, Labor and Postpartum Massage. Also special thanks to Penny Simkin and Ina May Gaskin for your beautifully written books which continue to inspire and educate me.
If you are living in Pittsburgh and interested in a pregnancy massage or are interested in giving a pregnancy massage gift certificate click here to learn more about pregnancy massage at the Pittsburgh Center for Complementary Health and Healing.